Monthly Archives: April 2012

This Day in History 4/30: The opening of the 1939 New York Worlds Fair

On April 30, 1939, while New York was still recovering from the Great Depression, the World’s Fair of 1939 opened in Flushing Meadows, Queens.  It was attended by over 44 milllion visitors, and was the second largest Worlds Fair in history (after the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair).

Just as the world was about to explode into another world war, the New York World’s Fair gave its visitors a vision of the future–the “World of Tomorrow.” it featured advances in robotics, television, new gadgets and pavilions from most countries in the world.

It’s a vision of the future that still inspires and frightens us.

Attached is two official films of the 1939 New York World’s Fair.  Though they are silent, they contain text cels and provide amongst the best primary source material on this important cultural event.

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A Lesson on WWII Primary Sources; or, how eBay Finds some Educational Value

New websites are like new toys.

We can’t seem to find enough ways to play with them until they either break or get discarded for the next big thing.

In the early 2000s, eBay was my new toy—and a purchase from those early days found an unusual role in my classroom.

One day, while I had some down time at my office, I puttered around eBay looking for whatever crap struck my fancy.  In those days, it was THE place to find hard-to-find knickknacks, doodads, and whatnot—a veritable treasure chest.

I didn’t find treasure, but I did find a map.

For some odd reason, I needed an old map to frame for my den (even though I lacked a den, a yacht, and Sperry Top-sider footwear).  Though there were plenty of old maps of Maine, Bermuda, Aruba and other preppy hangouts, but I was drawn to a 1940s WPA map of New York City given to servicemen during World War II.

Never mind that it was folded, wrinkly, yellowed and with a funny double-print font that’s hard to read; I needed it for $20.

Let’s say I really didn’t need it.  This relic of wartime Gotham sat in my desk for a decade.

A few months ago, one of my fifth grade classes was wrapping up their unit on US History.  World War II seemed as good a finish as any.  A half-decade of Call of Duty games certainly prepared them with enough content knowledge to teach a military history class at West Point.

To end the unit, I decided to whip out this old relic of a map.  It couldn’t be mounted on a wall, since it was double-sided.  Nonetheless, I made copies of it and gave it to the class.  They examined the map, automatically finding the places they recognize (it’s easy since all the sports stadiums use a ballpark icon).

To really analyze the map, I split the class into groups.  One group made a top-10 list of places a soldier would visit on leave.  Another planned out a 24-hour day for a soldier, detailing where he would visit and for how long.  Still another group came up with places that weren’t on the map.

Some of the responses were downright hilarious.

The top-10 list included places like the George Washington Bridge and the YMCA.  One group gave a soldier five minutes to get from the Statue of Liberty to Harlem.  The  list of places not listed on the map ranged from pizza places to bars to…strip clubs and “love motels” (which we decided to lump into the generic term of “adult establishments.”)

The results, though, were some pretty damn good essays.  They covered about not only about what soldiers did on their free time in New York, but also prevailing attitudes about how soldiers were supposed to behave i.e., the lack of “adult establishments.”

All from an impulse buy on eBay so many years ago.

Here is the link to WWII Lesson Plan.  It includes worksheets and graphic organizers.  Try it out in your own classroom.

This is the  Essay Planning Page for the culminating project.

Here’s also a PDF of the WPA New York City Map for Servicemen that goes with it.

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How to Evaluate Online Sources, thanks to NCSS

It’s high time students stop mining Wikipedia for their research projects.

Without adequate library resources, the Internet is often a kid’s only avenue for research. Yet even teachers get frustrated trying to figure out what sites are useful and what are simply fronts for extremist groups (a certain website about Martin Luther King comes to mind).

In this quarter’s edition of Social Studies and the Young Learner, published by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), Rindi Baildon shares how her fourth class at the American School in Singapore developed a rubric to evaluate sources. According to Baildon, it’s important for students to develop a healthy skill at determining useful websites, as it also develops their skills at critical thinking and analysis.

Using a series of exercises through an interdisciplinary research unit, Baildon gets the students to question accuracy, trustworthiness and usefulness in a multitude of sources. In that way, they can look at any online resource through a critical eye, which in results in more authentic, meaningful research.

The result of these exercises is a Research Resource Guide that summarizes how students should view online sources. They are a series of questions each student must ask when examining a website. They are scaffolded based on accuracy, readability (since a doctoral dissertation doesn’t due a fourth grader any good) and usefulness.

Below is the resource guide developed by Baildon’s class. Please let me know how you use it in your classroom. ;)

Research Resource Guide for Evaluating Online Sources

Readable

• Can I understand the information on my own, or with a little help?

• Is this resource “kid friendly”?

• Is this a “just right” resource for me?

Trustworthy

• Does this resource list the name of its author and publisher?

• Do I recognize the author or publisher?

• Is the publisher one person, or is it an organization (like a museum, university, or government agency?)

• Is the information current? (Is there a date showing when it was written or posted?)

• Can I find other sources with the same information?

Useful

• Does the resource have what I am looking for?

• Does it follow my research plan?

• Do I need it?

~ Baildon, Mark & Baildon, Rindi. “Evaluating Online Sources: Helping Students Determine Trustworthiness, Readability, and Usefulness.” Social Studies and the Young Learner, March/April 2012: pp. 11-14.

 

 

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