Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ragtime and the lost art of piano playing

In 9th grade, students have been learning about advances during the Progressive Movement.  They also listened to the piano music of Scott Joplin that captured the "Ragtime" era.  The music was catchy and interesting, and many students had heard it before.  The music of Scott Joplin is featured in a famous film from the 1970's--THE STING.

Learning to play the piano and piano lessons were considered a mark of class during this era.  To have your student in piano lessons meant that the family had enough money to spare....and a piano in their house.  A piano was considered an equalizer, just as a nice car is considered that today.  For many, piano playing ability meant that they were enjoying the popular music of the day.

There are some wonderful ragtime tunes that one can listen to on youtube.  There are also simple versions and more complicated versions of Scott Joplin's music.  His music represented an emerging middle class that had access to pianos and victrolas (early record playings).

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bone China and the Buffalo

Students in 9th grade history have just finished their essay on Settling the West.  They have learned about the reservation system and the Indian Schools.  They also learned about the role the Federal Government plays in administering the Indian School system, including Chemawa Indian School, here in Salem, Oregon.

They read many primary documents about the extermination and decline of the buffalo.  After the buffalo was hunted and eliminated from the plains...the gathering of the bones began.

Huge cartloads of bones were shipped back pickers who now replaced the buffalo hunters of only a few years earlier.  The bones were then shipped overseas to factories where they were crushed and processed into delicate china, that would be labeled "bone china."  It is particularly disheartening to think of the wild buffalo, the majestic creature of the plains, ending its days this way.

Students will also revisit the end of the West when we learn about Ernest Thompson Seton, and his complicated relationship with the wolves of New Mexico as a Bounty Hunter/Artist.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Elizabeth the Great

Students in European History are learning about the life of Elizabeth I---or the queen who should be termed Elizabeth the Great.

As the daughter of Anne Boleyn, who was executed by her father, she sought to maintain order in a kingdom that was undergoing great tension with the reformation/counter reformation.

When she died in 1603, England was wealthy, prosperous, and powerful....

The figure who surrounded her are themselves legends, and have numerous books written about their lives, too...

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester,
Sir Francis Walsingham
Sir Walter Raleigh
Sir Francis Drake
Lord Cecil
The Earl of Essex

All are part of the glorious Elizabethan Age.  Elizabeth was crowned in Westminster Abbey, and her coronation portrait is an iconic portrait of the English Renaissance. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lord Shaftesbury and the young miners.

Ninth grade students are now learning about the early Industrial Revolution and the effect it had on children.  They have also viewed a film about a young girl, Lyddie, who lived and worked in an Industrial Revolution Cotton Mill town.

Students also learned about the good earl, Lord Shaftesbury, who chose to use his background of wealth and education to make conditions better for children and their families in England during the middle of the 19th century.  Lord Shaftesbury's tireless reforms changed history.

This etching shows Lord Shaftesbury going down into the mines himself.  He saw the young boys and their mistreatment and spoke about it in Parliament.  There, no one could question him about his information--for he had been in the mines and seen the abuse of young people with his own eyes.  His testimony helped to contribute to the passing of important reform legislation, including the Mines Act of 1842.

One of his biographers, Georgina Battiscombe, has claimed that "No man has in fact ever done more to lessen the extent of human misery or to add to the sum total of human happiness"

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Welcome back...and a trip to Mann Gulch

Well, the summer break is over, and Mrs. Olsen is eager to begin teaching.  This year she will have four Freshman classes, an American Government class, and AP European History.

Mrs. Olsen spent part of the summer in France...but a real highlight was actually in Montana.  She hiked up Mann Gulch to see where 13 firefighters died in August of 1949.

They were dropped in by parachute, and within a few hours, most of them were dead.  Only three survived.  The most famous part about the fire was that one of the firefighters survived by lighting a backfire.  He quickly laid down in the ashes while the fire swept over him.  The others weren't so lucky.   The remainder died of smoke inhalation and burns.  Two survived for just a few hours.

The Mann Gulch story has been depicted in the story Young Men and Fire written by the late Norman MacClean. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

D-Day Graves....and Mrs. Olsen

We are now approaching the end of the year...all students in 9th grade have been given a detailed test guide.  AP European History Students are getting ready for their senior presentations, and we are still finishing up some great books in READING your WAY through HISTORY.

Mrs. Olsen has exciting plans for the summer.  She'll be visiting France with student Brandon Gunn as part of the D-Day Fallen Heroes project---the Albert Small Memorial Scholarship.  She and Brandon are representing the state of Oregon as the commemorate a fallen paratrooper who died on June 6, 1944, and is buried in the Normandy Cemetery.

