It's time to collect and pack all of the important institute materials that you've developed and used during this school year for the follow-up session. Remember, the follow-up session will be only as good as your preparation, and I'm looking forward to an excellent session given what I've been reading in your letters. The following are a few guidelines for your preparation.
Þ Please prepare a typed, 500 word (or two-pages doubled spaced) manuscript describing 1.) the institute-based curriculum in your teaching, 2.) the outcomes of your teaching, and 3.) how you rate your accomplishments. These will become your presentations for the staff and participants.
Þ Please bring examples of your most effective institute-based curriculum for inclusion into the resource guide/proceedings. I want to publish examples from each and everyone of the participants, and this request extends to the few who are unable to attend the follow-up session.
Þ Part of the follow-up will involve workgroup sessions of secondary and elementary teachers. After the presentations, each group will organize and compile all of the presentations, along with the curricula that it wants to include, for the resource guide/ proceedings. Chris and I want each group to complete its work by writing a 250 word introduction for its section of the resource guide/proceedings. The institute staff will edit all of the curricula into a standardized format, and do all of the other work involved in publishing the resource guide/ proceedings. All of the participants will receive a copy once the guide is published, which will be before the end of June.
Chris and I have nearly everything in order for the follow-up session, and we're looking forward to your return to the Heartland. We think that we have the makings of an excellent program, and we're assured of that with your contributions. See ya in a few weeks!
It's time to nail down particulars for your important follow-up visit, from May 31 to June 2. What follows: a series of reminders about things to bring and a tentative schedule for the weekend (we may add, adjust, etc. as needed). Meanwhile, if you have any questions, call Nedra or Jim at 913-532-0375 or me at 913- 532-0383.
If you have any special diet requests or need a handicapped parking sticker, call Marilyn Woodward at 913-532-5575. Also, let us know if you are a smoker or you have a preference about rooming or not rooming with a smoker.
We're looking forward to a stimulating, productive, and fun weekend with everyone. Some of you have sent examples of curriculum materials in, but we would like for you to bring a new set of whatever it is you want to be included in the resource guide/ proceedings. That will help avoid confusion. Remember, what you bring to the follow-up session will be included EXACTLY AS IS in the resource guide, so make sure it's neat and clear and all that! The resource guide will be available to non-Institute teachers, so we want it as polished as possible. Direct questions about the guide to Jim, before you come, should you have questions.
Direct logistical questions to me (Chris) or Nedra.
Some other reminders...
We hope you still have the maps of Kansas and Manhattan. We include a campus map that shows important landmarks, including the visitor's booth where you can get a visitor's parking permit (see information under "The Schedule"), the dorm, etc. If you need another Kansas or Manhattan map, call Nedra at 913- 532-0375.
You'll be glad to know the wheels of government sometimes move quickly. Those of you returning for the follow-up will have your stipend checks distributed to you that very weekend. In fact, they already have been processed.
*** Things to bring:
1) The Guide will be made available to all of you (and will include the long-sought-after group photo!) and it will be sold at cost to anyone else who wants it.
2) Bring a lawn chair and/or blanket.
3) DORMS and THINGS to BRING or NOT * You will be staying again in double rooms in luxurious Moore Hall. Yes, the Hall is still air conditioned! Men and women are on separate wings since that is the way the bathrooms are set up.
* If you have an overnight guest in your room,
that person will need to check in and pay.
* The rooms have beds, desks, and chairs. Sheets, pillows, pillow cases, blankets, and towels will be provided. Soap is not. If you would like clean towels, you will need to take the used ones down to the front desk to exchange them.
* The front desk is open 24 hours a day; the phone is 395-2362. Each room has a phone which can be used for local calls and credit-card long-distance calling.
* The dorm has (in its basement): a TV lounge, a self-service laundry, and a small kitchen. You may use these facilities as needed, though we point out that you should not leave any valuables, utensils, or foodstuffs unattended. Neither KSU Housing nor the Institute is responsible for lost or stolen items.
