March 1996 No. 3
Hello From the Heartland
Hey gang, how's it going? We've been hearing more from you lately, and we'll be incorporating your activities into the next newsletter. This newsletter will be short in this regard, but you'll hear from Judy and Ruth nonetheless, and Elizabeth, too.
You'll be glad to know that many of you were featured on television. That's right, some of you are media stars, and I suspect some of you will be nominated for a Tony. If you remember, Claire Waring, from Sunflower Journeys, was doing a segment on the institute. It aired a few weeks ago, and I think Claire did a wonderful job. You can purchase your own copy for a mere $15. You need to write to Claire Waring at 11 KTWU, Topeka, KS 66621-1100, or call at (913)231-1111, or email her at email@example.com. David Kendall, the director of the series, says that you may pre-pay for your copy now, but the dubs won't be available until June. And you'll be happy to know that everyone looked smashing!
Speaking of email, the institute is up and running with its own world wide web page. If your school or friends have this capacity, then you'll be able to share the institute's newsletters, and other information with them. I want to place all of the scholars' and participants' work addresses and phone numbers on the web page. Let me know if you have any objection to this, otherwise, in the next couple of weeks your numbers will be posted. Remember, these will be your work numbers, not your home numbers.
You can access the institute's web page at this address: http://www.ksu.edu/history/envirohp.htm.
The institute staff are beginning to make plans for your arrival in early June. We are attaching a little return form to this newsletter, and asking you to confirm your participation in the follow-up activities. This will allow us to reserve your accommodations, make meal plans, and have your $200 stipend ready for you when you arrive.
I have received some of your NEH evaluation forms, but I realize that not all of you have completed a form and mailed it to NEH. Please do so if you haven't already, and let us know if you need another evaluation form. Your comments are valuable to NEH personnel and to Chris and me in planning for future institutes.
I hope that your teaching is going well, and that you're incorporating lots of material from the institute into your classes. After all, that's what the institute was all about: giving you a way to include environmental history in your teaching. Chris and I have taken heart in the reports that you've been sending to us. Keep up the good work!
From the Heartland, Jim
News from Elizabeth Dodd
Had I been On Top of Things, I would have included a notice in the last newsletter on my paper presentation at the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment in Ft. Collins in June. My paper, titled "The Mamas and the Papas: Antifeminist Goddess Worship, the Kogi Indians, and Ecofeminism" examined both the BBC documentary and subsequent book publication about the Kogi Indians of Colombia. Their religious culture is a form of goddess worship--the creator figure was the Great Mother--yet their priesthood is completely male --a patriarchy. (Oddly enough, the word for "priest," or "enlightened one," in their language is "mama.") I examined this paradox for its implications for ecofeminist theory. As both Buddy Gray and a few people at my presentation pointed out, to call this patriarchy "antifeminist" ignores historical context, "feminism" being a modern, western concept outside of the scope of their own culture, so while I'm revising the paper into article form I'm also changing the title!
Meanwhile, my advanced English class "The Environment in American Literature" is terrific fun. The students are very involved and insightful (there's a biology major, an anthropology major, a history major, along with the majority of English majors). I've never had more fun talking about Whitman and Dickinson in my life. I've designed a couple of new writing assignments but can't report on them yet, since I haven't seen the results. I hope to share that with you before the year is out. Scott Russell Sanders, one of the authors we're reading, is coming to campus to give a presentation, so I'm looking forward to my students being able to meet him and ask him questions that arise from their study of his work. When we're sure the bitter cold is finally over, I hope to take them all out on the Konza, as well.
My essay "Thirst" was cited as a "notable essay" 1995 in Best American Essays. Some of my poems appeared here and there: "Taphonomy" in Chariton Review, "Bicycling in the Great Salt Marsh" in The Midwest Quarterly, "Blackjack" in Cimarron Review, and "Southerly" in Tar River Poetry. I've been writing lots of stuff with imagery of extreme cold these last few weeks....
Thanks to Harriet Ratzlaff for the 5-Paragraph Theme Monster! Is it headed for extinction?
A Note from Dan Flores
Jim and some of the participants will want to hear about the fate of the special issue of the Magazine of History I've guest-edited on environmental history. Everyone (including Jim!) got papers to me on time, and the copy went off to the editors at the magazine in December. Sometime in March they will make the final decisions and do the copy-editing, and then I assume I'll have a publication schedule. Right now I can't supply that information. I do know that they were very pleased with the copy they got.
