From Ranier to Right Next Door

Great Grandma Gert (4th in line) on her way up a steep pitch.

Since I was young, I’ve always had a love for the outdoors. Most of my childhood was spent running around in the woods and finding new places to explore. As I got older, my focus has gone to long distance hiking and mountain climbing. And I’ve always attributed that interest to the family stories I heard about how my great grandmother climbed Mt. Ranier in 1923. It seems crazy to think that she summited a mountain that high without all the fancy, ultra-light, high performance gear I use today. And it always made me wonder what her life was like that allowed her, at 26 years old, to travel to Washington state from her hometown of St. Paul Minnesota to undertake a serious mountain climb (even by today’s standards). I’ve summited a handful of mountains in Oregon and Washington, even a couple almost a tall as Ranier, but Ranier is still on my bucket list. Maybe I’ll attempt it on the 100th anniversary of Great Grandma Gert’s climb.

After just over 12 hours of climbing, she stood at the summit 97 and a half years ago.

I wish I knew more about her life in the next 17 years but I do know that by 1940 she had, settled back in St. Paul, married my Great Grandfather and had a three year old daughter, my grandmother. What I didn’t know was that the house that they lived in was only six blocks away from the house that my Grandpa grew up in. Through the 1940 census maps I was able to locate both addresses that are no longer valid and found that the my grandparents lived in the same neighborhood when they were 4 and 3 years old.

The star on the left is where my Grandfather grew up and on the right is where my Grandmother grew up.

Both families lived in the lower westside of St. Paul which was inhabited primarily by laborers, salaried employees, and merchants. It was classified as “Definitely Declining” as property values had depreciated in the years between 1929 and 1933 and had not recovered. However, it was a favorable area for laborers as it was immediately adjacent to the industrial district and the downtown.

My Grandmother and Grandfather’s families district of St. Paul labeled C8.

My Great Grandfather (on my grandmother’s side) would most likely have been one of those workers who enjoyed the proximity to the industrial and downtown areas as he was an accountant for the railroad company. He made $1920 that year which is equivalent to $35,688 today and was more than about 75% of households in this area. In addition to his wife and daughter, his in-laws lived in the house in their later years after emigrating from Germany many years earlier.

My Great Grandmother (Gertrude) and my Grandmother (Virginia) on lines 1 and 2.

The census description of this district is pretty accurate since my other Great Grandpa (on my grandfather’s side) was a lineman for the telephone company and would most likely have enjoyed the proximity to the industrial and Downton areas that this neighborhood provided. He made $2400 that year which is equivalent to $44,610 today and near the top earnings in the area. I would assume that my grandfather’s family lived slightly better than my grandmother’s at this time because of this and considering there was one less person in their household. But overall, both families were in very similar situations and areas and I suppose that’s why they met and why I’m here today.

My Grandfather (Richard) and his parents and sister on lines 28-31.

So the census data can tell me how my grandparents families lived in 1940 and the mountain climbing photos can give me a glimpse into my great grandmother’s younger years but I think I’ll need to spend some more time talking to my grandmother to Geta picture of what Gertrude Broder’ life was like that led her to Mt. Ranier and maybe other adventures in the years that followed. What I can take away from this is that both of my grandparents were born into middle class families and one of their mother’s even had the means to travel across the country for adventure. And that the families they were born into gave them the foundation to be able to move across the country almost 30 years later to the Pacific Northwest where their grandson would be a lot closer to the mountain he hopes to climb someday.

The Importance of History

Over the course of this semester and given the current climate of the world, it has become increasingly evident that history and historical thinking skills are extremely valuable. While working to become a teacher and being extremely passionate about history, this seems like an obvious statement. However, with online learning, our students may be struggling to see the importance behind these skills or they may just see history as a ‘busy work’ subject with little real life application or substance. That is why its important to use history as a way to teach students to think critical thinking and challenge dominant perspectives.

Project Showcase

For my final project, I chose to look at a time period where students were empowered to bring change, however, in terms of the Cultural Revolution in China, it wasn’t good change. As shown by the events that occurred, a single narrative can be manipulated and have major consequences when its intentionally controlled and taken advantage of. Almost as a warning, but also a point of inflection, students used primary source documents to examine how narrative controlling through media and texts can really impact the way people think, especially students. This point is important to highlight because students today are exposed to just about everything thanks to the internet. It can be a very powerful tool, but it can also be extremely misleading when users don’t think critically about the content.

Another lesson that follows this type of outline, was the activity I created about the Red Scare. In this lesson, using Google Forms, students were assigned roles and looked at Red Scare propaganda. Each student had specific guiding questions to think about and were asked to figure out what people at the time were concerned with in terms of communists. Coming together in a town meeting, they were instructed to come up with a plan of action, but were also made aware that anyone at that meeting could have been a communist. This has students trying to figure out the world view of people at the time so they can see exactly how the narrative was controlled to foster that perspective.

When teaching history, as highlighted above by two of my activities, I like to teach it from different perspectives. In my student teaching now, I try to have students think critically and challenge the dominant Eurocentric historical narrative. While some people believe that ‘history is written by the winners,’ that disregards other people’s stories, thoughts, and feelings which holds immense value to our society today as it is more diverse than ever before. Through this method, I hope that my students remain resilient against just accepting what they are told as well as curious about other people and their experiences.

