April 1996 No. 4
From the Heartland
A Note From Jim
What nice responses from all of you! Chris, Elizabeth, Nedra, and I are certainly looking forward to seeing so many of you in June. From our latest count twenty-five of you plan on attending the follow-up session along with Jane and Lou Ann. Chris and I are at work setting up the program, and we will include it in the next newsletter along with information on how to prepare, when to arrive, where to arrive, and what to bring.
It looks as though we'll have a guest speaker. Professor Elliott West of the University of Arkansas is a skilled and highly respected historian. For some time now he has been developing an environmental historical approach to his work, and latest award-winning book, The Way West, is a superb treatment of the Great Plains. If all goes to plan, Elliott will join us Saturday evening at Konza, and give an address relating to his work.
During the follow-up itself, Chris and I hope to have a program that will actively involve all of you. You've done the hard work of studying environmental history, and putting it into your classrooms. Now's the time to reflect upon your accomplishments, and to share your experiences with each in a personal setting. We hope to provide a forum in which you will relate your experiences to your colleagues, engage each other in constructive criticism, and collaborate with each other in putting together the materials that will form the contents of the Institute's Proceedings/Resource Guide. Now, to the mundane. Yes, we will have your stipends ready for you when you arrive. The thanks, of course, goes to Nedra, who is so efficient in every detail of this institute. The most terrible news of all is that Nedra is retiring this year, and her work for the institute will be the last she performs for the university. You will be sorely missed, Nedra!
Take it easy, and to those of you who have not submitted anything yet: we will be contacting you!
A Note from Buddy Gray
Because I will not be able to participate in this summer's follow-up session of the Institute, I want to explain the project that will keep me away. I will be a research guest of the Agrarian History Institute of the University of Potsdam in Germany, pursuing an environmental history project.
I will be researching change over time in two villages from an environmental perspective. In 1772 Steglitz, approximately 14 kilometers (8.5 miles) from the then small city of Berlin, had a total of 81 inhabitants. It belonged to the manorial estate of the von Carmer family, and its peasants worked their own lands as well as delivering enforced labor in the fields of the von Carmers. Despite its proximity to Berlin, Steglitz was a relatively closed agricultural community. Sixty-four kilometers (38 miles) to the southeast lay the larger village of Schlalach with nearly 200 residents. In the 1770s its villagers likewise procured their livelihood from the soil and performed unfree labor service on the seigniorial lands which were administered by the widowed mistress of the manor.
During the following two centuries, these two villages--like all of Germany's agrarian population--experienced incredible change. Following Prussia's defeat by Napoleon, King Frederick William III, in an attempt to make his principality "modern" issued edicts "emancipating" the peasants. This meant that small holders lost their right to live in villages and work the soil, while the more well-off peasants were able to obtain deeds of ownership, provided they could pay the redemption fees. They had to forfeit the right to use the common meadows and forests. This essentially dissolved the traditional economic and ecological communities of Steglitz and Schlalach, although the families who successfully endured the transition certainly retained a sense of social community.
While these developments were relatively parallel in Steglitz and Schlalach, the two villages took radically different courses in other regards. By 1875 Steglitz, situated on the main road between Berlin and Potsdam, had grown by a factor of 650%, now with 5,467 inhabitants; Schlalach still had 200 people, the number which just filled the pews of the fourteenth-century village church. By 1919, Steglitz had over 83,000 residents. Today the former village is unrecognizable; in its place is one of Greater Berlin's bustling modern shopping centers. Schlalach, having had its land collectivized in the 1960s under the regime of the German Democratic Republic, is again today a village of private landowning farmers, still approximately 200 in number.
Researching these developments from an environmental perspective, I shall analyze factors such as the relationship of the people to the land; their means of using the soil to sustain themselves; their sense of "place," and their understanding of how their community fit into larger social, political, and economic networks. Following the path of Steglitz will take me from the rural into the urban environment and will entail examination of issues such as the need to procure clean water; the transition to diets consisting of food from distant places, including overseas lands; the need to dispose of garbage; and the development of the idea that people could earn their livings far from their places of residence, for example, by using public transportation.
