The Edmund Fitzgerald sank November 10, 1975 during a horrific storm on Lake Superior. My Albert Lea seventh graders learned about the Fitz during a month-long water unit (see our classroom below). For part of our unit, we read about the sinking and watched a video about the possible reasons the Fitz went down. While the mystery surrounding
the sinking makes the Fitz inherently interesting, it would have been much easier (and so much more engaging) to teach about the Fitz now.
The YouTube video for Gordon Lightfoot’s song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” would be a great introduction for the lesson. The website S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald Online would allow students to explore aspects of the ship and its crew of interest to them. With crew profiles, a time line of the ship, weather maps about this storm, and more, this would be a great introductory site to explore. NOAA (The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) has a great overview of the maritime weather on the night the Fitz sank and as an extension, we could explore NOAA’s current Marine weather reports.
Also as part of our water unit, we studied the Apostle Islands. If we were interested in linking the sinking of the Fitzgerald to shipwrecks in the Apostles, this section of Wisconsin’s Great Lakes Shipwrecks site would be quite helpful.
It would have been easier to engage students now, and the experiences would be so much more rich.
For the 1995-1996 school year, I taught in Albert Lea, MN at Brookside Middle School (which apparently closed around 2000). In January, my teaching team decided to do a month-long interdisciplinary unit on water, sort of creating an “interim” or “J-Term” for our students. They learned about water in science, they wrote about water in English, I honestly can’t remember how they studied water in math, and in history we studied the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior, the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and the sinking of the Titanic. My friends came and helped decorate the room (I never was very good at bulletin boards), and we had an “underwater classroom” for the month. We made a booklet on the Apostle Islands (a Wiki or Scrapblog would now make it more colorful, interactive, and rich, oh, and wouldn’t need photocopying!), and then read about and saw videos on the Edmund Fitzgerald and the Titanic (go National Geographic and Snag Films!)
Last night I went to the Science Museum to see the IMAX film, “Titanica” and ran into one of my former students from Albert Lea, she was going in to watch the same film. We caught up for a few minutes (she is going to start work on her doctorate in August) and sat together in the theatre. How fun was it to learn more about the Titanic with her thirteen years later! Seeing her made me think of Albert Lea, getting those lessons together, and teaching the class. With that inspiration, this week I will be writing about how those lessons would be different today. I hope you find the reflection interesting too.