History Lessons Portfolio

By Patrick Boldt

Featured image see source.

I have learned that the classroom is a place of partnership between the learner and the instructor; between protege and mentor; between student and teacher. My time at the University of Portland has provided me with foundational knowledge on how to serve my community as a leader within the realm of education. The first step to serving as a leader is to provide opportunities for growth among those I strive to support. I have to create lifelong learners, collaborate workers and critical thinkers among my students.

This portfolio of mine encompassed the types of material that I would want to expose my students to as part of a social studies curriculum. Admittedly, I was exposed to subject matter that I would not have anticipated in August. However, the value of these materials has become evident nonetheless and their worth is demonstrated by how they manage to promote culturally responsive teaching and a deeper analysis of history. I decided to focus on examining subjects that I found particularly exciting, especially when it came to examining historical topics from the 20th century and onwards. I followed my calling to investigate subjects that I was less familiar with while also dissecting subjects I was passionate for so as to make these topics invigorating for future students. For each of the lessons and topics I found I received peer feedback that I used to make my subsequent posts stronger and more intricate.

This class exposed me to the types of activities I could use to foster an exciting classroom environment for the students I will be teaching. Across secondary education, I am familiar with the steps I can take to help my students critically engage with material across the curriculum for a history class. Furthermore, I would like to encourage my students to take this knowledge outside the classroom so that they can engage with the discussion of real-world phenomena. Furthermore, they could be prepared to ask questions tied to current politics so that they can demonstrate merit as individuals that are prepared to enter the real world. History is about forming connections between the past and the present and it is precisely this ideal that I want my students to take to heart.

Downfall: The End of the Third Reich and the Death of Germany

See source for featured image.

If the war is lost, then it is of no concern to me. If people perish in it, I still would not shed a single tear for them, because they do not deserve better.” – Adolf Hitler.

Essential Questions: Why was the final stage of the war in Europe so destructive? Why did the German state collapse to the point that it lost credibility? Why was Hitler under such illusions that he would succeed when everything spoke to the opposite.

Learning Objectives:

In this lesson, students will be able to analyze documents that detail the last days of the Third Reich and the historical figures that experienced the Battle of Berlin.

They will practice close reading as they thoroughly examine documents that reveal historical connections among significant events that reflect the context of the era in question and why events transpired as they did.

By the end of the lesson, they will have an understanding of why the last days of the war were as destructive as they were and how it led to a societal collapse that destroyed the Nazi regime.

Background information: The Third Reich had been engaged in a 6 year long conflict by the time that 1945 rolled around. The propaganda fed to the Germans during this time was very effective to say the least and it bolstered an intense form of nationalism that would prove self destructive as it reflected a reality that didn’t exist. The United States was liberating Western Europe from the control of the Nazis, France was free and the most recently fought Battle of the Bulge was a military failure.

However, as detrimental as these changes were, a far larger threat was threatening to envelop the collapsing German war machine: The Soviet Union. The eastern campaigns failed to take Moscow, Stalingrad or the precious oil fields that the Soviets held to the envy of the Nazis. Over the next few years, the red army would push back the German theater closer and closer to the Rhineland, as the Polish resistance among others joined the Russians in conquering former German territory.

The German generals knew the war was lost by the end of 1942 but no assassination attempt would remove Hitler from power. Fervent nationalism and a belief in a glorious destiny prevented Hitler and his supporters from surrendering peacefully. Hitler’s belief in a final victory that would turn things around, though contagious to the point that child soldiers would die opposing the Red Army, was rooted in fantasy and failed to reflect the war he started. The Germans were indoctrinated and ordered to fight to the end as there was no future for them if they lost; a loss against the Russians would mean the death of society. This is the setting of 1945. This is where the Third Reich would meet its end.

Document 1: Eyewitness Account of a German Civilian, Dorothea von Schwanenfluegel April 20th, 1945

Hitler’s last public appearance the Fuehrer inspects boy-soldiers defending Berlin, April 20, 1945. See source.

“Friday, April 20, was Hitler’s fifty-sixth birthday, and the Soviets sent him a birthday present in the form of an artillery barrage right into the heart of the city, while the Western Allies joined in with a massive air raid.