* you might want to bring the following items for your personal comfort: alarm clock/radio; desk lamp; extension cord; small rug; shower scuffs; extra pillow and blanket; a small fan (useful for "drowning out" nearby noise).
* Past summer conference participants suggest bringing: personal office supplies, teaching materials you might want to refer to; rain gear; hat; sunscreen; insect repellent; comfortable walking shoes; hiking shoes/boots; camera; plastic drinking container.
FRIDAY MAY 31
Arrive. You can begin checking into Moore Hall after 3 p.m. and we'll conduct a brief registration there, starting at 3 p.m. (same place as last time). Be sure to check in so that we can let you know of last-minute changes, exact serving times for meals, etc. We will have a display board available to tack up photos. Many wonderful pictures have been sent in, but we can't reproduce them well in this newsletter, so we'll display them on the floor lounge at registration.
If you arrive before 5 p.m., as most of you should (hint, hint), get a temporary visitor's parking permit from the visitor's booth by the Union. That will keep your car ticket-safe through 5 p.m. Friday. There should be no ticketing of cars after that. Should the booth be closed, don't worry...just head up to Moore Hall. If the booth is closed, we won't worry about temporary permits.
Dinner Friday will be a picnic dinner at Quinlin Gardens just a short walk away from Moore Hall. We will have signs directing you down the right path. The Don Marco Quintet will provide soothing jazz tunes for us during dinner. Well, actually, that's a lie. Just checking to make sure you're with me here...
SATURDAY JUNE 1 (times may be a bit fluid, depending on how long it takes to work on resource guide, need for discussion, etc.).
9 a.m. Introductory remarks: Jim Sherow.
Participants will read their 2-page statements.
Break up into working committees to organize resource guide.
1:30 p.m. Compile materials for resource guide.
Writing Session: Elizabeth Dodd. (60 minutes)
4 p.m. Carpool to Konza
At Konza, we will walk trails with docents, take
6 p.m. Picnic dinner at Konza.
Possible special guest talk after dinner.
Carpool back to dorms at our leisure.
SUNDAY JUNE 2
9 a.m. Workgroups draft introductory statements for resource guide sections (if not done already). Final group discussion (ideas, gripes, needs, successes, suggestions, plans, etc.).
Check-out of dorm after lunch.
Participants who plan to attend follow-up:
Marcia E. Allen
Peggy A. Carlson
Frances E. Cortez-Stokes
Thomas D. Fancher
Maria (Cricket) Henderson
Mary Jo Kleinsorge
Patrick R. Lamb
Sheila Ann Lisman
Mary K. Meyer
Julia C. Polak
Max K. Strain
Margaret M. Sullivan
Those not planning to attend the follow-up:
Carolyn Marie Mathews
We will be putting our experiences at the Institute last summer to full and formal use in May when we do our "official" unit on the prairie environment. The unit is the one we developed last summer in Manhattan.
We've used other materials from the Institute throughout the year when they fit into our regular curriculum. When we returned to school last fall, Mary discovered that she would be teaching a high school sociology class, for instance.
In that class students used the "journaling" method, along with its question/prompt format, to discover their "place," both in the overall environment and among groups of peoples.
Students in sociology did a mini-unit on the Ogallala Aquifer. They learned the history of its use and the bleak outlook for its future. We put this into a sociological perspective and discussed how the use of the Aquifer has affected groups of people in the western areas of the Great Plains.
We've not finished going through all the units developed last summer--that's a big, but interesting job! We look forward to seeing everyone again. We've enclosed an article that appeared in our local paper.
Garden Plain junior high students to study conservation issues By Tim Pouncey Cheney Sentinel February 8, 1996 Page 15
From early Native American tribes to current conservationists, Kansans have always had strong bond with their environment.
This spring a group of Garden Plain teachers have created an inter-disciplinary program that will give students more information about environmental issues.
"We will be doing a study on the environment this year that includes literature, Kansas history and science," said junior high school literature teacher Mary Meyer.
The program stems from a government grant Meyer received. She read about the grant in an academic magazine.
