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I’ve been told there is no widespread, accepted recipe to becoming an effective teacher (especially that of a social sciences teacher). My time in graduate school at University of Portland has allowed me to better understand this concept, and has provided me with an opportunity to start building my own foundation for prioritizing my values as an educator.

The portfolio that I’ve created throughout my social studies methods course prompted my growth in ways that were less expected at the start of the semester. This course allowed me to investigate topics that I am thoroughly interested in; to academically venture toward whatever it was I felt called to. A majority of the assignments were tied to teaching history in one way or another. After assignments/lessons were submitted, feedback was given from my professor and my peers on such topics. In this way, my assignment submissions were different from other courses, in that, they felt less based on theory and principle and were more pragmatic toward my development as a social studies teacher.

Overall, this class supported my ability to effectively operate as a middle school social studies teacher; to prompt my students to think like historians and to prepare them to make informed decisions while participating in our ever-changing democratic society. The following activities/lessons highlight the work I’ve designed throughout this course.

To begin, I’d like to highlight a set of lessons/activities that were encouraged by my fascination with the American Frontier and the United States’ expansion throughout North America based on 19th century history topics.

Using Google Forms, I designed a formative assessment which was based on topics associated with the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments.

Using data from the 1940 census and the United States’ Home Owners Loan Corporation redlining maps, I investigated the likelihood that my grandparent’s would have been approved to establish residence in North Portland during the 1950s.

I reflected on an effective experience that I had as a student in my high school US government class.

Finally, I want to highlight a mock lesson that I taught to my class which investigates the 1960s Chicano Movement and its relationship with the Black Civil Rights Movement.

Overlooked Perspectives: the Lewis and Clark Expedition


This lesson is designed for an eighth grade social studies class.  It is intended that this lesson be taught during a unit focusing on the historical events in North America at the beginning of the 19th century.

In the days leading up to this lesson, students will have investigated the Louisiana Purchase and how it pertained to Thomas Jefferson’s request that Meriwether Lewis carry out the Corps of Discovery Expedition. Students will have analyzed why President Jefferson asked Congress for “the appropriation of two thousand five hundred dollars, for the purpose of extending the external commerce of the United States.”

It is expected that students will have foundational knowledge using the word ‘bias’ and will have some experience differentiating primary and secondary sources prior to this lesson.

Guiding Question

What perspectives might be missing from our understanding of the 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition?

Learning Objectives

The student will be able to:

-Describe the difference between primary and secondary sources.

-Describe how perspective and bias affect how we understand history.

-Investigate why the Lewis and Clark Expedition might be viewed differently by Native Americans, and non-Native Americans.


The lesson investigates five different documents associated with the Lewis and Clark expedition. The first three documents are aligned with an incident that occurred between Lewis and Clark’s expedition and the Umatilla Tribe near the Umatilla River in Oregon. The fourth document is a painting titled Lewis and Clark on the Lower Columbia (1905). The fifth document prompts students to think about the perspective of Clark’s slave, York.

This lesson follows a “we do, you do” format. The first document is a reading from Clark’s journal and may prove to be confusing for eighth graders. Consider reading and interpreting the first source together as a class. Have students work on their own, or with a partner for the remaining four documents.

This activity’s documents and the corresponding reflection questions have been organized into two google documents that you’ll find here. Print out one of each for every student.


Students will be assessed on their sourcing and contextualization skills as they pertain to the questions associated with each document. At the end of the activity students will be expected to turn in their worksheet with all three questions answered for the five documents.

