Thursday, April 20, 2017

Harlem Renaissance

In the 1920s, in Harlem, New York, a groups of mostly African Americans gathered together to create a dynamic time of creativity in music, dance, and poetry.   The writers and musicians who participated during this time are iconic:  they include the poets Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, and the Jazz Musicians Duke Ellington.  There were many other African American women and men who were known as icons of this age.  The Harlem Renaissance also influences communities in Paris, where the dancer, Josephine Baker became wildly popular.  However there were still unusual racial divides:  The Cotton Club provided all black entertainment to an all white audience.

Unfortunately, the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance did not extend into the segregated South, where African Americans faced severe restrictions, voting limitations, and limited opportunities.  Earlier, there had been waves of migration out of the South to the Northern Cities and Southern California.  The Harlem Renaissance ended abruptly with the Great Depression.  Even the great art, music, and vibrancy would not withstand the huge economic shocks that occurred.  The audiences dried up: and most of the former entertainers were left looking for work.

Still, it remains a wonderful opportunity to study how black culture flowered after the decades long struggle to establish a non-slave identity.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Great Flu Pandemic of 1918-1920

In 1918, the greatest health disaster in human history unfolded.  A influenza, more deadly than any seen before circled the globe.

It was an unusual flu:  it targeted not just the very young and elderly, but the healthiest of the population.  For pregnant women it was especially lethal:  almost 70% of pregnant women who caught the flu ended up dying.

There are many books written about this flu.  Students in 9th grade just did a FACT or OPINION discussion about the flu.  They examined many primary documents about this serious event.

I remember asking my grandmother about this.  My grandmother, Mae Tigner, was born in 1902.  She told me that she was told to "stay in" and communities stopped socializing as the flu spread from city to city.

In Alaska, the Inuit or Native American population suffered worse:  the communities had to face an onslaught of the flu, measles and diphtheria.  Some communities lost everyone:  only months later when the spring thaw began did people discover whole villages that had succumbed to illness.

The flu epidemic was quickly "forgotten" compared to the disaster it was.  It was lumped into the general disaster of World War I and the Russian Revolution.  Also, the fact that so many died meant that mourning the victims was done not just privately but collectively.  As I told my students, most of them had relatives that suffered from this flu, or even died from it.

Monday, January 30, 2017


Both 10th and 9th graders are back to work at the beginning of second semester.  I just hope we have NO MORE snow days. 

Ninth graders will be learning about World War I.   This is always an interesting and sad event.  One of my favorite stories from World War I, is that of the famous pigeon, Cher Amis. 
On October 30, 1918, Charles Whittlesey dispatched messages by pigeon, when his men were trapped.  The first message, "Many wounded. We cannot evacuate." was shot down. A second bird was sent with the message, "Men are suffering. Can support be sent?" That pigeon also was shot down. Only one homing pigeon was left: "Cher Ami". She was dispatched with a note in a canister on her left leg,
We are along the road paralell (sic) to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heavens sake stop it.
As Cher Ami tried to fly back home, the Germans saw her rising out of the brush and opened fire. For several moments, Cher Ami flew with bullets zipping through the air all around her.  She managed to deliver the message but was gravely wounded.  She healed of her wounds and went on tour to the United States.  A little wooden leg was carved for her...but sadly, her life was cut short, even for a pigeon, and she died a year later.  

Friday, January 13, 2017

FINAL EXAMS and the INAUGURATION of President elect Trump

Students in 9th grade and 10th grade have all received their final exam test guides.  These guides are very specific to the test.  Freshman students were given a blue sheet with questions and we did the review in class.   Students in 10th grade have a yellow sheet--and the review is partially on line.

Thank you students for studying hard.  I know you will do well.

I am available after  class Tuesday through Friday and finals week for make up work.

On Friday morning, 2nd period will be watching the inauguration of President elect Trump as an historical event that they should remember.  Mrs. Olsen has been careful to leave current politics out of the classroom, but it is important that students see and remember a presidential inauguration.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Animals and the places they occupy in our hearts

Well, it has happened.  Snow and cold weather has arrived.  We are out for a long Christmas break and Mrs. Olsen is home with the two cats, two rabbits and two dogs that occupy her house. 

We have been learning about the Progressive Era in Social Studies 9, and part of that Era was the formation of the Humane Society in 1866.  Earlier animal societies had been formed in Europe, but now Americans joined groups that were concerned about the treatment of animals:  including domestic pets and livestock and transportation animals.  Here is a picture of the Dorothea Dix Fountain in Boston that was created for horses to drink out of.  Dorothea Dix was a popular supporter of animal rights, but she is best known for her pioneering work with the mentally ill.

Mrs. Olsen shares her home with Joey and Bumbles.  They are not owned by her, but they live with her, and actually just kind of tolerate her.

The most famous cat was Petrarch's cat.  Petrarch was an Italian poet, who was very attached to his cat.  He actually wrote a poem to his cat, which has made that cat very famous.  It was even put on a tomb.  Mrs. Olsen did grow up in Salem, but her family dogs are buried out at the family farm near Turner.  It makes her sad to think of her animals that have passed on, but happy to think they can hear the calls of the Canadian Geese in the fall as they fly over their final resting place.  Many students also have animals and have adopted them from Humane Societies.  Mrs. Olsen's two dogs are rescues.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Children's Blizzard of 1888

On January 12, 1888, a blizzard hit the Northern states which left over 245 people dead in the next 24 hours.  It has been known in history as the Schoolchildren's blizzard, because many people were caught without warning, including hundreds of children in one room school houses.

There had been a brief spell of warm weather, so many children and adults were caught without proper clothing.  The storm blew in suddenly, which caused the temperature to drop in some place by forty degrees lower.

The powdery nature of the snow made it difficult for lost children and their teachers to find landmarks.  If people ventured outside, it usually met with disaster.

Modern methods of weather reporting were unknown, but awareness of more communication about weather conditions was raised.   Only with the advent of satellite weather are weather predictions very accurate.  

If a blizzard ever hits Sprague High School, Mrs. Olsen plans to stay put with her children until the blizzard ends.   She always minds the lessons of history.   She'll even share her lunch with the students and divide of the granola bars in her desk.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Berlin Airlift and the Candy Bomber

In 1947, road access to Berlin, Germany was blockaded by the East Germans with the support of the Soviet Union.  The Soviet Union was angry with the United States and the West for their  efforts to help the German economy revive.

President Truman supported the idea of an airlift that would continue to feed Berlin and show the world, and the Soviet Union, that the United States stood behind a free Berlin....even if it was an island in the rest of East Germany.   The Berlin Airlift succeeded and, eventually, the road was reopened.  

Gail Halorvson was a pilot during the airlift and had compassion and the German children, many of whom had never tasted real chocolate or candy.   He came up with the idea of making small parachutes that would drop chocolate for waiting children as the planes circled around and made their landings.

Soon  the popularity of this idea was made an official operation:  Operation Little Vittles (Vittles is a word for tasty treat).   Candy bar companies volunteered their products while Americans hurried and made little parachutes.  Over 23 tons of candy was dropped by over 250,000 small parachutes.  Many German children never forgot this generosity and it help to shape the attitudes of post war Germans toward the conquering Americans.

Halvorson's program became a legend in Germany and was not forgotten.  He has been honored extensively in both the United States and Germany for his efforts to rebuild post war trust after the devastation of World War II.