"Last July, Nancy Bolinger (junior high school science teacher) and I got a grant from the National Council [Endowment] for the Humanities in Washington D.C.," Meyer said. "The grant allowed me to spend a month at Kansas State University studying the history of the environmental movement, environmental issues and exchanging curriculum ideas with 28 other teachers from the midwest."
To prepare for their month at K-State the teachers had to do a lot of research, Meyer said.
"Before going last summer, we had to read about 12 books and other materials on environmental issues," she said. "We had a lot of preparation work to do before we went to Manhattan."
Their time at K-State give the teachers a deeper understanding of environmental issues, Meyer said. With the information, teachers will combine efforts to help students learn about a variety of environmental concerns.
"Nancy will be teaching about the prairie, including wild flowers, weeds, soil and grasses," Meyer said. "Then (history teacher) Bill Brown will show students what happened as the result of people moving into the prairie. In literature, they'll read about life on the prairie."
Among the issues discussed will be the importance of the Western Kansas Aquifer, Meyer said.
"The aquifer is a huge lake underneath Nebraska, western Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas," Meyer said. "It's important to the agriculture of several states but the water has been used so much, it's nearly depleted."
The environmental studies will conclude with students taking an over-night camping field trip, Meyer said.
"It will give them the opportunity to observe the environment and turn their observations into literature," she said. "Parents will be involved in the camping trip, so it will be a good family event as well as educational."
After the inter-disciplinary course is complete, Meyer will return to K-State and share what the students learned with other area teachers.,
But teaching students about the environment is not just an academic exercise. Meyer said, it's an important way for students to learn about dwindling natural resources.
"Knowing more about the environment will allow students to know more about the world around them and how they can improve it," Meyer said. "Environmental issues are something every student will need to know so they can make responsible decisions when they become adults."
I am sorry I did not write earlier, but this has been an unusually busy--and in some ways odd-- school year. Initially I had agreed to host a Japanese woman who was coming to Hutch High on I.I.P., an adult exchange program. She arrived last April and returned in January. In mid-August, we found out we were going to have a Russian woman coming on a government-sponsored program, and the superintendent asked if I would be able to host her since I already had a house guest. I agreed that she could stay with me too.
The Japanese woman, who was a very immature 39 year old, immediately told my neighbor she was "afraid of Russians." Soon after the Russian arrived, the Japanese woman told me she wanted to move where she "could have a family experience." We moved her.
The Russian settled in, and although I found her somewhat bossy and not a little abrasive. I'm easy to get along with and started making an effort. This Russian woman wanted to walk to school since I live seven blocks away. That was fine except after about two weeks we found she was not bothering to come to school until 4th hour when she was scheduled to be in a class. Since she was under the history department chairman, he explained carefully that she was to have the same school day as the rest of us. After all, she was making more take- home pay than any HHS teacher and, thanks to all of us taxpayers, had a Gateway 200 computer complete with tons of software, fax and color printer. It seemed the least she could do was come to school. Still, she ignored what we felt were her responsibilities, and when anyone asked her to speak in their classes, she claimed she needed several weeks to prepare.
She had a tendency "yell" (literally) whenever you seemed even close to confronting her about something, and she would issue orders to me such as, "Take me to store now." I felt like replying, "Kiss my *** now," but I continued to be kind. Finally, in early December I had to run home second hour to get a book, and there she was lounging as usual. I told her we would find another host. Hands on her hips, she demanded, "Explain me why I must move!" The short answer was, "If you don't, I might kill you," but I was diplomatic, but firm. On January 1st, she moved out. Things have not improved, but I no longer have to witness it all up close and personal.
For me, things are going well now. I have an excellent student teacher, so I have some free time, and I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Also, I am finalizing plans to go to New Zealand this summer. I was there on teacher exchange in 1986 and am eager to return. My AFS "daughter," who was here with me during the '84-85 school year, got married last May, and I am eager to get to know my "son-in-law." I will leave July 1.
Last summer's NEH has continued to have an impact on me, personally and professionally. At different times I have dragged more than a dozen friends out to the nearby Sandhills State Park, walked to the highest point, and delivered lectures on the "Llano estacado" and other topics.