Document 1

This is a reading from William Clark’s journal on October 19, 1805

“I Delayed at the foot of the rapid about 2 hours for the Canoes which I could See met with much difficuelty in passing down the rapid on the oposit Side maney places the men were obliged to get into the water and haul the canoes over Sholes—while Setting on a rock wateing for Capt Lewis I Shot a Crain which was flying over of the common kind. I observed a great number of Lodges on the opposit Side at Some distance below and Several Indians on the opposit bank passing up to where Capt. Lewis was with the Canoes, others I Saw on a knob nearly opposit to me at which place they delayed but a Short time before they returned to their Lodges as fast as they could run, I was fearfull that those people might not be informed of us, I deturmined to take the little Canoe which was with me and proceed with the three men in it to the Lodges, on my aproach not one person was to be Seen except three men off in the plains, and they Sheared off as I aproached near the Shore, I landed in front of five Lodges which was at no great distance from each other, Saw no person the enteranc or Dores of the Lodges wer Shut with the Same materials of which they were built a mat, I approached one with a pipe in my hand entered a lodge which was the nearest to me found 32 persons men, women and a few children Setting permiscuesly in the Lodg, Some in the greatest agutation, Some crying and ringing there hands, others hanging their heads. I gave my hand to them all and made Signs of my friendly dispotion and offered the men my pipe to Smok and distributed a fiew Small articles which I had in my pockets,—this measure passified those distressed people verry much, I then Sent one man into each lodge and entered a Second myself the inhabitants of which I found more fritened than those of the first lodge I destributed Sundrey Small articles amongst them, and Smoked with the men, I then entered the third 4h & fifth Lodge which I found Somewhat passified, the three men Drewer Jo. & R. Fields, haveing useed everey means in their power to convince them of our friendly disposition to them, I then formd Set my Self on a rock and made Signs to the men to come and Smoke with me not one Come out untill the Canoes arrived with Some five Came out of each Lodge and Set by me and Smoked Capt Lewis at the 2 Chiefs, one of whom spoke aloud, and as was their Custom to all we had passed the Indians came out & Set by me and Smoked They said we came from the clouds &c &c which the and were not men &c. &c. this time Capt. Lewis came down with the Canoes rear in which the Indians, as Soon as they Saw the Squar wife of the interperters wife [Sacagawea] they pointed to her and informed those who continued yet in the Same position I first found them, they imediately all came out and appeared to assume new life, the sight of This Indian woman, wife to one of our interprs. confirmed those people of our friendly intentions, as no woman ever accompanies a war party of Indians in this quarter.”

Document 1:

1. What do you know about the source and author of this document?

2. Is this a primary or secondary source? How do you know?

3. Is there any bias associated with this document?

Document 2

The second document is a reading from a book titled, Lewis and Clark among the Indians, written by J.P Ronda and published in 1984.

“As the expedition continued down the Columbia and neared the mouth of the Umatilla River, Indian reactions began to change dramatically. The welcomes offered by Cutssahnem and Yelleppit vanished and were replaced first by fear and then by ill-concealed hostility. That fear became evident during the afternoon of October 19 as the explorers left Walula territory and entered that occupied by Umatillas. Throughout the afternoon, the men saw hastily abandoned villages and frightened Indians. “At our approach,” said Clark, “they hid themselves in their Lodges and not one was to be seen until we passed.” Although the expedition’s records offer no straightforward explanation for this sudden shift in native attitudes, an event later in that afternoon does suggest how Indians with little or no contact with whites responded to the expedition.

As Clark was walking on shore with a small party that included Charbonneau, Sacagawea, and the Nez Perce guides, he idly shot a crane. Clark thought no more about the incident. A cluster of mat lodges in the distance seemed more worthy of attention. Indians from those lodges were spotted running in terror back to their village. Anxious to quiet the Umatillas’ fears, Clark decided to take Drouillard and the Field brothers on a visit. Once at the settlement, they found five mat houses with their doors firmly shut. Pipe in hand, Clark pushed his way into the first lodge and found thirty-two men, women, and children “in the greatest agutation.” As the Indians cried, wrung their hands, and lowered their heads in preparation for death, Clark struggled to allay their fears. Handshaking, a proffered pipe, and gifts eventually soothed them. He repeated the performance at the other lodges and, with the help of the Nez Perce chiefs and the presence of Sacagawea, terror passed into what he claimed was “greatest friendship.” Then the Umatillas spilled out the reason for their fear. As Clark explained it later to Nicholas Biddle, “The alarm was occasioned by their thinking that we were supernatural and came down from the clouds.” The Umatilla perception of Lewis and Clark as sky gods had been sparked by Clark’s random killing of the crane. “These shots (having never heard a gun), a few light clouds passing, the fall of the birds and our immediately landing and coming towards them convinced them we were from above.”

 As the expedition moved closer to Celilo Falls and The Dalles, the Indians continued to show signs of fear and distrust. Perhaps the outsiders were identified with Paiute warriors who frequently raided in the region. For whatever reason, the river people traded warily with Lewis and Clark. Ordway recalled that these Indians acted “as if they were in fear of us.”