Source Image

Getting Creative, Co-learning and Cultural Consciousness

During my teaching last year in Taiwan I wanted to learn from my student as much as they learned from me. I spent time in and outside of class learning from my students, inquiring further on topics, getting their rationale behind an answer and seeking understanding behind cultural differences. Despite the large change of location, my inquisitive nature that roots my teaching remains. I didn’t know how to best articulate this teaching style until the end of the summer semester when Dr. Hetherington of the University of Portland School of Education described me as a co-learner. By including myself in the learning I am perceived as more accessible to my students and it enhances their communication skills, cultural awareness and critical thinking. I want to see my student’s greatest work and greatest potential and I believe that comes from allowing them to be creative, introducing and celebrating culture and fostering the knowledge in all through co-learning.

Project Showcase
One standout example of a lesson I planned that encourages students to be creative and culturally conscious involves them doing a deep dive into the lyrics and instrumentation of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On? I ask them to take the drivers seat in interpreting the music and comparing the subject matter to modern America.

Continuing with a lesson that works at the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy by asking my students to produce work, this primary source activity studies modern Asian culture through a democracy movement. The activity consists of students reading primary sources and then asks them about the symbolism, to question the source and to make speech bubbles for the visual sources.

This third assignment was developed as a final portfolio piece: it is a very interactive, creative lesson concocted to aid my students in future economics decision-making. Students are run through a gauntlet of Google My Maps, Adobe Spark and Google Forms and placed in the shoes of someone who is a year out of college and looking for a place to live, a job and transportation. They are faced with the economics decisions behind these choices and real-life situations they may soon experience.

I have great drive and focus when it comes to planning creative pedagogy. I want to continue to work on this strength and continue using co-learning in my teaching experience.

The Art of Storytelling

It’s true what they say, 2020 really was created by historians in order to increase book sales. Unfortunately, the books they wrote would have astronomical implications to the way education is seen. Whether for ill or for will, the way we imagine a classroom will most likely never be the same. Our reliance on perpetually evolving technology will transform the way instruction is designed, and our understanding of literacy will forever expand past the comprehension of novels. As teachers we hold a torch for the generations of tomorrow – understanding well that without the evolution and adaptation of our craft, passion and love for education will be extinguished. In the trying times of today, we take the sucker-punches of the universe and transform them into the budding brilliance of the youthful minds – where sometimes less work is more, and the best ability is availability. We wanted to avoid becoming the sage on the stage, and must work with being the queen of the screen. But when all are blind, the one-eyed man is king. So, we make do with what we have, and truck on by the power of passion and will. How can we be done when the sun rises again?

Dan Carlin once claimed to be a poor historian, but a very good storyteller. And that, should perfectly describe the way history, and maybe most social studies, should be considered. Students often claim to be “bad” at history, whatever that means, yet many are sucked into a descriptive book or memorized by a colorful movie. I think story is the difference. If taught correctly, ALL of history should captivate students by dropping jaws and pausing heartbeats. We may not be able to imitate a Michael Bay theater experience, but we are far from your grandma’s credenza radio. Virtual education has highlighted the importance of story. I have personally seen the difference between student engagement when lessons are captivating and appealing. By creating lesson plans that teach more like stories and movies, and less like graphic organizers, we are sure to spark passion and interest in students who previously thought little of history. By creating interest we are investing into participation. By fostering participation we are creating memories cementing ideas. By creating memories that cement ideas we transform individuals who in turn, transform society. How you get there is where you arrive. The following lessons may, or may not, use the principle of story as their backbone. But if adapted and transformed, all could be taught in very interesting and educational manner. I pass the torch to you, and ask that the ballad go on.

In this document-based-lesson about the trenches of WWI, students are asked to really examine the front line experiences of trench soldiers through multiple mediums – photography, first person accounts, a documentary, and fictional cinema. After examining these primary and secondary documents, students are encouraged to use their imagination and creativity by taking on the persona of a WWI soldier and writing a “Letter Back Home” to their family and loved ones. Additionally, they are also asked to combine their internet literacy with their new found knowledge of the trenches. This lesson fits into any history class that covers the storyline of WWI – whether as American, European, or world history. Most importantly, it can be taught as a story.

“A is for Atom” is a lesson that can be used in a variety of social studies courses since it highlights issues of ethics and humanity sown in history and propaganda. Students are asked to watch a video and examine photos in order to determine whether or not one (or multiple) primary accounts can be considered propaganda. The ability to identify and explain issues and consequences of propaganda are a crucial precedent that is valuable in any history class.

The Race to Space is an interactive Google Forms lesson that walks students though the space race of the Cold War by having them pick and choose their next move. Combined with comedy and banter this online lesson can be transformed into a multiple period activity/project that gives students a real opportunity to traverse the 1960s as an astronaut, or a cosmonaut. This is a great interactive lesson that lets student gather information on the opposing world superpowers as they attempt to beat each other through technological advancement. This lesson serves as a great introductory to a high school History class that covers the Cold War between the US and Soviet powers. Teach it as a story!