I have a close friend in Liberal, and recently I made her take me to the Cimarron National Grasslands.
Last fall after my return from K-State, I read additional books by many of the authors we read and heard speak. Just this week I read Heart of the Land: Essays on Last Great Places, edited by Barbato and Weinerman, published by The Nature Conservancy.
I started the school year with a pre- Colonial unit which featured Native American culture and literature. During that time, I explained what environmental history was and how it would fit into our study throughout the year. Among other works, we read excerpts from N. Scott Momaday's The Way to Rainy Mountain. As a basis for several lectures, I used material from Cronon's book, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists and Ecology of New England (1983).
During the unit on transcendentalism, I drew heavily on institute ideas and readings. Worster's Nature's Economy has two chapters devoted to Thoreau and the transcendentalists. I also used excerpts from Lyon's This Incomperable Lande. Since I tie in the modern- day environmental movement, I found several interesting resources. One good one was Coyotes and Town Dogs: Earth First! and the Environmental Movement by Zakin. I also used two National Geographics, April 1994, "John Wesley Powell" and April 1973, "Muir's Wild America." Students were especially fascinated when I told them all about the history of garbage in America!
I guided several students toward research topics related to environmental history. The best paper was on the Dust Bowl. I loaned many of my summer books to the researcher who was impressed I had the authors' autographs and that Worster had graduated from Hutch High.
I used the poetry lesson plans I wrote last summer, and it went well.
One of my favorite books is Kathleen Norris' Dakota: A Spiritual Geography. It clearly relates to environmental history and is beautifully written. On April 23rd, she is coming to speak in Wichita, and I plan to go hear her.
I have discovered that what I learned in the institute has continued to be of value to me. I am looking forward to the reunion/follow-up this June. (Thank goodness my friend--you know who you are--will have no reason to bring her loud, antique electric typewriter!) See you soon.
It is probably bad to start a letter with an apology, however, I feel the need to do so. I have written this letter several times but it was not on paper.
I have not taught a formal lesson with the materials that I learned last summer. I teach a general "get-to-know" each region of the country lesson in grades five and seven. I used slides that I took at the reservoir when we talked about the plains.
Last summer has changed me in several ways. I am more knowledgeable than I was before I came. After the Institute, I heard the name Aldo Leopold and I actually knew who he was. I am more appreciative of the "nature" that surrounds me in Louisiana. (I still don't like gardening.)
I enjoyed reading the first newsletter and seeing the evaluators mention of the great "Shirley caper." It was fun remembering the expression on Jim's face that morning after realizing that everyone had on a Shirley nametag except for me.
I look forward to seeing everyone in June. Again, I apologize for taking so long to actually get something on paper.
See you all in a couple months!
P,P,P, Staff and Participants:
OK, OK I get the point. All of those letters were intended to get me to write you and let you know if I did indeed still exist and whether or not to cut my check for the return visit in June. Yes I still am alive, cut the check I will return, and as I had told you in the letters, quite busy. I haven't had the time to implement any of the workshop materials or curriculum and was feeling quite guilty until the recent communiqué and saw that Tom had experienced some of the same problems. Tom made me feel guilty so I thought I would write an explanation letter to the participants.
To say that this year was quiet and uneventful would have to be the understatement of the year. In October I was contacted and asked if I had an interest in a position teaching 7th and 8th grade science in one of our Junior High Schools. As this is something I have desired for several years, it took approximately 0.00000000005 of a second to reply yes! To make a long story short I spent the better part of 1995 getting a 6th grade class prepared and as far ahead as I could push them. At the same time I was trying to get myself ready to transition to what I have discovered to be not just another part of the world, but another planet. The bottom line is, I LOVE IT, but have been extremely busy. As Tom stated, sometimes we don't have a lot of discretion about curriculum in the science dept., and very little when you come into a situation cold and must pick up where someone else left off. Four of my hours are life science, which has been the human body, since I assumed the position in January. Try as I may, I just can't find a place to implement this past summer's work into that class. Any ideas are welcome. Maybe some of the folks over at the "Land Institute" could give me some ideas. My other hour is physical science which has been chemistry and physics, which don't lend themselves to this summer's work either. Again maybe there would be some chemistry ideas from "The Land Institute." The great news is that next year I will teach one hour of earth science which will be the perfect time to apply all I have waiting. Besides, I will be able to sift through, and use all of the great stuff the rest of you have found to work this year.