In the eighteenth century, both villages operated with the ethic of "household necessity" [Hausnotdurft], which meant that each household strove to sustain itself at a preordained level of existence and comfort. Each also sought to prepare the next generation to assume the same status. By the time of the founding of the German Empire in 1871 the successful farmers participated in the modern ideal of increasing their standard of living. Many could do this by selling their agricultural produce in Berlin, the rapidly expanding capital of the new German Empire. But already Steglitz possessed only a hazy remnant of its former agricultural character. The suburb, "New Steglitz," on the former common lands of the old village, was the site of bourgeois villas, and nearby were the new dwellings of proletarian families. There were also a small "cotton factory," and a silk weaving establishment in the ever expanding borders of Steglitz. One of Germany's earliest railroad lines cut right through the former fields and pastures of the village.
In the post World War II era it is impossible to imagine agriculture ever having been practiced on the ground that now bears Steglitz' pavement and department stores and which is bored through by Berlin's U-3 subway. Meanwhile the farmers of Schlalach still grow rye and sugar beets (the latter introduced in the early nineteenth century as a cash crop) and gather in their church to hear Pastor Volker Kunicke, just as their ancestors assembled to hear Pastor Christian Friedrich Germershausen in the 1770s.
While this is not the Great Plains, it is environmental history! I sincerely regret not being able to learn first-hand of your challenges and successes over the year, but I will be with you in spirit.
Notes from Visiting Scholars
I am currently traveling around the country studying its environmental history and writing a book on "Reinventing Eden: Women, Nature, and Narrative." We have a small RV with solar collectors to power my computer and printer as well as a bicycle and binoculars to enjoy the landscape. We'll be on the road through December 1996.
As to my recent professional activities the main one is the publication of a revised version of The Response to Industrialism, completely revised from the 1957 edition, which the University of Chicago Press issued in September. As to projects underway they are largely environmental, an edition of my environmental articles, a downscaled version of Beauty, Health and Permanence, bringing it up to date, and a small book, an outline of environmental history. "Enuf" to keep me busy for a while. Best to the Institute personnel at KSU.
Finally I've heard from the folks in Bloomington, so I wanted to drop you a line and let you know the status of the OAH Magazine special issue on environmental history. I've finally gotten galleys and a schedule from the editors. We're the spring issue, publication date in late April. (Jim Sherow's) intro to the lesson plans is on pp. 24-5; they used Ned Kerstetter's lesson plan (pp. 25-7), Harriet Ratzlaff's (pp. 28-33), and Julia Polak's (pp. 34-9). This is volume 10, No. 3 (Spring 1996). . . .
. . . I'm quite proud of the entire issue. Mark Harvey wrote a great lead piece summarizing U.S. environmental history, and Louie Warren did a wonderful interpretive piece on Indian environmental history. Vera Norwood contributed a very nice article on women. My brief intro was on place history. We pulled out some nice illustrations for the issue, too. The folks in Bloomington seemed to be very pleased, and I certainly am. All my friends came through! Again, my sincere thanks. Please convey my appreciation to Ned, Harriet, and Julia, too. Worked out nicely, didn't it, although I guess you can't promise national publication for every summer institute class?
During August and September Professor Flader was at the University of the Western Cape, in Capetown, South Africa. As an advisor she contributed the university's development of a new school in environmental studies. Professor Flader's work underscores the international importance of environmental history.
As the current president of the American Society of Environmental History, Professor Flader has been especially busy in facilitating the creation of the new journal, Environmental History. This new journal was the result of the American Society of Environmental History merging its former journal, the Environmental History Review, with the Forest History Society's journal, Forest & Conservation History. There is a lot of behind the scenes work involved in this merger, and the successful fruit of this labor, in which Professor Flader made a significant contribution, is evident in the first issue of Environmental History, which came out this January.
Notes From Participants
I have not fallen from the face of the earth. I just haven't written because I have not been using much of the conservation and history information.
But now we are in geology in General Science. After studying mountain building, we have studied weathering and erosion of the Rocky Mountains to form the Great Plains and the Ogallalah aquifer. The students are having a little trouble comprehending the vast size of the area and the amount of water under it.
During the month of March, we are just doing conservation and ecology projects in the two biology classes. No regular school work or tests. We are starting with the Rachel Carson-Silent Spring video.
The sophomores all laughed at the people having the chemical sprayed on them and said they were "stupid" (a favorite word of high school sophomores). After they had seen the rest of the show and learned how the government tried to push the supposed harmlessness on us, they become more reflective.
Duncan does not know it yet, but my sophomore classes are going to write letters to his class telling them what they thought about Silent Spring. If they write us back, then it will be a good assignment.
