Periodic Table Day – 2024

February 7th is an important day in chemistry and science – it marks the publication of the first attempt at organizing the known elements. Two weeks ago our young scientists celebrated the day in science classes with activities related to the periodic table of elements. It was a fabulous day of learning.

On that February day in 1864, British chemist John Newlands published the first periodic table with elements organized by their increasing masses, five years later Russian chemist Dimitri Mendeleev created the framework which became the periodic table of elements which is familiar to many of us.

I remember high school and college chemistry and I wish I knew then what I know now about the periodic table of elements. Continue reading “Periodic Table Day – 2024”

History Newsletter – January ’18

Upstander – a person who recognizes injustice in society and works to end the injustice, also known as an activist.

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In 8th grade social studies we are wrapping up our unit of study on the American Civil War. Our focus question is:

Was the Civil War a choice or a consequence?

We began the unit by looking at nineteenth century reformers and reform movements – abolition, temperance, and women’s rights. We looked at 36 men and women who stood up against the prevailing attitudes of the day and did what was right. They were Upstanders. Each of the students was assigned a nineteenth century activist and asked to create ‘Today in History’ slide for their date of birth or death. It was an excellent way to expose the 8th graders to people from the past who made a difference.

Some of the people are well-known, others are not so well-known, but they made a difference by calling for and working for the end of slavery, or temperance, or women’s rights.

History is made by people who make a difference. It’s why we study history, so we can be inspired by their acts to make changes in our own time. When we visited the Naper Settlement in December, we learned that only 1% of the population in 1856 was actively working for abolition of slavery. Most people stood by and didn’t take a stand. Today, it seems obvious, however it wasn’t easy to be voice of change.

Even at 1%, we need Upstanders – they affect change and help move our country forward. And it’s not just our country, it’s our community, and our school.

We’ve finished the Upstanders and now we are looking the differences between the North and the South– economically, socially, and culturally. We’ll finish the unit by looking at the reasons for the Civil War and reading Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address which begins with

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Upstanders, we need them.

Our next unit is the Immigration unit and the Ellis Island simulation on February 9th. We are always seeking parent volunteers for Ellis Island Day and I’ll be sending out a request in a couple of weeks, so if you are interested, mark your calendar.

Until then remember Lincoln’s words,

The past is the cause of the present, and the present will be the cause of the future.

It’s important to study our past, but it’s more important for us to be engaged in our present.

History Newsletter – October ’17

What is inquiry?

You’ve probably heard that word in the past couple of weeks in relation to this year’s social studies class.

Inquiry in the social studies classroom begins with a compelling question – a question that doesn’t have a simple yes or no answer nor is the answer easily searchable with Google.

In our case the compelling question for our first inquiry of the year is:

Was the American Revolution avoidable?

Most 8th graders, and Americans, know the story of the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the Declaration of Independence, and the American Revolution. The reason for war of ‘No taxation without representation.’ It’s what they’ve been taught since they’ve been in school. But the story behind the American Revolution is much more complex than a simple chronology of events.

Inquiry, is a shift in instruction – which means some of the responsibility for learning shifts from the teacher to the student encouraging students to be engaged and curious and wonder about they ‘why and how’ of social studies.

The question we want our students to grapple with was, was the conflict avoidable or not?

Most adults remember history class as having to remember dates, people, places, battles, and other events. Knowing this information is important, but it’s not about what teaching and learning history should be. In fact, in my years of teaching, I’ve learned it’s what turns most 13-14 years olds off in social studies. Some middle school students love history, but for many students, it’s a drudge.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress. The Bloody Massacre Perpetrated in King Street Boston on March 5th 1770 by a Party of the 29th Regt. Boston: Engrav’d Printed & Sold by Paul Revere, 1770. Fine Prints. Prints & Photographs Division.

Continue reading “History Newsletter – October ’17”