Again I will apologize for my lack of communication, but grading for 115 kids, and sitting in front of the computer every night writing curriculum for my new job, has taken every moment I have had. I even had a letter from my "Hall Buddy," Ned, and haven't found time to respond. I do look forward to seeing all of you in June. Have a productive month in May and I'll see you in June.
I am truly sorry for the tardiness of this letter. I have composed many paragraphs in my mind as I was doing other things other than sitting at a word processor. This has been on my "to do lis"' forever. This year has been one of becoming accustomed to using e-mail and the net, only to have technical difficulties occur just as dependency on such modern devices "took hold." I have attended academic functions and/or conferences for ten of the last 12 weekends. This Friday I will attend the second of a series of workshops in Arkansas concerning the Holocaust. What does any of this have to do with environmental history?
My fourth graders have written a book on Missouri which will be published and available for sale by mid-summer or possibly sooner. Sixth graders have finished regional and state competition in History Day and one sixth grader will attend National History Day held in the Washington, D.C., area in June. Her project concerns Dian Fossey. We are currently attempting to locate Dr. Fossey's thesis which should be in Cambridge University. As I took the sixth graders to Missouri University (4+ hour drive) we stopped for a tour at our state capitol which none of the students had been in. We also observed the deep cuts in rock cliffs as explosives prepared for yet another divided highway to be constructed. Tons of rock had been removed; where would be the question. Two wonderful hours were spent exploring one of Missouri's newest state parks, Ha-Ha-Tonka, observing karst topography, sinkholes, a natural bridge and savannah landscape. Am I getting more environmental, or what? While at State History Day I watched a wonderful senior individual performance about Alice Hamilton and the Dangerous Trades which later was to win first place.
I have circulated petitions in our two county area for a state tax to be maintained for parks and conservation. I read with interest articles about the recent, purposeful flooding of the Grand Canyon from the Glen Canyon Dam which will hopefully restore beaches, spawning grounds for fish and restore natural condition by stirring up sediment.
Since I plan curriculum for a year in advance, it will be next year and the following years when more of my study at K-State is evident. As fifth graders studied ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece we discussed garbage and environment. First, second and third graders are studying structures--what makes things stand up or fall down. As they begin forming their communities, environmental concerns will be studied. We have already discussed environment--what is it? where is it?--and the built environment. They are beginning an interactive, distance learning program, Journey North, during which they will track the migration of several species and contribute data on the appearance of oak leaves the size of a quarter, tulips blossoming, etc. There is a scientist who is available to answer their questions, such as "how can you determine the sex of a butterfly?"
Our school district is in a building program so this summer there will be the "mother of all moves" as all except 12 classrooms are moved, all offices, all libraries, etc. Of course, the teachers obtain boxes, pack, etc. There will be more room for education and storerooms, halls, stages, and cafeterias won't have to be used for classes.
I have been implementing a $60,000 state technology grant with three other teachers which we wrote last year. Oh, yes, an Apple Partners in Education Grant was prepared by two other teachers and myself this year and last week a request was made for me to write a grant (due only by April 30) so I might be able to have a computer available in the second classroom which I will have next year which is across town from the present classroom I am in.
It has been wonderful to hear from the others who are just as busy as I. I have shared bibliographies and materials from the environmental history workshop with other teachers and presented one workshop to a professional group last fall.
Happy Earth Day everyone!
The BIG news here is that it finally rained. In fact this is the first significant rainfall here since last October! Everyone is elated.
School has kept me very busy this year and I've not had the luxury of being able to keep in touch like I would like. I serve on several committees that demand hours of my time. So, here I am, at the end of the year communicating for the first time.