As for personal news, concerned conference participants should rest easy that I got my cabin finished (more or less) so that in my first winter on my ranch in the Bitterroot Valley, I've stayed warm and have "wintered," despite the most severe cold spell in 46 years in this part of Montana (i.e. five nights in a row on my place between 22 and 28 below!). I have signed the book contract for Horizontal Yellow: Nature and History in the Southwest with the University of New Mexico Press, and should have the last of 10 chapters finished this spring. The book will be out in 1997. The "Future of the Great Plains" presentation I made to the institute will appear in an Island Press book coming out this spring. I made public presentations this fall on grizzly bears, wilderness, and mountains in environmental history. And I'm commencing a column on Western art in the slick Montana magazine, Big Sky Journal. I hope to get my horse and my wolf-hybrids up to Montana this summer.
Notes From Participants
I'm working on my Depression Era unit which I'll start the fifth six weeks within another couple of weeks.
Dear Friends in Kansas,
I sit here at the trusty little Mac, with which friends this past summer helped me to become a little more acquainted, and (rather tardily) will fill you in on my own venture with Institute materials. The job of a teacher is not one for the lazy, and my only excuse for not writing sooner is the usual one: being busy with my work! Besides, it has been an inspiration to hear what others are doing, as was the material and speakers from summer; there couldn't, and won't, be an end to what we learned there. The whole concept of environmental history has been implanted into my mind, and makes me think in areas where I never thought before, and to question and reason as well.
I applied for and received a grant for $250 from our local education foundation back in late September. The purpose was to purchase materials to support a motivational reading emphasis, using the pioneer movement west across the Great Plains to Oregon as a learning tool. We have used the resource books and videos to study the plains environment, not only as it relates to plants and animals but also to man's interaction with it. We began with studying what makes a prairie and the different types; for several weeks my room overflowed with tall grasses, as students tried to best each other! We used maps and the overhead to locate the various areas. We also wrote the states that now lay across the Trail and received information from each of them. On our 8 by 5 wall map, we laid out the main Trail and added famous landmarks. Now, as the students read independently, they can move their wagons from place to place along the trail. We have talked about why a person would want to go across the prairie, about natural land formations and their significance to the pioneers, about dangers and causes of fatalities (an enlightening survey for all of us!), about native American groups living in the area and their lifestyles and the effect the pioneer movement had on them at first and then later on. As the year goes on we will have mini-lessons on wildlife, then and now, and the effect of the gold seekers and, later on, the railroads. We have a local wheat farmer that has a place on his land where crops have never been planted and we plan to go out there in the spring to study the sod and plants. I've collected a few buffalo chips; the kids can't believe they are really in the classroom; we're waiting for a calm warmer day to go out and burn them and just see if we think they burn with no odor and little smoke! The study will last the whole year and I will probably continue in the fall with the new group of 5th graders; they "do" the Oklahoma land run in 4th grade, and this will tie in beautifully.
That is primarily what I have done so far, but I have lots more in mind, and material to support it. It's so neat to have this kind of job, with the whole world to explore and open up to kid's minds. And heaven only knows where they will take it! Thanks for your support from loftier heights. See you in June.
The Environmental Defense Fund has created "an extensive new resource on the World Wide Web for use" by the public, as well as for students directly involved in an education outreach program EDF has developed for minority students. The address is www.edf.org. "Fully searchable electronically," according to EDF, "the site contains thousands of pages of information from sources including EDF Letter, reports, brochures, fact sheets, new releases, and is frequently updated. Also available are a special 'Earth to Kids' section and illustrated features such as Dennis Puleston's, A Nature Journal: A Naturalist's Year on Long Island....The latest additions to www.edf.org include a downloadable video of the classic TV ad, 'If you're Not Recycling, You're Throwing It All Away...'"
The March 3, 1996 Parade Magazine (Sunday supplement to many newspapers) features an article on pages 4 and 5 on a house made of entirely recycled materials. It profiles the house and its builder, who has become something of a guru to a building industry increasingly interested in transforming waste or scrap materials into usable products for construction. The article might serve as a starting point for curriculum in shop classes, as well as social studies and science. Perhaps students could build their own model homes built from recycled materials. In any case, you can write for a 100-page guide that covers this subject: it's available for $28 (includes S&H) from the Center for Resourceful Building Technology, Dept. P, PO Box 100, Missoula, Montana, 59806. Parade also seeks ideas for innovative recycling ideas. Write to the editors at PARADE, Recycling Ideas, 711 3rd Ave., New York, NY 10017.
Please return this form to Jim Sherow or Chris Cokinos, NEH Summer Teachers Institute, Department of History, Eisenhower Hall, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506-1002 no later than April 1, 1996.
I will / will not attend the Summer Institute follow-up scheduled for June 1 and 2, 1996.