Other activities that are planned for the Biology students are soil and water studies at the city lake which is only six blocks south of the school.
I haven't forgotten any of you, I just have to follow these d_ _ _ curriculum guides. Sometimes those things keep us from doing real teaching.
Looking forward to seeing everybody in June.
If you see Lou Ann, Please tell her that I am going to try that "Big Map Thing."
Greetings from middle school in Wichita where we set a record temperature this week of 87! I dutifully passed along all the fun science lesson plans that I can't teach in LA. (Even the mouse maze, that was my favorite!) I'm saving the Kansas plant and poetry unit from Mary and Nancy to use at the end of the year.
Environmentally speaking, my personal education has continued. I finished Dakota by Kathleen Norris which Sheila so graciously lent me. For Christmas, I bought myself The Private Life of Plants by David Attenborough. It explains how plants adapted to their conditions and changing conditions. It's really kind of spooky. Time magazine in January had an article about evolution and Gould. Yes, Ned, I read the Audubon article about the Konza. By the way, I have inquired several times at the bookstores for Marty Melosi's book on Thomas Edison. It must not be out in print yet. I joined the Nature Conservancy and had my name deleted from Wes Jackson's mailing list. The Wichita Eagle has been flooded with articles and letters about the Dust Bowl in relation to this area's severe grass fires. There has been much public forum about the pros and cons of the Freedom to Farm bill and CRP insurance. I am enclosing an article about archeology from the Wichita Eagle. It is entitled "Conservationists being taught to spot areas of historical significance on farm land." (It ran on page 33, Feb. 4, 1996.)
Professionally speaking, I find it hard to teach a separate unit at my level on environmental history. However, I find it easy to bring the ideas in for almost any unit. When my 8th graders just made a pilgrimage to three churches outside of Wichita we discussed the land and its history. When we took them to Topeka for the Treasures of the Czars, we discussed the same. I'm teaching Light in the Forest about Indians in Pennsylvania in 1870, and we again discussed it. My point is that now that I have developed an awareness (that dreaded word), I find it creeps into a lot of my teaching.
Hope all is well with everyone.
December 19, 1995
You have in your hands a unique letter --my very first correspondence since I returned to Tulsa County, Oklahoma last August. It is a letter about a very special community and place. It is a cooperative sense of place for myself, my father, the Native American community and the public school. During the past four months, I have collaborated on several creative projects, working together to paint a picture of what it is like to live and work just one block from the high school campus. This letter is an effort to share information about my present and future with people like you who have an interest in opportunities for pre-school children through high school. I hope you will find my letter interesting and the information helpful.
Glenpool is a community of similarities and differences. It has been a point of convergence for people from a wide range of affiliations and all with different talents and experiences. Once I got moved and settled by Labor Day, I became involved in a range of educational activities and agreed to participate in the community in different ways. This included serving on the Glenpool Park Board, attending City Council meetings once a month, writing grants for school projects, and volunteering to help with the Turkey Challenge and Adopting an Angel for needy families. In my diversity I have found strength as I provided gifts and talents or perspectives to the families and staff I spend my waking hours with on the job.
The Library Media Center where I spend over 50 hours a week is an interactive learning environment. The Center serves the community as a resource center, gathering place, student organization meeting room, study hall, classroom, and the location of frequent social, cultural, and educational programs. It is at once a place to meet friends, a comfortable stop between classes, and a place to receive moral support. Beyond Flexible Scheduling is my motto.
Staffed by only myself and a part-time aid, I rely on student help to keep up with the services. Student Pages will change after the first of the year and I will again have to adjust--to help them realize educational goals and prepare them for the newly directed programs.
The Drop Everything and Play evening programs held at the Pre-School Center this fall was so successful that it will be carried throughout the coming year. The theme is centered around The Farm and Ranch. Three rooms are set up to have parents and children read together, create art, and pretend in a country western play room.
A Glenpool Foundation grant supplied the monies to present an author/illustrator two week program at the middle school for art classes. Kim Doner took over the class art lessons designed to enhance the children's interest in water color. An autograph party was held to permit parents to view the students' art work and, of course, sell Kim's books!
During homecoming week at the high school the theme was the farm/ranch western activities. All week long the staff and students came in country western clothing, listened to folk songs, dances, read cowboy poetry, etc. Floats in the parade were also this theme. The students responded with lots of enthusiasm.
