Friday, February 26, 2016

What have we been learning about history so far in 3rd Grade?

This week we had an opportunity to share with the other 3rd Grades about what we have been learning about the history of Oregon so far this year.  

We had a quick brainstorming discussion that lasted about 20 minutes. I took notes and this is what the children said... (It was a remarkable reflection back to me that they are deeply making meaning of some difficult, abstract concepts.) 

Leoni- We have been talking about who lived in Oregon First.  Some of the first people in Oregon were the Kalapuuya and the Chinook. We learned yesterday from Mrs. Hill that there is evidence of the first people in the Willamette Valley from 12-15,000 years ago.

Will suggested that it was important for Ada to share: In studying about the Chinook I found a creation story that the Chinook tell about how they came to be created and live along the Columbia River. (Ada reads short summary of story)

In the beginning, the first men came down from the sky. They were Thunderbird's children.

Thunderbird laid eggs on Saddle Mountain and a giantess rolled 5 of the eggs down the mountain.

Five men, each a different color, were born from those 5 eggs. So then they were in the valley.

When the men were in the valley they found women there and pulled them out of the rocks. That was the beginning of the Chinook people.

Charlotte- Long ago life was a lot harder than it is now. 

Aaren/ Soren- People had to really work together and be prepared so that they could survive in the wild. You couldn’t just wake up and have a waffle everyday. 

Victoria, Catherine, Uma, and Peter all shared- We have learned that many of the stories about how people survived long ago are hidden stories that haven’t been told. Like did you know that Sacagawea had another child other than Pomp? She had a little girl named Lisset Charbonneau!

Theo/Jia- All of these stories are important to know about history. They are interesting.

Lily-We shouldn't hide them, they are like a missing puzzle piece.  

Quinny- These hidden stories tell about different perspectives. Like Native Americans and Fur Trappers think different things because they grew up in different places, with different backgrounds, cultures, and genes. 

James- If you have always done something the same way, it can be hard to imagine how to do life differently. 

Will- They can then make stereotypes about other people and their culture.

Flynn- Stereotypes are  when you think something is like something but you don’t have proof about it like, all girls like pink. Some schools are stereotyping Native Americans. Some of their mascots are offensive to Native Americans because they are thinking that they look like something that they aren’t. Like all Native Americans have red skin. 

Ada- When you hear a story from long ago you may make a stereotype like in this painting called the Fur Trapper’s Bride. How can we know how the bride feels? Is she happy to get married or does she feel like she is being traded. 

Jonathan-Acting out history helps find hidden stories. Then we can experience what people of the past might have done or said.

Flynn- We don’t want to make any stereotypes in our play.

We now have the heart or message of our story that we want to tell in our play. These powerful words from the children will be a touchstone that we come back to as we write our script to make sure that the words and actions we use send the message of what we have learned.

Ask your child:

-What do you think your act of the play should be about?

-What do you hope people will learn from watching the 3rd Grade play?

-What questions did you have about the sharing the other 3rd Graders did? What do you want to know more about?

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Understanding Different Perspectives

In Third Grade we want to nurture the Habits of Mind of a Historian. We desire for our students to initiate exploring ideas and collaborating with peers. We want them to pose intriguing questions, as well as inquire into multiple perspectives of a historical event or storyline.

That is exactly what has happened around our work with stereotypes. The children demonstrated incredible curiosity and a sense of justice in treating everyone fairly. As we researched more about why people make stereotypes we learned that often times, there are different perspectives about what makes a stereotype or not. I shared, with some of you at conferences, a serendipitous moment that I never could have planned. I wanted to retell it so that all of you could hear about this pivotal moment that made the abstract concept of stereotypes real.

One day last month, Peter and Quinny were writing a letter to Dan Snyder the owner of the Washington Redskins. They had read a few articles explaining that the Supreme Court had refused to hear an appeal from Native Americans calling the pro club's trademark "disparaging." Peter and Quinny could not decide based on this information if they should send their letter. They felt that a decision had already been made and, they had read that Dan Snyder had refused to comment.  