The radio announced that Hitler had come out of his safe bomb-proof bunker to talk with the fourteen- to sixteen-year-old boys who had ‘volunteered’ for the ‘honor’ to be accepted into the SS and to die for their Fuhrer in the defense of Berlin. What a cruel lie! These boys did not volunteer, but had no choice, because boys who were found hiding were hanged as traitors by the SS as a warning that, ‘he who was not brave enough to fight had to die.’ When trees were not available, people were strung up on lamp posts. They were hanging everywhere, military and civilian, men and women, ordinary citizens who had been executed by a small group of fanatics. It appeared that the Nazis did not want the people to survive because a lost war, by their rationale, was obviously the fault of all of us. We had not sacrificed enough and therefore, we had forfeited our right to live, as only the government was without guilt. The Volkssturm was called up again, and this time, all boys age thirteen and up, had to report as our army was reduced now to little more than children filling the ranks as soldiers.

In honor of Hitler’s birthday, we received an eight-day ration allowance, plus one tiny can of vegetables, a few ounces of sugar and a half-ounce of real coffee. No one could afford to miss rations of this type and we stood in long lines at the grocery store patiently waiting to receive them. While standing there, we noticed a sad looking young boy across the street standing behind some bushes in a self-dug shallow trench. I went over to him and found a mere child in a uniform many sizes too large for him, with an anti-tank grenade lying beside him. Tears were running down his face, and he was obviously very frightened of everyone. I very softly asked him what he was doing there. He lost his distrust and told me that he had been ordered to lie in wait here, and when a Soviet tank approached, he was to run under it and explode the grenade. I asked how that would work, but he didn’t know. In fact, this frail child didn’t even look capable of carrying such a grenade. It looked to me like a useless suicide assignment because the Soviets would shoot him on sight before he ever reached the tank.

By now, he was sobbing and muttering something, probably calling for his mother in despair, and there was nothing that I could do to help him. He was a picture of distress, created by our inhuman government. If I encouraged him to run away, he would be caught and hung by the SS, and if I gave him refuge in my home, everyone in the house would be shot by the SS. So, all we could do was to give him something to eat and drink from our rations. When I looked for him early next morning he was gone and so was the grenade. Hopefully, his mother found him and would keep him in hiding during these last days of a lost war.”

1.) What can be inferred about socio-economic conditions within Germany during 1945?

2.) Does this source seem credible? Is it valid for study? Why or why not?

3.) What does this document reveal about the way that the government was being run during this time? Why might the Nazi’s have turned to child soldiers?

Document 2: Goring’s Telegram (Translated), April 23rd, 1945

“My Fuhrer: General Koller today gave me a briefing on the basis of communications given to him by Colonel General Jodl and General Christian, according to which you had referred certain decisions to me and emphasized that I, in case negotiations would become necessary, would be in an easier position than you in Berlin. These views were so surprising and serious to me that I felt obligated to assume, in case by 2200 o’clock no answer is forthcoming, that you have lost your freedom of action. I shall then view the conditions of your decree as fulfilled and take action for the well-being of Nation and Fatherland. You know what I feel for you in these most difficult hours of my life and I cannot express this in words. God protect you and allow you despite everything to come here as soon as possible. Your faithful Hermann Goring”.

1.) What does this reveal about the German command structure?

2.) Is there anything of note within the document itself? Anything in regard to the diction and phrasing?

3.) How might Hitler and others within the German state have reacted to this telegram? Why?

Document 3: Traudl Junge’s Account, an excerpt from the personal novel, To The Last Hour: Hitler’s Last Secretary

“Only when Eva Braun comes over to me is the spell broken a little. She smiles and embraces me. “Please do try to get out. You may yet make your way through. And give Bavaria my love,” she says, smiling but with a sob in her voice. She is wearing the Führer’s favourite dress, the black one with the roses at the neckline, and her hair is washed and beautifully done. Like that, she follows the Führer into his room – and to her death. The heavy iron door closes.

I am suddenly seized by a wild urge to get as far away from here as possible. I almost race up the stairs leading to the upper part of the bunker. But the Goebbels children are sitting halfway up, looking lost. They felt they’d been forgotten in their room. No one gave them any lunch today. Now they want to go and find their parents, and Auntie Eva and Uncle Hitler. I lead them to the round table. “Come along, children, I’ll get you something to eat. The grown-ups have so much to do today that they don’t have any spare time for you,” I say as lightly and calmly as I can. I find ajar of cherries, butter some bread and feed the little ones. I talk to them to distract them. They say something about being safe in the bunker, and how it’s almost fun to hear the explosions when they know the bangs can’t hurt them. Suddenly there is the sound of a shot, so loud, so close that we all fall silent. It echoes on through all the rooms. “That was a direct hit,” cried Helmut, with no idea how right he is. The Führer is dead now.”

