Decoding History

I was disappointed when I read about this web activity and the government shutdown resulted in the NPS websites being offline for a while, but now, no more!  George Washington’s Codes activity is from the NPS and is a part of the junior ranger program.  Visitors to the site are introduced to a coding scheme George Washington used to keep his wartime messages secret and then are given the opportunity to decode a message themselves.

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Interested in more decoding? This PBS site  that supports the NOVA show “Decoding Nazi Secrets” explores the Enigma machine, decoding efforts during WWII, offers a virtual Enigma-like machine to try, and in the teaching materials section, a decoder that can be printed and built by students, then used to explore more codes.

Both offer fun ways to talk about secrets during wartime. Then, depending on the age of the students, a conversation could extend into a discussion about intelligence gathering today, the Patriot Act, the role of the NSA, and more.

The Stock Market Crashes (in 1929)

In my first year of teaching, when I got to the point of the Crash of ’29, 


one of my colleagues shared this stock market simulation with me. A couple of days ago, one of my colleagues 

was looking for my set of the simulation’s cards and I worried that the directions were lost. A quick Google search for “Stock Market Durant Motors Kroger Foods” brought up the directions, handouts and all.  Why share a no-tech simulation on a tech blog? Because the simulation is timeless and technology helped me find the details again. (I also downloaded the pdf for safe keeping!) 

I hope history/econ students you know can enjoy the simulation too.

(The photo shows the floor of the Stock Exchange just after the Crash of 1929, thank you to the Hoover Presidential Library for posting the image!)

How to Handle 9/11

I remember my colleague Brian appearing in my door saying, “Turn on the news, someone just flew a plane into the World Trade Center,” voting in the primary that day, and fighter jets occasionally flying over the city. I have 3 sections of seniors this year so they were about seven years old on 9/11 and I imagine that their memories are more connected to their emotions and how their households handled the day and those following it rather than the images of the day’s events unfolding in real-time. Next Sunday being 9/11/11, I have a little time, but I haven’t settled on how to address 9/11 in class this week. In August, the Smithsonian held a conference centered on 9/11 and teaching contemporary history. The conference was recorded and is available on the conference website, as well as links to 9/11 timelines and teaching resources from across the web. Thinking across the web, Larry Ferlazzo also has a great collection of “The Best Sites to Help Teach About 9/11.”

What really drives my thoughts this morning? I turned the TV on while exploring some class materials for tomorrow and C-SPAN 3 was running  American History TV. This episode was an interview with Major Heather Penny of the DC Air National Guard. (The whole episode is online here and links to more of the 9/11 interviews are also included). Everyone I have ever heard talking about that day says the military was authorized to shoot down planes over Washington DC that day, Major Penny discussed how part of her assignment that day included flying into the tail of Flight 93 if it was in her flight space because they didn’t have weapons capable of shooting the plane down.

This country has so many amazing people in it, most of whom probably don’t consider themselves to be amazing either.