Tag Archives: Brooklyn

The Return to the Neighborhood – Mr. D is back!

I'm Back by popular demand!It took quite a while, but the Neighborhood is back in business!

To be honest, I was really expecting to post at least once a week when I started my new position.  However, this year I learned of a new kind of exhaustion.

My new school, in all fairness, is such a refreshing change from my old situation that my exhaustion was barely noticed.  It’s a charmed life: a K-8 neighborhood school in a Bronx neighborhood reminiscent of my ancestral haunts in Brooklyn, with incredible colleagues and administrators that really back me up to the hilt.  Few teachers nowadays get that kind of treatment anymore.

Yet the Neighborhood had to take a back seat to a cruel mistress-two of them, in fact.  Ancient history was less demanding.  Sixth grade science, on the other hand, has had me doing tricks that would make a Flying Wallenda soil his tights.  Its been rough creating basically a whole new curriculum on the fly, especially in two subject areas.  History was simply a refresher: it was nothing some pyramids, a Hammurabi Code and some gladiators couldn’t fix.

Science…well…let’s just say for years we’ve had an understanding.  We usually stay out of each other’s way.

Yet when the principal asked if I could teach science during my interview, of course I nodded.  I could teach anything.  A superteacher like me only needs a stopwatch and some dry-erase markers to make kids recite Herodotus in the original Greek or do long division while explaining word problems in perfect iambic pentameter.

In other words, I lied.  Sort of.  Hey, I wanted the gig.

So between physics formulas, ancient artifacts and suffering through a broken Smartboard and a stack of paperwork I never had to do before, my life has been pretty much exhausted to the point that the Neighborhood was neglected.

Well, no more.

The Neighborhood will be back to give the usually refreshing, mostly irreverent, oftentimes crass and always honest commentary on American and world history, history education and education in general.

So to start…how about a teaching tool designed by yours truly?

One thing I really needed at the beginning of the year was a good comprehensive, all-inclusive introduction to the ancient history curriculum.  Since I’m known to knock around a decent PowerPoint or two, I created this introductory presentation as a jumping off point for lesson planning, assessments, projects, whatever you need.  It starts with a world map where you click on individual areas and it shows information about the “Big Four” civilizations usually studied (Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome).  Each section has maps, pictures, short bios of important people and key contributions of each people.

It isn’t a silver bullet, but the presentation is a good way to get students to think about deeper exploration of various themes.  The link is below:

Introduction to Ancient Civilizations

PS – It has my real name on it…as if it were a big secret LOL.  Enjoy.

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Video for the Classroom: Onandaga Chief Oren Lyons at the 2009 GIA Conference

It’s rare that the past and the present connects in such a visceral way.

Around this time, social studies classrooms in New York are studying the Native American nations of our state.  Among the most famous are those of the Haudenosaunee, the confederacy known as the Five Nations (which became Six Nations in the early 18th century) and more familiarly as the Iroquois.  At their height, the Haudensaunee confederacy stretched their influence from Ohio to Maine, and were powerful actors in the struggles for control of North America in the 17th and 18th Century.

Theres is one of the earliest examples of representative government, and their ancestors are still activists today.

Oren Lyons, chief of the Onandaga Nation, Faithkeeper of the turtle clan of the Onondaga and Seneca Nations, is featured today in a talk he gave at the opening plenary session of the 2009 Grantmakers in the Arts conference in Brooklyn, New York.  In his youth, Lyons was a legendary lacrosse player, both for Syracuse University (where he played alongside football great Jim Brown) and professionally. 

Today, Lyons is a respected and much-admired advocate for indigenous rights, both for his own Haudensaunee brethren and for indigneous people worldwide.  He has spoken to government leaders, indigenous leaders from other nations, even opening a session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1992.  Lyons is also a respected teacher: he serves as a SUNY Distinguished Service Professor and Director of the Center of Native American Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

 His talk concerns the rights of indigenous people to their land, as well as the need to control climate change in order to maintain the sanctity of nature.  Watch with your students, especially those who feel that Native American lore is a subject for long ago.

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