Three new programs are on the calendar for the coming year. First, the Tulsa Education Foundation has funded me for a sixth grade classroom project entitled, The Pieces of My Life. The second project encompasses the whole community. A Country-Western dance is scheduled for March 22nd. This is a benefit to raise monies to buy new equipment for the library media center. In April the National Honor Society will have a convention on the school campus. Over 300 students are registered to attend.
The pieces of my life are colored with a history of working to improve the quality of life for families in a rural community to help them adjust and take advantage of the good things that educational programs can offer. On behalf of all the people I work with I wish you a very Happy Holiday and a prosperous new year. I am leaving today for Monterey Bay, California to be with my son and daughter. When I return to Glenpool I will send detailed outlines of the projects completed and proposed.
February 20, 1996
I received your letter about a month ago--please forgive me for taking so long to respond.
As you can tell by the enclosed papers--I have been doing an environmental history unit with four fifth-grade classes. The two letters explain what the project is all about. The portfolio was mailed today to Oklahoma State Department of Education. It will not be returned. So I have made a second portfolio to bring to our reunion at Kansas State University in June.
I will also bring samples of the students' work. The language arts, social studies, library media, art, and science classes were all involved with the activities beginning about the first week in January.
I am now working on another project--don't know how it will turn out. I will keep in touch and should be sending you project results in April.
The Indian Education Director, Darrel Morris, told me today that they will fund a late spring/summer program for me. Again, I intend to take the Indian students to the Tallgrass Prairie. Activities for a weeklong program will be based on the new curriculum that Mary McIntyre has written (Center for Environmental Education, OSU, Stillwater). Mary is now employed with the Nature Conservancy, Tulsa office. She is from my home town, Ponca City.
Mary and I set up an information booth at the Sports Arena on Tuesday of this week which was attended by staff, students, and community workers. We are looking for more volunteers to assist with the Docent program at the Tallgrass Prairie this spring and summer.
Training for this volunteer program starts March 9 in Pawhuska. I am looking forward to getting away from the city and riding the range to observe and chase bison. About 150 calves are expected this spring.
In the meantime, if you see Canada geese, please "HONK." I will be looking forward to the summer meeting.
The fifth grade students of the Glenpool Public Schools have chosen the name HEIRS HOMING IN as their nomination for the newly commissioned sculpture portraying wild geese that migrate to Tucker Tower on Lake Murray.
This name was selected as a special tribute to all living creatures who inherit or receive the elements of land, sky, and water from their predecessors.
For over a half century wildlife conservationists have been successfully working to help fill our seasons with waterfowl. By passing along this challenge to each new generation, the future holds our sense of place. Our sense of "playing for keeps" gives us a feeling of kindred pride.
Thank you for the opportunity in allowing us to have a hand in the preservation of this sculpture by the artist, Sandy Scott. We look forward to the celebration when this sculpture will be dedicated to the citizens of Oklahoma.
One of the most exciting and promising experiences that began with this portfolio was the importance of the People, Prairies, and Plains Institute I attended last summer at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.
This portfolio expresses my feelings and hopes that library media specialists take a leadership role in establishing a learning community in our schools.
Glenpool classroom teachers have taken advantage of a team approach to problem solving and social growth activities. This really helps us "play for keeps." Their enthusiasm enhances my professional position, too.
I have clarified and deepened my personal vision, as I focused my energies in researching and developing this unit with the teaching staff and community workers. And yet, the project is not over--students will be actively involved throughout the months of March and April. More guest speakers are expected too.
A final report will be presented in June at Kansas State University when 29 other participating scholars from six states return to share what successes we all had with the environmental history issues/materials that were a basis for new perspectives in our classrooms.
It is very important that teachers plan to utilize environmental history perspectives in all subject areas. Classroom teachers have a lot to teach--letting them lead and take responsibility for daily lessons is easier than taking the risk of what might be a failure. But while it may not be as easy and as simple as it appears, the reward can be significant.
Just when we thought we smelled spring in the air we got socked with a mighty blizzard last night. Seven inches of heavy, wet snow is on the ground and more falling as I write this. We've had quite a winter. But....a winter such as this brings wonderful discussions into the classroom of winters past and how the Native Americans survived conditions such as these. It stirs questions about the early settlers and the hardships they endured, warming themselves over buffalo chip fires and sometimes nearly starving by spring.