Document 2:

1. What do you know about the source and author of this document?

2. Is this a primary or secondary source? How do you know?

3. Is there any bias associated with this document?

Document 3

The third document is an excerpt from the book Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes written by Roberta Conner: an author who is descended from the Umatilla Tribe.

“This place in the Columbia River Plateau is our home. Our people have always been here in what are now northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington. How long is always? As far back as our oral histories recall. Back to when the landforms were created, back to the end of the cold times, back to the floods, back to the time when the mountains hurled rocks and fire at each other, back to when the animals held council and taught us how to live here. Our covenants on how to exist in this homeland are ancient. From the animals, plants, waterways and the cycles provided by the seasons, we learned what to eat, where to live at different times of the year, how to heal ourselves and take care of one another. Our traditional laws, still in place, never replaced or superceded, tell us how to take care of the gifts from the Creator. In our cultures, children are sacred as are all the beings made by the creator. That is the age-old context into which Lewis and Clark arrived in 1805. By virtue of their saying so, these newcomers proclaimed we were children to their Great Father. Not so. We were and are children of this landscape that sustains us and upon which we have depended for eons. They did not speak our languages. They shot a crane flying by for no reason apparent to onlookers. They entered a closed door without seeking permission.

Then, Clark writes that we said, undoubtedly by way of signs, they came from the clouds and are other than men—godlike? Perhaps Clark’s own sense of superiority and dominance has run away with his imagination.”

Document 3:

1. What do you know about the source and author of this document?

2. Is this a primary or secondary source? How do you know?

3. Is there any bias associated with this document?

Document 4

Painting titled Lewis and Clark on the Lower Columbia, 1905.

Charles M. Russell (1864-1926); Lewis and Clark on the Lower Columbia; 1905

Document 4:

1. Using the internet, what information can you find on this painting?

2. Is there any bias associated with this painting?

3. Does this painting realistically represent the Lewis and Clark Expedition?

Document 5

The fifth document is an excerpt from a publication written by Darrell Millner from Portland State University. The document interprets the role of Clark’s slave, York, and his contributions to the expedition.

“ Joining the two captains and the soldiers they had recruited for the expedition was York, Clark’s black slave… The western frontier has always been notable for its interracial and intercultural complexity, and the Corps of Discovery reflected that reality… One of the most interesting and useful stories to emerge about the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition is that of York, who participated fully in the journey and contributed in significant ways to its success.”

Document 5:

1. What do you know about the source and author of this document?

2. Is this a primary or secondary source? How do you know?

3. Why do you think people might be more familiar with Lewis and Clark’s roles in the expedition and less familiar with York’s role?


After students have had sufficient time to read and reflect on each document, ask students if they have any questions or comments that they’d like to bring up in a classroom discussion. As time permits, have students summarize their experiences and responses to the documents.

Investigating My Grandparent’s Mortgage Loan Status in 1958

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My father immigrated to the United States in 1968 from Lima, Peru. He was 5 years old at the time; the fifth of sixth children in his immediate family. Both of my father’s parents families descended from Germany and had settled in Peru. 

My great grandparents with three of my father’s older siblings in Lima, Peru

My father’s family contributed to issues of inequality in Peru and for that reason left the country in 1968 due to numerous political disputes. My grandmother came from a family that owned a large sugar plantation about 350 miles north of Lima. A great deal of this land was seized from my grandmother’s family in the 1968 Peruvian coup d’etat. One of my father’s older sisters was also battling polio, and medical care in the United States succeeded that of the medical care in Peru. My father’s parents agreed it was a good time to leave Peru, and they looked to the United States for a fresh start. This ironically happens to be the exact year that the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) banned racial discrimination in its housing program in the United States.

Prior to 1968, the United States’ federal government utilized the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) between the years of 1935 and 1940 to evaluate residential neighborhoods across the nation. These evaluations were funded to determine various urban neighborhood’s “mortgage security”. These residential evaluations deemed the various risks and advantages associated with the specified neighborhoods. They were created to help banks and other mortgage lenders determine what demographic was allowed to exist in various neighborhoods. They were created to systemically marginalize the urban residents of the United States. 

What if my father’s family had decided to leave Peru ten years prior, in the year 1958? Would they have been able to establish residence in the neighborhood I’m currently living in? 

