Awesome Stories

Recognizing the 50th commemoration of President Kennedy’s assassination today gives the opportunity to share an awesome resource for historical stories.  “Awesome Stories” offers an excellent exploration of The Assassination of John F. Kennedy through text, images and primary sources that guide the user through the events surrounding JFK’s death through his funeral. Awesome Stories is about to launch a newly redesigned website (expected on Nov. 26) that explores 250 historic stories, lesson ideas and resources, primary sources (text, images, video), narratives and more. A great tool for remembering history.AwesomeStory - JFK

It would be easier now…part 3: Titanic

Ahhh, the Titanic. We studied it before Kate and Leonardo were all the craze and it was interesting but with the resources available to us now would be so much easier to create an engaging learning experience! Of course the History channel would have an amazing resource. History’s main Titanic site connects visitors with video, the ship’s manifest, and an image gallery. There is also a link to an excellent interactive time line with links to a tour and images from before the disaster, an exploration of the most likely scenario showing how the Titanic hit the iceberg, and an introduction to the lives of survivors.

If looking at the voyage of Titanic, Discovery’s “On Board the Titanic” is a great next stop. Virtually follow the journey of one of five passengers on the Titanic. The site is not really interactive (you see images and video clips with their story in words on screen-some of the language is authentic…) but presents the stories of each passenger.

National Geographic also has resources, primarily focused on Robert Ballard’s expeditions to Titanic. Their “Titanic: The Real Deal in 3-D” allows for an exploration through video clips from a 1998 3-D filming of Titanic. The site, “Return To Titanic” is also interesting. It has video and images of the shipwreck Titanic and an interactive feature allowing visitors in virtually explore the shipwreck. With National Geographic does have a lesson plan focusing on shipwreck exploration in general inspired by Robert Ballard, though some of the links in the lesson are broken.

The BBC’s “Titanic Journey” would be another great place to explore. With a combination of video clips and quizzes, visitors learn about the science and history behind the creation and sinking of Titanic. There is even a “Ships Log” so if you are using the site with students, they can save video clips and notes relevant to their research while they investigate the site. Interestingly, this website follows the explorations by the Keldysh, the same research ship featured in the Science Museum of Minnesota’s current Titanic exhibit.

Finally, Snag Films has put online National Geographic’s Secrets of the Titanic. (the video I showed my students on VHS!) The video is interesting, and Martin Sheen is a great narrator.

It would be easier now… pt 2 – the Fitz

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 Edmund Fitzgerald on our Wall

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.

It would have been easier now… part 1

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.