My class and I are in the middle of an environmental study. This is wrapped around an Earth Day Unit, a study of Aldo Leopold (more about that later), and the prairie ecosystem. The rain dampened and canceled our outdoor activity for today, but since we're striving to make every day earth day, that was no problem. We're just hoping that the rain will not spoil our visit to the Prairie State Park in early May.
Back to Leopold. Last October I attended a weekend Ozark Ecosystems workshop in Branson, Missouri. While there I met someone who introduced me to the Leopold Education Project. This is similar to Project Wild and Project Learning Tree. It was written by and is sponsored by Pheasants Forever. The objective of the project is to teach the students to see the land, to understand what they see, and enjoy what they understand. The organization hopes that LEP will snowball into the greatest land ethic curriculum ever. Presently the curriculum, which is written around essays from A Sand County Almanac, is for grades 7-12, but an elementary curriculum is due out this summer.
In early March I attended a Facilitator's training in Scott City, Kansas. As a Facilitator I can conduct training sessions for anyone who wishes to use these materials in their classroom. I would be more than happy to introduce you all to LEP and perhaps schedule a training sometime during the summer. During the training they announced that we would be listening to a song, and the person who could predict the names of the most environmentalists mentioned would win a prize. And of course I won, thanks to the People, Prairies, and Plains Institute.
I'm looking forward to seeing everyone in June.
Greetings and Salutations!
Yes, despite rumors to the contrary, I am alive and relatively well and still living in Exeter, Nebraska. Due to a very dark August through January involving my parents' mental and physical health, my usual tranquil existence has been somewhat less than serene. I am finally beginning to feel "caught up" at school, which is fortunate, because we only have six weeks left!
I sat down this evening after everyone else had gone to bed, and re-read all the newsletters. Wow! Grants and lectures and paper presentations and field trips and new units--WAY TO GO!!! My efforts seem puny by comparison!
1. In September I was a presenter at Nine-Mile Prairie on the west edge of Lincoln, Nebraska, for the annual Prairie Festival, sponsored by the Wauchiska Audubon Society. I gave my presentation literally ON the prairie under a canopy to over 400 people during the course of the afternoon! Wanna hear it? I think I still have it memorized! It was a VERY condensed history of the people who have lived on, cut up, farmed, ranched, and eliminated the original native prairie in Nebraska. Duane Hutchinson, a noted Nebraska author, and "historian of sorts" listened patiently to me, and then visited with me about some of the points I had made. He told me he was impressed with the information and hoped that the other 399+ people in attendance realized how precious the prairie really is!
UPDATE: Wauchiska Audubon has been given another 12 acre plot of native prairie some miles east of Lincoln, to help preserve native prairie for environmental education. 2. I'm bringing the SUNFLOWER apron with me in June.
3. As part of our Activi-trees, the sixth graders used "all natural" materials to create games, similar to the ones Indigenous peoples and early homesteader children might have played on the prairies. The students also did a little historical research to determine events in their lives and in those of their families and our school and parish, and then "plotted" the events using the rings of a tree that was recently cut down.
4. Later on, the sixth graders used my "Dust Bowl" books from the institute in some of their research projects about soil, and the early days on the plains. One creative prop was a rocking horse pulling an aluminum foil plow, guided by a Cabbage Patch farmer. I was pretty impressed with the girls' ingenuity! Heather and Jessica created a complete farm, including a Lego horse (that actually moved, courtesy of a small motor) and farmer that plowed back and forth through "acres" of real brome grass. Some of the students cooked authentic Native American food and shared it with us at the end of the presentations. A good time was had by all!!!