1.) How well can be trust this firsthand account? Are there any biases that could be at play?

2.) What could you infer about conditions within the Fuhrerbunker? What would the atmosphere have been for those within?

3.) What would attitude towards Hitler be at this time? What connection would Traudl have? Explain using the text above.

Document 4: Eric Schneyder’s journalist record of the Fall of Berlin. May 2 and 3, 1945.

Excerpt below.

“The Russians have arrived. Sharp commands in a foreign language which reach the ears of those in the shelter leave no doubt about that. The three friends have found refuge somewhat away from the rest of the inmates of the shelter. They hear one after another disappear and know that the Russians have taken them prisoner. E.S. offers to reconnoiter. As he gropes his way, he smells the odor of Russian boots. Outside two Russian guards are posted. As they see him emerge, they point their guns at him and call out, “Stoi!” So that is his first encounter with the enemy, he reflects. One of them raises his, E.S.’s hands, while the other searches him for weapons. He is then kicked into the street. The street is under cannon fire, so E.S. quickly jumps back into the shelter just as some German police are surrendering and attention is diverted to them. Down below he finds the policemen’s weapons scattered all over the place, and in the janitor’s air raid quarters a lot of civilians, men, women, and children, huddled together in a community of despair.”

“Suddenly the door is torn open and broad-shouldered Russian farmer boys in uniform form order all males to come out. The cries of women and children avail nothing; no man is allowed to remain below. As the guards seize E.S., he manages somehow to persuade one of them to go with him to the cubbyhole in which his two friends are awaiting him…. The seventeen-year-old Russian soldier is quite as scared to follow E.S. to his wing of the shelter as E.S. is scared of the Russian, who keeps his gun poked into his back. When they reach the compartment, E.S. calls his two comrades by name and teh Russian is greatly relieved to note that neither have weapons and that there is nobody else in the shelter. He permits the three to take their blankets and a few belongings, and then marches them over to the Esplanade Hotel. There they see all their companions of the night before–“cowboy.” the police, etc. E.S. knows every nook and cranny in this hotel belonging to the Stinnes industrial dynasty, but realizes there is no possibility of escape.”

1.) How does this account compare to that of the first document? Does this seem more or less reliable? Why or why not?

2.) What biases might be playing a role in this transcription? Could anything be exaggerated or downplayed? If so, what?

3.) How would the Russians be perceiving this occupation? How would the Germans perceive the occupation?

Document 5: Soviet Flag over the Reichstag.

The Raising of the Soviet Flag over the Reichstag on May 2nd, 1945. See source.

1.) What does this picture symbolize? What is the artist trying to convey?

2.) What is revealed by the background? What might be left out if anything?

3.) Does this image reflect the accounts and the destruction described above? Why or why not?


After the students have had the chance to examine these documents, they will have a chance to share their observations with the instructor and their experience going through these documents. A short discussion would follow as they explain the connections between the sources and why this event was so important in history.

Life in Detroit: My Grandfather’s Hometown

Featured image from Mapping Inequality.

My grandfather, George Adrian Peterson, who I refer to as “Papa” was a resident of Wayne County in the city that would become Detroit, Michigan. He grew up as the son of Swedish immigrants from Stockholm and was born as the first generation of American citizens. Surrounding him was expansive woodlands, an industrial complex that churned out automobiles and a neighborhood that required strong workers, let alone students.

His family worked at a lumber mill just so they could pay for his high school tuition until he was old enough to work for himself and supply his own academic expenses. Wayne county was relatively poor throughout his childhood but my grandfather especially remembers how he passed a lot of industrial sites going to school and how he would help his father on the weekends by working at the lumber yards near the edge of Detroit.

A rough map showing the streets of the neighborhood my grandfather grew up in during 1940. See source here.

My first goal was to search through records from the 1940 census and try to find any sort of map of what the roads seemed to look like. Unfortunately, most of the maps I found were not very helpful nor did they seem to provide any detailed information about rates and costs of living in proportion to each area. However, I finally narrowed it down to what I believe to be a map of the neighborhood my grandfather lived in and from here I started to narrow down my searching to explore the economic history of the region. I learned that this region in Michigan was very factory based with most jobs going to either automobiles or power plants. While I am a bit surprised that my grandfather and his father before him were tied to lumber at first, I have to recognize that they worked just outside of Detroit to the north and are therefore exceptions. For the record, as HomeFront USA was taking off my great grandfather temporarily worked at a factory that produced ammunition and shells throughout the war while my grandfather collected scrap metal as a way of promoting the effort. They were doing their part to support Uncle Sam however they could.

