Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Buffalo in Oregon

Students in 9th grade have been learning about the settling of the west.  They have learned about how the Indians were forced to assimilate.  They have read quotes about "soddies" and "rattlesnake dens."   They have also learned about how the buffalo were exterminated by the advance of manifest destiny.

The history of the buffalo also includes part of the boundaries of the state of Oregon.  The lower southeast corner of the state once had numerous herds of  plains bison.  By 1887, these buffalo were eliminated from Oregon.  Now, students eagerly shared their experiences of seeing buffalo in farms throughout the Willamette Valley.  There is even a rare herd of white buffalo in Oregon.  Students also learned that the handiest way to kill the buffalo was to herd them over cliffs, where they were easier to slaughter after their limbs were broken.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Rat Kings and the Bishop of Hatto

Students in Reading Your Way through History, my fifth period class have moved into the middle ages where they are reading various novels that take place during this time.  They learned about King Canute, King Alfred, and more recently the Pied Pier of Hamelin.  We had a discussion about rats and their own role in folk history and fears.  The rats that we have in Salem are the descendants of the Norwegian plague rats that came across on ships.  These rats do not carry the bubonic plague any more...but they are still a nuisance. Bishop Hatto, who lived during the 8th century, had a reputation as a cruel and heartless man who locked up his peasants, but was latter devoured by rats when his deed was uncovered.

But what is really startling are the very rare discoveries of rat kings---when rats become stuck in small places, their tales become tangled and they cannot escape.  There are rat kings that have been discovered and preserved.

Rat kings, and the idea of a king rat are usually signs of bad omens in stories and legends.   They have mostly been found in medieval houses in Germany, but others have been found outside of Europe.  Pretty creepy, huh?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Salem's Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge.

The history of the bridges over the Willamette River begins in December 1886 with the opening of the first Center Street Bridge. It was felt necessary to tie Salem and West Salem together. Before that time the only river crossing was by ferry. This was the first bridge over the Willamette anywhere in Oregon, the Morrison Street Bridge in Portland not opening until April of 1887. That first bridge cost $49,901 and was constructed mostly of wood. It was located in the wrong position in relation to river currents and collapsed with a crash on February 3, 1890 during a flood...
Seven years earlier, across the country, the Brooklyn Bridge was opened after years of hard work and for the time, the latest technological advances.  It became the first bridge to be "lit" with electricity, and for New Yorkers it remains an icon of achievement and the industrial age.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Welcome Back---Fall 2013

Greetings to my new students--especially to the "new" 9th graders.  Mrs. Olsen spent the most of the summer in Oregon, but she was down in California learning about the Transcontinental Railroad.  She even got a private tour of tunnels 6 and 7--where the railroad workers bored down through granite to open the route through the Sierra Mountains of California.

However, the real highlight for her was a visit to Sutter's Fort in Sacramento where she saw Patty Reed's tiny doll that she carried with her through the Donner Party ordeal of 1846.  The Donner Party was trapped in the mountains of the Sierra for months after they fell behind in the Nevada Desert.  While traveling through the desert, the party was forced to leave their supplies behind and travel light in an effort to make a dash across the mountains before the winter snow hit.  They didn't make it...and the Donner Party's resort to cannibalism has made it one of the most infamous stories in the Old West.

However, Patty Reed was only eight....and she kept one little belonging hidden from her family...a small doll only 3 1/2 inches high.  She tucked it into her underskirt's pocket and kept it there.  Imagine this little girl, in such terrible circumstances, patting her little doll in the pocket, like a small friend, during the endless days of cold and hunger.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

This summer, the Transcontinental Railroad

Mrs. Olsen is sorry to see her Freshman students go...they have a been a super group of kids!  As usual, she says good bye to her seniors (sob) and her great mix of students from her Reading Your Way Through History Class.

She gave out the study guide for the Freshman Final Exam in class three weeks ago.  There have been numerous reminders about the exam, some class time given to study, and extra copies given out to those students who misplaced the exam guide.  Every student has been well equipped to pass the exam...so I hope all do well.  Some of the exam will be on readings, some on the test guide, and five questions will be on visual images.

This summer, Mrs. Olsen is again going to be spending some time learning about things that will help her be a better teacher in the fall.  She received a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant to study the Transcontinental Railroad in Sacramento, California. This should help her to have a better idea about this momentous event to help teach incoming Freshman students in the fall.  Ninth Grade student learned about the building of the railroad in a very brief lesson....so hopefully she'll come back with more interesting info on this nation shaping event.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Teenagers riding the rails in the 1930's

Students are learning about the Great Depression of 1929-1939.  They have learned the economic reasons for this terrible downturn, and they will be learning about the social effects, too.