In March, during the annual sandhill crane migration through the Platte River valley, we happened to be studying birds in seventh grade science. (My bulletin board had a Japanese crane border, extra large origami paper crane hanging above, pictures from magazines, and articles and brochures from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.) I took some time to discuss the history of the bird, from archaeopteryx through some of the more noticeable adaptations of bird beaks, feet, feathers, and wings. We also researched the historical migratory routes of birds, especially sandhill cranes, and in doing so, found the history of the Platte River was inextricably linked to that of the cranes. I shared with the class an excellent World of Audubon video on Crane migration. We also shared the Japanese story of the 1,000 paper cranes and I tried valiantly to help the students fold origami cranes. I wouldn't recommend this particular activity for seventh graders--mine have abandoned their small motor skills in favor of growing four inches since school started! As an added bonus, our principal took most of the 6th, 7th and 8th grade students on a field trip to historical Fort Kearny and the places in the area where the students could observe the cranes as a reward for reading a certain number of library books. I had to stay in school and didn't get to go!
6. I was also able to share some of my newly gained knowledge and insight about people, prairies, and plains with other teachers at a Nebraska Math-Science Frameworks workshop in Columbus, Nebraska, four days after my return from KSU. Although the workshop was not originally designed to include this information, I was very adept at working it in every chance I got! I continued this promotion in October at the Nebraska Association of Teachers of Science Fall Conference in Fremont, Nebraska, as I gave my Frameworks presentations.
7. I also ran across a sheet on Rachel Carson in a Good Apple publication "OASIS" for middle level teachers/students. I shared this with my sixth grade students, and then we watched the video (courtesy of Ned) on Rachel Carson. While most of the video was a little above the sixth graders, they were appalled at the abuse she suffered after the publication of Silent Spring. We then were able to discuss women in science, and other "non-traditional" occupations, and eventually we got around to how we treat one another in the classroom, workplace, and society in general. I was also able to discuss with the sixth graders some historical aspects of the treatment of minorities in Nebraska and even in York and their own parish. Isn't it fascinating how one topic leads to another that, at first glance, seems unrelated?
Well, I think that about covers it. Sure hope it was worth waiting for.
Ruth Sullivan wrote and asked me for my materials on groundwater and aquifers. I was happy to send it! I'm anxious to hear how her unit comes out!
Special note to Elizabeth: I hope to try my hand at that article on Aldo Leopold's sense of humor this summer! Might even get back in the poetry mode, too! I'm taking the summer off--after June 2, NO workshops, classes, institutes, or presentations. Just R&R.
See you all in June!
Dear "People, Prairie, Plains" Folks,
I'm sorry you haven't heard from me, but I'll take this moment to "catch you up" as much as possible.
My class of twenty-three students began the school year by reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie. We visited our Outdoor Classroom "prairie" area, which had been seeded late last spring. We learned to be aware of the signs of wildlife (deer, raccoon, rabbit, gray fox), as well as enjoying (and trying to identify) the various birds and their songs.
Another of our "ongoing" activities included our tree adoption. Each child adopted a tree in the wooded area of our Outdoor Classroom. The children drew their trees, figured out what kind of tree it was, looked for signs of animal habitation within the tree, had their pictures taken with their trees, and some even gave their trees names. We have visited our trees many times throughout the year noting growth and seasonal changes. Last Friday we invited parents to join us as we had lunch with our trees.
During our study of oceans and sealife, which we have just completed, we used Julie's "water cycle" bracelet to help us remember the components of that cycle.
Last weekend, to further my own knowledge base, I participated in an "Earth Day" course offered by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Lincoln University which allowed me to tour the Water Treatment Plant at McBaine (for the city of Columbia), the Sewage Treatment Plant, and the constructed wetlands for the city of Columbia, as well as the Eagle Bluffs Wetlands area. (As you may remember, the "big" paper I wrote last summer was on the Missouri River and the wetlands areas that are being reestablished by the Missouri Department of Conservation.) This "Earth Day" course helped tie everything together for me.
At the present time my class and I are involved in a Mini-Society project which has us "traveling west as pioneers in the 1800's." We are making good use of the books I bought last summer in Manhattan, especially A Sea of Grass. We have almost completed our "Tall Grass Prairie" bulletin board (I'll bring pictures in June).
Thursday of this week we will be visiting Arrow Rock, Missouri, where the Santa Fe Trail began., We will visit homes and buildings in Arrow Rock that have been restored to be as much like they were in the 1840's as possible. There will be ample opportunities to be immersed in environmental history. Upon our return to the classroom, we will be making jam, bread, candles, maybe even rag rugs.