We have started our rag rugs in our studies about the Westward Movement. We will be studying the travels westward by each child putting themselves in the shoes of an early pioneer child. They will be writing about their life as we study this period in time and at the end they will illustrate their writings and then they will be bound for them to have as a keepsake. Some of the things we will be doing are:
a. We will be taking a field trip to the Badlands of S.D., where they will be able to actually see and inspect for themselves, sod houses which are still standing from so long ago. Then we will come home and experiment for ourselves the building of a tiny sod structure.
b. making rag rugs and a classroom quilt from colorful scraps of material
c. making lye soap by saving grease drippings from home and following an old-time recipe
d. dipping candles
e. making jelly and dried fruit
f. starting a sour dough sponge (each child will bring a glass container and 1/2 cup of flour). We will set the sponge and within a week each child will have a sour dough starter to take home. We will then put together a little recipe book which will have about 20 recipes....sourdough pancakes, biscuits, etc.
g. We will research games that the pioneer children played and then spend time learning and playing them at recess. h. We will take field trips to Wind Cave and Custer State Park (right outside of town). We will study the prairie and listen to the rangers tell us how the prairie is different today than it was in the 1800's.
i. We will research what animals were here then and what animals are here now and why the changes have taken place. j. We also study the impact of the white man on the Native Americans (culturally and otherwise) by interviewing elders of the Lakota who live in or near our community.k. We visit Crazy Horse Monument. There is a wonderful Indian museum there.
l. We learn songs and dances of the time period.
m. We culminate this unit by a huge supper for all the children and their families. Every family will bring a dish to share but the food they bring must be food that pioneer families could have had. Therefore, there can be no jello salads, no Kool whip, spaghetti, lasagna, etc.
In the past we have actually had rabbit stew, meat dishes with wild meats such as venison, antelope, bear, and moose, and cooked greens such as dandelions and watercress salads. We have had wonderful breads and biscuits, home-churned butter and jelly and butters made from native wild berries.
Drinks have been milk, coffee, and strawberry leaf tea.
Games after the supper include square dancing, singing, and several cake walks with music by our banjo-playing principal.
We will display some of our bound books, maps, sod structures, and some children will give short presentations on our trips and what we have learned.
We have an absolutely wonderful time with this!
I trust that things are going well with all of you and I will be seeing you all in June!
I had intended to mail you one set of lessons I'd used with my students for the progressive era, but I left the packet at school. I'll mail that to you the first of next week. I also need to get the Dustbowl/Depression materials typed. I'll mail those too as soon as possible. I finished the Dustbowl/Depression unit before spring break, but my students are also going on a field trip out to the LBJ National Grasslands at Decater. I've not been able to pinpoint a date on this trip because of the dangerously dry weather conditions and fire threats we've had going on down here. At some point before school ends, we'll go out to the grasslands.
Enjoying the newsletters! I'll be in touch again soon.
Orion Institute at the Bread Loaf School of English, June 25-August 10, 1996
The Orion Society will be sponsoring an institute for teachers on Literature, Writing, and Nature at the Bread Loaf School of English in Ripton, Vermont this summer. Twelve participants will enroll in a pair of graduate courses taught by Dr. John Elder, long-time Orion advisor and Bread Loaf faculty member. One seminar will explore the literature of place, and the other will be a writing workshop. Activities will include journal keeping, the study of natural history, outings and camping trips, and visits from outstanding authors in the field. To receive further information and application materials write to the Orion Institute, 41 East 72nd Street, New York, NY 10021. It may be too late to get in this summer, but you can start planning for 1997.
The Orion Society Announces Its 1995-96 Teaching Fellowship Recipients
The following teachers have been awarded $1,000 teaching fellowships for the 1995-96 school year as part of The Orion Society's Stories of the American Land program. Congratulations to Craig Altobell from Cogswell Memorial Middle School in Henniker, New Hampshire; Bonnie Dankert from Santa Cruz High School in Santa Cruz, California; Jennifer Danish and Kimberly Zanelli from the Peddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey; Jo Anne Kay from Tetonia Elementary School in Tetonia, Idaho; and Elizabeth Parry, Adri Turrell, and Ellen Hill from The Blue Rock School in West Nyack, New York.
Write to Orion Society, 136 East 64th Street, New York, NY 10021 for information on next year's awards.