During this time, thousands of teenagers rode the rails.  Many came from homes that could no longer feed them.  The boys (and a few girls) set out to find a way to feed themselves, take burdens off their families, and make a better life.  Most came back, a few did not.

They joined thousands of others, including, in some cases, entire families whose lives were displaced by the Dust Bowl and economic deprivation...

Today, many teenagers still ride the rails, or they may even hitchhike.  Fortunately, many make it back home safe, but teenagers are still prey to accidents, abuse, and neglect. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Rest in peace Margaret Thatcher....

Students in European History have been learning about the nationalization of industry under the post World War II prime minister, Clement Attlee.  In Great Britain, many industries were subsidized and propped up by the government in an effort to help the recovery from World War II.

This trend was no reversed until the start of Margaret Thatcher's time in office.  There had been warning signs of a languishing British economy, but Thatcher reversed prior policies and moved toward privatization and competition.

Still, she is revered and despised in Britain...hence the playing of a version of "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead,"--the witch being Margaret Thatcher.   Free speech is allowed in Britain...but many see these criticisms as rude and disrespectful.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The last summer of 1914....

Everywhere in Europe in June, 1914, there was talk of tensions among the alliances.  This time was also known as the "last summer" before World War I began.

It would be remembered with great nostalgia and sadness by those who survived World War I.  Let's check in on what was happening during that time:

Coco Chanel had just opened up a second store in Paris, on the Rue Cambon...where there is a Chanel store even today.

 Oskar Kokoschka, the painter, was finishing up his masterpiece, Bride of the Wind.

Sigmund Freud was writing his paper, "On Narcissim."

It was a beautiful June--but little did the peoples of Europe realize that by the end of the summer, over half a million Europeans would be dead and wounded in the opening month of the Great War.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The British Museum Reading Room....

Shush! Someone is there among the books, and he reads from a large stack of books on the desk, feverishly taking notes.

Who is it?--well, if one was living in London, England in the 1860's, that person might be Karl Marx.  After Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto, he spent years toiling on his magnum opus, the monumental Das Kapital.   Das Kapital (in English:  Capital--or money used for investment) was a book outlining the history of the economic world as a  titanic class struggle.

Though Marx will always be closely identified with  Communist ideology, there are many historical truths in Das Kapital.  The idea of exploitation by the capitalist class is very real today...but history also abounds with rag to riches stories of inventiveness.  Still...Marx would identify very closely with the management of money, the big banks, the role of government bailouts.  If he were alive today, he would also be able to witness the epic failure of his ideology in Russia and China.

Millions died in the Communist regimes of Russia and China (mainly due to food production and collectivization), some were persecuted, displaced, and murdered.  Today, communism is seen as a failed ideology whose main premises continue to sing a siren's song against the backdrop of struggling capitalism.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Passages and Arcades...and 19th century Paris

What a lovely picture--and believe it or not--that is downtown Salem, Oregon, not Paris, France! AP European History students will be learning about the remodeling of Paris during the 19th century.  During this time, the ancient city of Paris almost entirely disappeared and streets were torn up for sewers and new buildings were put up under strict building codes.

Mrs. Olsen seriously walked the city of Paris this summer.  She passed through many arcades and secret passages.  They reminded her of some of the secret passages in Salem, Oregon, where, during the summer there are wisteria vines that cover the tops, or another passage which is topped by metal sculptures of Chinook Salmon.  The idea of "hidden" passages has appealed to many.  However, as cities modernize, many of  these  passages have been torn down.   Secret passages have their role in literature--when Harry Potter goes to shop for his magic kit and wand, he fades into a hidden passage.

Perhaps the most famous book about arcades is by Walter Benjamin, a German Jew who wrote about the Arcades of Paris.  Walter Benjamin's work was a fascinating hodgepodge of his own ideas, observations and snippets about past lives and history. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Medicine and Imperialism....

Ninth grade students are learning about Imperialism during the last few weeks of the semester.   They will be learning about old imperialism vs. new imperialism:

Old Imperialism:  God (religion), glory, and greed....

New Imperialism:  Humanitarian reasons, Strategic areas, New Markets

There were differences between the New Imperialism and Old Imperialism.  New Imperialism was in many ways more intrusive and harmful to native cultures.  However, not all of Imperialism was bad....for many who lived in less developed countries, medicine was available that was life saving.  Here is a picture that shows both a religious and medical influence.  It depicts an idealized picture of how Western societies view medical help to the "primitives" in the societies they sought to dominate.