While exploring the HOLC archived map of Portland, I noticed descriptions of the “infiltration” were viewed as “subversive,” “lower grade,” or “undesirable”. This is direct evidence that the HOLC was identifying all foreign immigration as an unwanted characteristic of a residential locality. 

While my father’s grandparents in Peru were wealthy, my father’s parents did not inherit the financial benefits associated with their parent’s “old money”. I am told that my grandfather was in search of work the year they arrived in America. This is in indication that my father’s family would have requested a loan in order to establish residence.

My neighborhood: St. Johns, Portland OR (Section C2)

I live at the crossroads of N Ivanhoe St and N New York Ave. This section (polygon) of the St. Johns neighborhood is labeled “C2” on Portland’s HOLC map. The HOLC included numerous characteristics on their evaluation of Portland’s C2 polygon. The characteristics listed include a geographic description, information on the infrastructure and the demographics of the neighborhood’s inhabitants. Under section 2c, the neighborhood’s “foreign-born families” percentage is listed as “none subversive”. This leads me to believe that immigrants were not particularly welcome in this neighborhood. 

Screen Capture of Portland’s C2 Polygon on the HOLC Archive

The 1940 census shows that a vast majority of the people living in this neighborhood were born in the United States. I found two families that showed record of having at the status of immigrants. One family living at 9415 N Ivanhoe St included a forty-two year old man born in Turkey, and another family living at 9207 N Ivanhoe St included a father and a son who were born in Russia. The screen capture below shows the census documentation of the family members born in Russia. 

1940 Census depicting the residents at 9207 N Ivanhoe St

The Bank’s Decision

It’s difficult to determine whether or not my father’s family would have been approved to live in St Johns in 1958. Due to the fact that the 1940 census indicates there were other white immigrants living in the C2 polygon during this time, I presume my father’s family would have likely been approved for a mortgage loan. I am told that both of my grandparents spoke very broken English, and had a difficult time assimilating to American culture. 

My Father’s Family at Christmas Dinner in California Sometime in the Early 1970s (My father on the right with the red bowtie)

My grandparent’s family was culturally tied to Peru, however they were white. This would obviously benefit them while applying for a mortgage loan in 1958. What if their ethnicity resembled less of that from their German ancestry and more from their Peruvian ancestry? How would that have effected their mortgage security status?

The 1960s Chicano Movement

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Target Audience and Setting:

The following is a lesson plan designed for a sixth grade social studies class. In Oregon, sixth grade social studies classes focus on history and geography of the Western Hemisphere. I envision this lesson being taught toward the end of the school year after students have gained some background information on the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo through a series of US history units, and spent some time looking at the Black Civil Rights Movement.  


Students will have some background knowledge on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and its lasting impacts on the people (indigenous and colonial) of the American South West. More recently students will have just finished a unit on the American Civil Rights Movement.

In the days leading up to this lesson, students will have spent some time learning about California’s agriculturally dominated economy through the late 19th and 20th centuries and it’s demand for farm workers. Students will have learned about where the term Chicanx comes from and how this community has been exploited for their cheap labor. Students will have learned about Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta’s creation of the United Farm Workers Association (UFW), and how the commencement of the UFW brought with it a new set of civil rights demands from the Latinx community.


1) Students read the first and last stanzas of the I am Joaquin poem.

2) Students assigned to groups of two.

3) Students will be given ~7 minutes to discuss:

-What key themes did you notice in the poem?

-What does Joaquin’s story reveal?

-What similarities or differences do you see between the Black Civil Rights Movement and the Chicano Movement?

4) As a class we will come back together to summarize what we discussed in small groups.

5) Teacher will lead class discussion to review topics based on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and its lasting impacts on the people of the American Southwest.

6) As a class we will activate our prior knowledge of murals and how/why they are used.

7) Students will spend ~10 minutes observing/discussing the general theme of the murals in groups of two.

8) As a class we will come back together to discuss what stood out to us regarding the murals.  

9) Students’ exit ticket will be to respond to the following prompt with three or more sentences.

-What similarities/differences do you notice between the Black Civil Rights Movement and the Chicano Movement?


I Am Joaquin by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales

Emilio Aguayo mural

Exterior of El Teatro Campesino mural