Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff

mindoro-Cut-SignThe first warm weather of 2015 means it’s time for a road trip to visit undiscovered sites in the Driftless Region of Western Wisconsin.  Last weekend’s drive took us to County T and State Highway 108 between Mindoro and West Salem in LaCrosse County.

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The trip highlight was the Mindoro Cut. Built in 1907-1908, the Cut is considered the 2nd largest hand-hewn cut in the United States.  It is listed in the National and State Register of Historic Places. County T and Hwy 108 are popular with motorcycle riders and convertible drivers. Both feature scenic views; Hwy 108 has wonderful hairpin turns.

I didn’t know about the Mindoro Cut before our road trip! It’s fun to keep discovering what’s in my backyard.

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The Mindoro Cut: National Historic Marker Database
Mindoro Cut Makes History, LaCrosse Tribune, Nov 30, 2006

What’s in your backyard? Be a tourist in your own community; discover local history in unexpected places. Check out some ideas in Just off I-35
(Library Media Connection, November/December 2014)

STOCKTONBRANCFLOURThe high gluten promotion in historic Stockton flour sack displayed at the Winona County History Center caught my eye. A Wingold flour sack also promotes high gluten. High gluten flour hasn’t gone away, but we know the promotion now (and dietary need for others) is Gluten Free.

How – and why – have our eating habits have changed? The Tastemakers, a fascinating look at past, current and emerging food trends gives insight and a cultural history of recent food trends such as Cupcakes, Celebrity chefs, Cronuts, Fondue, Health foods, Ethnic foods  & BACON!

Journalist David Sax who analyzed trends and data, explains clever promotion along with the economic need to increase pork sales during the “other white meat” trend” were factors in the recent bacon trend. All the trends I had encountered – chia seeds, Red Prince apples, Indian cooking, food trucks – were ultimately motivated by commerce. What drove people to open one more cupcake bakery. . . wasn’t their desire to unleash the perfect strawberry buttercream on the world – it was to make a buck. Food trends were products of capitalism. . . . (Baconomics: 101, Ch 10)

“Marketing: Someday my Red Prince Will Come” offers a look at the high cost of developing and marketing specialty apples such as the Red Prince grown in Canada or specialty apples like Honeycrisp or Sweet Tango developed by the University of Minnesota.

“Taco Trucks: Food Politics” is an interesting account of the difficulty food truck operators faced trying to get more selling spaces in Washington D.C. Now we see them everywhere.

What about Bacon? Some reports claim say the trend is fading, others disagree.

The Tastemakers is a fun read for foodies or people interested in advertising and change.

I loved this book and an excited about interesting possibilities for curriculum connections in economics, family and consumer science or sociology. It would be fun to enhance the study the history of food and food related trends with primary sources. There are an abundance of resources. Here a couple to get you thinking.

PantryShelf The story of a pantry shelf, an outline history of grocery specialties (Butterick, 1925) discusses  the “evolution of  five [food} decades.” Advertising and the ingenuity of American enterprise were identified as key influences on what we eat. How does your panty shelf compare to the 1925 example? The book is one of hundreds of items in Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, a Library of Congress collection of documents, books, photos and ephemera.

Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project  highlights a part of America’s cultural heritage for teachers, students and researchers. 76 digital cookbooks represent influential and important cookbooks from the late 18th century to the 20th century. They are for lifelong learners of all ages.

What cookbooks would you include in your historic cookbook collection?

What are you nominations for an update to The Tastemakers?

Primary sources offer engaging learning opportunities for  classrooms. Learn how!

Sax, David. The Tastemakers: Why we’re crazy for cupcakes but fed up with Fondue. Public Affairs/Perseus Books Group, 2014.

Under_Wide_Starry_SkyUnder the Wide and Starry Sky is compelling historical fiction about the life of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny.  Based on extensive research of primary sources, the novel takes us around the world, chronicling a life of adventure, love and friendship. We meet an array of intriguing and accomplished people throughout Europe, North America and the South Pacific where Stevenson was buried on the island of Samoa. I was fascinated by much RLS wrote in his short life and the unique life Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson lived in the Victorian age. Also a writer, she published a book based on the diary she wrote during a voyage to the South Pacific. After Stevenson’s death she devoted her time to promoting his legacy.

Author Nancy Horan used eight published volumes of letters, Stevenson’s papers and Fanny’s unpublished letters as her chief source, but read and used countless others.  I always go to primary sources to do the real research, because I want to get it right and draw my own conclusions.   Excerpts from diaries and real letters are included. Horan followed the couple’s  “footsteps by visiting many of the places they lived in the U.S. and Europe. . . different landscapes and cultures exerted powerful influences on both of them, so it was useful to experience those places.”

I reconnected with a favorite childhood book, Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses through the novel. As I read I pictured the brown patterned cover, tattered pages, illustrations, and how I wrote my name in the front cover. I knew its exact location on my bookshelves. Revisiting the book was not disappointing. The second half of my book has fewer worn pages. Most likely I never completed many attempted “re-reads.” A short poem is a favorite.