Our fallen hero, Gene Morrison, didn't make it out of his plane when German anti-aircraft fire destroyed the cockpit.  He was only 22 years old and had been married only a few months before he was deployed to Britain to prepare for the invasion. We'll also be visiting the graves of some other fallen heroes from Oregon.  Thanks to Albert Small's generosity, we're prepared to honor Oregon's sons who are buried in France.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pot menders and saving money

Ninth grade students are now learning about the Great Depression....and we are making a lot of links to today.  Many of our students are living in families with financial distress...and they are not alone!  We are making many links to "buying on margin" and "predatory lenders."   They know that the great installment buying scheme of the 1920's was similar to today's credit card debt.

In the 1930's money was scarce.  Everyone was encouraged to make due and mend.  Even special pot menders were created to mend the holes in pots.  I have a collection of pot menders (exactly pictured below) that students will hold in their hands.  There was a small slice of cork attached to the metal potmender.  It formed a "suction" that sealed the pot.

Pot menders are one of the collectables of the great depression.  They encouraged thrift and "make do."  During this unit, students will also examine a quilt from the Great Depression.

Monday, April 2, 2012


AP European History students will be learning about World War II during the next few days. We should be done with the course by next week. I hardly cover World War II because it is the one area that students have a familiarity and we need to get onto post World War Europe.

After two world wars, Europe was shaken and ruined. Many writers, such as Sartre and Camus tried to make sense--or simply said there was no use making sense, of the ruin that had been wrought in Europe over a 25 year time period.

Two generations of young men were dead and countless civilian life had ended because of famine and genocide. In 1942, in the depths of World War II, Albert Camus wrote about the myth of Sisyphus--a man who lived in the underworld whose past deeds lead him to be condemned to roll a stone up to the top of a hill only to have it roll back down again...not unlike the terrible wars which only repeated destruction.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Josephine Baker and her banana skirt

In European History, students are learning about the changes to society after World War I. They have seen some of the "Dada" creations and also the new dresses of Chanel. They have also seen this picture of the famous Josephine Baker in her banana skirt.

She danced in a show called La Revue Nègre, it proved to be a turning point in her career. Amongst a compilation of acts, Josephine and dance partner Joe Alex captivated the audience with the Danse Sauvage. Everything about the routine was new and exotic, and Josephine, boldly dressed in nothing but a feather skirt, worked the audience into frenzy with her uninhibited movements. She was an overnight sensation.

Just as Picasso and cubism borrowed from African elements, Joesphine also paid homage to her African roots. Her later years were just as interesting....she went on to adopt 12 children from different ethnicities.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Clear and Present Danger....

Here is a picture of a Minnesota farmer who was tarred and feathered for speaking out against American involvement in World War I. In Freshman Social Studies, we are wrapping up World War I. During the war years, sedition laws were instituted to prevent people speaking against the war.

"The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that the United States Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree. When a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that th"eir utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right."

Students have wondered about what limits can be placed on our free speech. For example, is it fine to criticize the war (it is). It is interesting to see how this ruling could be tested in today's internet world.

Regardless, many citizens lost their civil rights in the troubled World War I era--a time when many Americans looked at a European war as their problem and not ours.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Florence Nightingale and the Crimean War

Students in AP European History are learning about the Crimean War, a war that led to the break up of the concert of Europe. Russian designs on the straits of Constantinople were met with a combined force of British, French and Italian troops. The result was a "Vietnam' war of sorts that took men and material. Russia lost over 400,000 men.

The dead were evacuated to the hospital on the Asia side of the Bosporus, at Scutari. There a wealthy Englishwoman, Florence Nightingale, traveled and using new methods of nursing helped to reorganize the hospital and save lives. She was called the lady with the lamp because at night she went from bed to bed comforting the soldiers. A poem was written about her by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, entitled "The Lady with the Lamp."

The wounded from the battle-plain,
In dreary hospitals of pain,
The cheerless corridors,
The cold and stony floors.

Lo! in that house of misery
A lady with a lamp I see
Pass through the glimmering gloom,
And flit from room to room

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pancho Villa and the ladies....

Students in ninth grade are busy learning about America's role in the Age of Imperialism. They spend some times learning about the Mexican revolution and one of its more colorful heroes, José Doroteo Arango Arámbula (5 June 1878 – 20 July 1923) or better known as Pancho Villa.

Pancho Villa is considered by many Mexicans to be a national hero. Mexico, at the time of the revolution, was held in a stranglehold by wealthy hacienda owners, private interests, and a corrupt government. Villa was not a "clean" hero. He engaged in theft and revenge murders. Regardless of the violence he used to achieve his goals, he was also known to be sentimental, charismatic, and extremely appealing to the many women who lived in the villages of Northern Mexico.

Early movies focused on his appeal when they advertised Pancho Villa as being a "revolutionary, bandit, and lover..." It's true that romantic figures often were often soaked in blood. In this case, Pancho Villa had many "wives" in many villages, while he had only one wife, María Luz Corral.