My grandfather lived between C54 and C55.

The region wasn’t the most economically prosperous according to my grandfather, which is part of the reason why he decided to move to California. According to HOLC the area where my grandfather was raised is now designated as Third Grade. The population is static without any major changes expected in population, with a wide variety of nationalities assembly of factory workers specialized in mechanics. Only a slight percentage of negroes exist in this region which indicates that people of color were designated to living in the surrounding redlined regions of Detroit. This supports testimony from my grandfather who told me how he rarely if ever saw black children growing up and how if he did they tended to be in what was deemed to be the slums at the time. When I asked him if his father, my great grandfather, worked alongside African Americans he says he couldn’t recall any by name. While this doesn’t prove that they didn’t exist in this area, it’s likely that they were discouraged from working in factories and industrial sites away from their hometowns so as to not allow for “mingling” between the races. Given that the map above has clearly defined regions, it’s clear that this was successful for a long time.

These results reveal how living conditions have defined the breakdown of populations. My grandfather, a white son of European immigrants, was raised in a community where economic conditions were challenging surrounded by more districts where work was even more challenging. This shows that the means one has to holding a successful home can determine economic sustenance and the ability to support one’s self. Those that are forced to live in unsuccessful regions are unfairly discriminated and not allowed to aspire to their fullest potential.

Machu Picchu and the Incan Empire

Featured image from PICRYL.

Target Audience

The target audience for this lesson is students in sixth grade social studies. This is particularly useful for teaching lessons that cover indigenous Native American societies and could fit into any unit that covers these societies and the examination of Latin American nations.


Students will need to be aware of how societies come to form, especially when it comes to how ancient civilizations came to be organized. They will need to be familiar with terms such as agriculture, government and settlements. A core component to studying the context of Machu Picchu is an understanding of South American geography. To help students become familiar, a short article detailing the makeup and history of the Andes is attached to help provide some additional knowledge. This exercise allows students to become familiar with a depiction of an ancient civilization, the Incans, and this activity will allow students to study aspects of Incan culture and analyze how the geography and landscape as integral to how this society came to form.

The purpose of this activity is to carry out a tour of Machu Picchu through Google Earth as a way of allowing students to engage with a famous archeological location virtually. Students will be tasked with taking the tour and recording some observations as they navigate through Google Earth. The instructor will provide prompts for the students to follow as they complete a virtual tour of Machu Picchu. Students will answer these questions in breakout groups with other students before returning to the main room to discuss with the class. Additionally, time will be spent analyzing aspects of Incan society through Google Arts and Culture. Students will be put into four groups that analyze a different aspect of Incan Culture. The goal of students during this portion of the lesson will be to help students reflect on the role this aspect of culture had on society, any overlap that might exist with the modern day and help perform the historical analysis carried out by modern historians.


1.) Students will skim the website attached to help become familiar with the Andes. Should take about 5 minutes. See here.

2.) Students will be put into groups where they can take a tour of Machu Picchu using Google Earth. Each group will be tasked with exploring a different historical site and answering questions provided on Zoom.

3.) Students will spend about 10 minutes exploring the site and answering questions as they discuss their findings with their peers. Students will click this link to Google Earth Tour. Group 1 explores sites 2-4, Group 2 explores 5-7, Group 3 explores 8-10, and Group 4 will explore sites 11-12. For those that need help navigating Google Earth, this tutorial exists to provide guidance.

4.) Students will then return to the main group to share some of the observations they made on the tour. This is also a chance to share some responses to the questions provided by the instructor.

5.) Students will then spend 5-10 minutes exploring some of the Wonders of Machu Picchu provided by the instructor. Group 1. Group 2. Group 3. Group 4. One student will take a screenshot of an image that captured their interest, explain something they learned about it and then examine how this could reveal something about Incan culture.

6.) Students will return to the main room after conversing with peers in breakout rooms. They will reveal some of their screenshots and discuss their findings.

7.) Students will then be debriefed by the instructor on how Machu Picchu was tied to the Incan Empire and the continued importance of some of these artifacts. Anything that was missed by the students will be brought up here as the lesson is wrapped up.