Quinny and Peter's letter:

Dear Mr.Snyder,
First of all we would like to congratulate you on making it to the playoffs! Our names are, Quinny Handley and Peter Miltenberger, we are writing from Oregon Episcopal School in Portland, Oregon.We know you went to The Supreme Court and they said you could keep your name and your mascot. But, we still want you to consider changing your name and mascot.You are not the only mascot that is offensive to Native American tribes, there are over 2,000 in America. People feel offended by the name your team has. It makes stereotypes about their culture.We totally understand if it is too much work. But we still want you to consider it. Here are some suggestion for you:

-Ask Native American tribes such as, the Pamunkey and Mattaponi ,how they feel
-Make sure the majority of Native Americans agree with it
-Ask your team how they feel

Hope to hear from you soon.

Peter W. Miltenberger
Quinny C. Handley                                                                                           

They decided to bring their question to a class meeting to get the help of their community to decide.  It just so happened that at this time, we had an 8 year old visitor applying to OES spend the day with us. As Quinny and Peter shared their conundrum with the class, the class encouraged them to mail it anyway. They said things like, "It never hurts to try." and "Don't give up! Maybe he will listen to kids!" Then surprisingly our visitor raised his hand and said, "What's the big deal? It's just a name." 

As you can imagine at first this was met with silence from the children. They were not sure how to respond. As a teacher, I was delighted! I couldn't believe that the other point of view had just walked in our door, sat down, and expressed himself so openly! The children had to confront an opposing point of view to theirs and luckily, realized they had to do it politely. They attempted to explain to him why it mattered and what was important. Leoni said, "Do you know what a stereotype is?" And then she and others eloquently explained, "It is something people think about other people but they don't know all about them. Then they make an assumption like, all Native American's have redskin. Which they don't. Some people think it's not a big deal but, it is hurtful and offensive to some Native Americans." Jonathan then added, "But not all Native American mascots are hurtful. The Seminoles like being the mascot for Florida State." Then Uma added, "Yeah because they asked them and they helped to design the jerseys."  

Our visitor was stunned and a little overwhelmed at first, and later shared with me that he didn't know about that before and that he thought that was really interesting.  "I didn't know about stereotypes before. I can think of lots of times when that happens."

Ben's dad, Paul, stopped by to see the chidlren's work after sharing his same presentation about mascots with Mrs. Mounsey's class.
We have gone on to think about different settings where stereotypes occur and what we can do so that we don't perpetuate stereotypes. The children have come up with some great ideas:

  • ask questions
  • do your research
  • check your facts
  • don't make inferences without all the information
Taking on different historical perspectives.

I am looking forward to seeing how the children's awareness of stereotypes and the importance of asking questions, doing research and checking our facts will influence the rest of our work as historians in 3rd Grade.

Below is a link to an article that I read recently. It is an interview with Erika Christakis a former lecturer at Yale who taught undergraduate courses in education policy and child development  She stepped down from her position at Yale after writing a controversial letter sharing her opinion about stereotyped Halloween costumes worn by students. She also has a new book out called, The Importance of Being Little, that I am anxious to read.

After reading the article I felt challenged to reconsider some of my thinking around stereotypical mascots and I made so many connections to our work in class. It made me think deeply about how important it is to consider different perspectives than our own. The thing that surprised me about the article was the connection it made between problems around racism,stereotyping, and play. There is so much to consider in her comments and I look forward to learning more after I read her book. 

After reading the interview it made me wonder:
  • How do we create learning environments where different opinions are welcome and can be safely shared and talked about?
  • How can we wrestle with stereotypes and talking about freedom of speech at the same time?
  • How do we educate compassionate and thoughtful students who can think critically?
  • What is the role of down time, play, and playful inquiry in our work at school?
  • How are we preparing and offering opportunities for children to make decisions on their own about how to interact and problem solve with their peers?
I loved to hear from all of you your thoughts and wondering about the complicated world of parenting and preparing our children to be thoughtful citizens of the world.

Erin Baker

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