Rain
The rain is raining is all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.

The forward describes Stevenson’s childhood illness and dependence on his nurse Cummy, who also has a role in the novel.  Nancy Horan imagines the adult Stevenson defending his interest in writing for children to his friend Henley, a critic and writer.

When I suffer in mind, stories are my refuge; I take them like opium.. . . . Frankly, it isn’t Shakespeare we take to when we re in a hot corner, is it? It’s Dumas or the best of Walter Scott. Don’t children, especially children, deserve that kind of refuge? Even it’ poetry.

In a later chapter the fictional Stevenson recites The Land of Counterpane a  poem about the power of imagination.

Land_of_Counterpane

When I was sick and lay abed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day . . . .

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
Complete poem

A Child’s Garden of Verses was the first book of poems for children told through a child’s world. Multiple digital editions are available through the Library of Congress. My favorite is Scribner’s 1895 edition From the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. View poems and illustrations online or download a PDF.

Childs_Garden_Verses_songs
References
~ Horan, Nancy. Under the Wide and Starry Sky Ballantine, 2014
~ Stevenson, Robert Louis, A Child’s Garden of Verses, World Publishing 1946, illustrated by Alexander Dobkin.
~ Stevenson, Robert Louis, A Child’s Garden of Verses, Scribner, 1895.
~ Songs from A child’s Garden of Verses.  Poems   paired with music by Natalie Curtis.
Wa Wan Press, 1902
How can I Use Primary Sources with Elementary Students?

I can remember the time I spent in this state park. We had to work at Plainview in the cannery. I enjoyed very much the landscape surrounding us. The trees, the rocks. It was similar to Germany.
Ernst Kohleick, former POW, 1974.

A major character in Chris Bohjalian’s Skeletons at the Feast is a Scottish prisoner of war working on a family estate in Eastern Germany as Russian forces are invading at the end of World War II. German internees are employed on a farm during an episode of the British detective series Foyle’s War. Both situations renewed my interest in learning more about the German POW camp at Whitewater State Park in Southeast Minnesota, a short distance from my home. Housed in a former Civilian Conservation Core barracks, POWs worked on area farms and in canning factories. They were paid a minimum wage so they could resettle in Germany after the war. Friendships developed between POWS and county residents, including some of German descent. Some POW returned to the area in the 1970’s to revisit the former campsite; some oral interviews were recorded.

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Wounded German prisoners being loaded aboard a United States Army transport plane at an advance air base in North Africa (Library of Congress)

Camp Whitewater POWs were from North African and Normandy campaigns. Whitewater was one of 20 POW camps in Minnesota and a “branch” of the Algona, Iowa base camp. On Veterans Day an area television station broadcast a video featuring the camp setting, an interview with the park naturalist, and historic photos.

 

A tornado destroyed the Whitewater camp barracks in 1953 leaving few visible remains. There are, however, primary sources about camps in Minnesota and other states available in digital collections.  A comprehensive starting place is The Library of Congress State Memory Collections Portal.  One Minnesota Reflections artifact is a Letter from Alois Sauer to Henry Peterson in Moorhead, Minnesota. Sauer shared fond memories of his time at in Minnesota:

AloisSauer_1The time I lived in America, especially on your farm, was the best of my life. I learnt [learned] this, when I came as a prisoner from the U.S. to France. What a contrast! In the U.S. we had plenty to eat and the people were so good to us, and there in France we met only hunger and hate. And when I returned at home the conditions were not much better. Our food-rations were and are still today terrible small, and I often wanted to have only a small amount of the foods I got in the USA.

More resources

German POWs, treatment of POWs and unlikely friendships between POWS and civilians are timely classroom topics!

Historical fiction suggestions

  • Bohjalian, Chris. Skeletons at the Feast. Crown, 2008. For older readers.
  • Greene, Bette. Summer of My German Soldier. Puffin Modern Classics, 2006. Story of a young Jewish girl in Arkansas and a German POW. For middle level readers
  • Dallas, Sandra. Tallgrass. St. Martin’s, 2007.  Weaves the story of an unlikely friendship between  internees at a Colorado Internment Camp and a beet farmer’s family throughout the book. A parallel plot is the anti-Japanese behavior and attitudes of other community citizens. Upper middle level and senior high readers.

Primary sources offer exciting possibilities for all content areas
Learn how to find and use primary sources in your classroom!

 

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Phelps Kindergarten students on teeter-totters, Winona, Minnesota

Of course!  It’s all about finding the right resources, starting small, and creating connections. Photos are an ideal starting place. For example, children can relate to pictures of other children their age and want to talk about what they see. I love this 1920 photo of children on a teeter totter!

The Library of Congress Teachers’ Page has several “ready to use” primary source sets that will help busy teachers looking for ideas. Children’s Lives at the Turn of the Century has photos of children at work and play, “1904 Baby Parade” (movie) and an image of a game depicting cities.

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School Children’s Thanksgiving Games 11/27/11. Library of Congress

Thanksgiving has photos and documents appropriate to the day. Symbols of the United States has posters, sheet music, cartoons, and photos with recognizable symbols of the United States.