It would be REALLY neat if we were closer to the Konza so we could visit and appreciate that wonderful place. I am looking forward to seeing you all soon.
I'm sorry that it has taken me so long to write to you all. It seems that we teachers have so little time; I can't believe that our school year is almost finished. My goal for this next week is to have my students complete the school yearbook, as well as our Manhattan History Grant. Once those projects are finished, life will move much more smoothly for us all.
Our history grant has turned into quite a production. Initially, we planned to write a booklet about the city of Manhattan from the perspective of local citizens who had lived here for some time. The more interviewing that we did, however, the more we learned that the personal experience that people had to share were the real pearls of our book (often not directly related to local history). As a result, we plan a booklet of about forty pages, filled with interviews and pictures of our citizens, with a focus on what was/is important to them. It does have many references to past floods, storms, and changes in the city. We look forward to having the finished product in 3-4 weeks.
Other than those projects, my students have received an all-time record number of writing awards (a record for us, anyway!). So far, my writers have received 15 awards, with over $500 worth of savings bonds and numerous certificates. I am particularly proud of three who won first, second, and third place awards for their poetry submitted to the Riley County Conservation District as part of annual competition. We all attended the annual banquet, at which time the students received T- shirts and beautiful trophies for their efforts. We're all learning toward conservation practices now!
Among other areas of environmental history, my eighth graders have studied the following this year: we read portions of Hanson Baldwin's "R.M.S. Titanic" and charted that historical disaster with the aid of Robert Allard's film about the exploration of the ship. We have read sections of Twain's Life on the Mississippi, and we wrote papers about how perceptions of locales change as we grow older. We have glimpsed Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and we compared her "Flood" with the students' memories of the Manhattan flood of 1993.
My seventh graders have read literature selections about Pompeii, supplemented by material found in National Geographic. We have also studied Gerald Durrell's wonderful "World in a Wall," writing descriptions of small habitats as well. We are just completing a study of myths and heroes, and are relating our study to the environment and imagination of the times.
My sixth graders did an extensive study of Gary Paulsen's account of his Iditarod run (portions found in Woodsong and an earlier condensed chapter from Read Magazine). We also read Lost on a Mountain in Maine, and we wrote and illustrated poetry about Donn Fendler's experience. Those students are about to begin their Kansas projects (short research projects complete with visual aids).
I look forward to seeing you all in June.
The very best to each of you!
Just when you thought you wouldn't hear from the teacher in the Sandhills of Nebraska you get the latest in my attempt at teaching environmental history. My K-2 students have been busy with different projects throughout the year. Here is a sampling:
* Last fall we studied native grasses and forbs in the pastures. A ranch mother came and talked to us about grasses. We also collected and dried the grasses for our own collection.
* We had a bird study that lasted most of the year. Now the students love telling me the names o f the birds. Since we have our lake less than a quarter mile away we enjoy the return of the waterfowl. The students and I call the lake the Cutcomb Airport. We named it after our school.
* In January and February we logged the moon phases. It took some doing, but the parents helped out. You can talk about the moon phases but they really understand them better when they have to record the results themselves. The first time the new moon occurred the students thought that the moon must have been covered by clouds.
* We also built a model (map) of a small city. It takes up one wall with all the streets, services, buildings, parks, etc. I got the idea from Marty Melosi and simplified it to fit the primary grades.
* Last fall we collected pond water and observed it throughout the winter months learning the names of the different insects and plant forms in the pond. This spring we went back to the lake and collected more samples. The students had a great time wading in the water picking up snails, leeches and side swimmers. Here is a list of creatures we found: (1) dead frog, several side swimmers, (1) seven legged spider, about 60 snails (the students really like those snails), leeches are also popular but harder to find, and other insects too numerous to mention.
* This spring we will visit the Bowring Sandhill Ranch and State Historical Park by Merriman, Nebraska. This will give us a chance to look into the past history of ranching.
So long from the Sandhills of Nebraska.