Many State Memory Collections have teachers guides that will work in classrooms everywhere.  The Field Trip to the Pumpkin Patch and Families Then and Now from Minnesota Reflections are two examples that could be paired with the primary source sets or used alone. Visit your State’s Memory Project!

Kindergarten Historians: Primary Sources in an Early Elementary Classroom from the Teachers Page Blog explains how students were hooked by two old movies.

Picture books or early reader chapter books and primary sources complement each other well. Kate DiCamillo: Stories Connect Us, also a blog post,  includes book titles and related primary sources. There are some ideas for connecting primary sources with picture books  in Primary Sources–Enriching the Study of Historical Fiction (Internet@Schools, Nov. 2014)

A great way to gather an arsenal of ideas is to subscribe to the Teacher’s Page blog.  Weekly updates are full of ideas! Subscribe by RSS or email!

Making Learning Interactive (The New Media Center, Column,  Internet @ Schools, March/April 2015)

 

Student Discovery Set

Student Discovery Set

I’m excited to see the new Student Discovery Sets from the Library of Congress Teachers Page and available free through Itunes/IBooks.

Teachers familiar with the Library’s Primary Source Sets will recognize the topics and set organization. They will  be excited about  the interactive capabilities the 6 eBook sets provide. Teachers new to these resources will quickly see the possibilities enhancing teaching and learning.  Students can individually view primary source photos, maps and documents, and listen to audio. They can engage with the artifacts by zooming or simply tapping on the image to draw or analyze. Analysis prompts use the familiar Observe, Reflect, Question and Investigate prompts and a place to write.  Analysis notes can be copied/pasted into other apps; screenshots of images or drawings images can be saved to photos for future use.

Each set includes a page with  a thumbnail  version of the primary source and citations.  The Teachers Guides that have teaching ideas and additional resources are not included in the eBook versions of the sets, but remain available through The Teachers Page version.

These new eBooks escalate  LOC Classroom Materials to a different level, providing intuitive, engaging learning opportunities for students to learn individually following teacher introduction. They are easy to find in the iBooks Store; simply search for Student Discovery Sets. Learn more or access the ebooks directly at www.loc.gov/teachers/student-discovery-sets/.

The six sets offer learning activities for all ages and a variety of content areas.

  • Immigration
  • ’The Dust Bowl
  • Symbols of the United States
  • Understanding the Cosmos
  • The Constitution
  • The Harlem Renaissance

Free Ebooks from the Library of Congress Put History in Students’ Hands, Teachers Page Blog Post, September 2014.

Classroom Ready Materials on the Library of Congress Teachers Page, Internet@Schools September 2013.
More about Primary Source Sets and other materials for teachers.

Making Learning Interactive (The New Media Center, Column,  Internet @ Schools, March/April 2015)

For-Adams-Sake-Amazing! 

I’ve  just read For Adam’s Sake; A Family Saga in Colonial New England. It is extremely interesting, packed with detail (some juicy) and highly readable. Historian  Allegra di Bonaventura meticulously researched an abundance of primary sources but relied heavily on the detailed diary Joshua Hempstead  kept for nearly 50 years while living in New London, Connecticut,

The lives the Hempstead family, other families of English ancestry, and the Jacksons, an African American family, are interwoven.  Adam Jackson, was Hempstead’s slave for 30 years. Informative accounts of Native Algonquins are also part of the saga. Family and daily life, farming, occupations, hard work, disease, travel, Colonial slavery, and disagreements over religion and land are just some of the many facets of late 17th and early 18th century life in  Colonial America. Rich detail and intense narratives captured my attention throughout.

The Hempstead name and my ancestors’ experience Colonial New England piqued my interest when I read about the book.  I have known Hempsteads all of my life; my Ford ancestors immigrated to Colonial New England in 1621.  I dug out a family history and discovered that Hannah Dingley, wife of James Ford, a 4th generation family member, lived in the New London. The Ford family is not part of For Adam’s Sake, but there is a crossover of the names (Beebe, Winthrop, Rogers, and Harris) and similar situations are included in both.

di Bonaventura’s sources span an extensive range of primary source documents and pictures from New England Historical Societies, The Library of Congress, and beyond. The Hempstead family homeHempstedHOUSE was occupied by 8 generations of Hempsteads into the 20th century.  It is now a historic site.

  • For Adam’s Sake: A Family Saga in Colonial New England by Allegra di Bonaventura.  Liveright, 2013. More info.
  • The Ancestry of the Children of William Arthur and Nellie Clara Ford Van Alstine; Part 2; Ford Ancestry in America, 1620-1976.
    Compiled by James Neal Van Alstine, Center Conway, New Hampshire, 1976.
  • Hempstead Houses, Connecticut Historic Site
  • Excerpt from the Joshua Hempstead Diary, New London County Historical Society
  • Ebook Version of Joshua Hempstead’s Diary (Google Books)
  • Mary Johnson’s Primary Source Librarian blog alerted me to this intriguing book.  She also has a personal connection with the book! Amazing!  Thank you!

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