Freedom is Never Free: Understanding Veterans Day

DF-SC-84-11899It began with the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. Yes, today is Veterans Day. Do your students understand the significance of this day? Do they understand what it mean to truly pay respect to veterans? What are some of the ways veterans are (and should be) honored in our society today?

Encourage your pupils to stop and think about the brave men and women who have served and are currently serving in America’s Armed Forces. They deserve our respect and students should know why. The United States Department of Veteran Affairs contains educational resources designed to help teachers discuss the importance this day.

It’s never too late to learn.

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History, Poetry, Music, Math, and Science…a Perfect Storm of Learning


On this day, November 10th, in 1975, the freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald (a taconite carrier) sank during a storm on Lake Superior. All of the crew, 29 nine men, perished. The event was memorialized in the lyrics of singer Gordon Lightfoot‘s popular ballad, the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Though sad, this historical event presents an engrossing opportunity for students and teachers to collaborate and engage in interdisciplinary research. It’s a perfect storm of learning.  Delving into what lead up to the tragedy allows pupils to explore elements of:

Diving into this and other historical events, using them as case-study investigations into why and how things happen, makes learning more rewarding and allows students to integrate technology resources in a more meaningful manner.

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Famous Physicists

Want to add historical context to the study of physics? If so, check out the growing library of transcripts of oral history interviews held at the Niels Bohr Library and Archives. All this goodness comes to the world via the American Institute of Physics. Enjoy!


Related resources:

  • HyperPhysics will have you bouncing off the walls!
  • Think you know everything there is to know about physics? Some folks might be inclined to disagree. Check out the Skeptic’s Guide to Physics for intriguing views.

Fly Me to the Moon: Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing

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On this day in 1969 (only a month before the Woodstock Festival drew national attention and four months before kids began looking for the way to Sesame Street),

Later Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the lunar surface.

Integrate a little technology, drop by NASA’s official Apollo 40th Anniversary site and celebrate this historic event. It’s easy! Thanks to “spin-off” innovations that resulted from America’s exploration of space and subsequent mission to the moon, sharing and retrieving information is simple. What are you waiting for? Blast off!

Related resources:

Freedom Is Not Free: Memorial Day


Today is Memorial Day. Use technology to remember the sacrifices that the men and women of our armed forces have made in the service of our nation. Digital resources make it possible to:

It’s a little thing to do, to merely stop and appreciate the freedoms we enjoy. Think of the people who have given so much–who have paid for our liberty with their hearts, health, and lives–that we might live free. Reflect upon the dedicated members of the United States Military, brave women and men who served or are serving in the the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. These courageous citizens, often overlooked, are much, much more than just numbers or statistics. They are ordinary people with extraordinary historical legacies. They are worthy of our attention and gratitude. Please, remember them and help the younger people of our nation understand why we should all be so grateful.

A Portrait of Learning: Smarthistory

Art teachers: Picture this: a free multi-media “web-book” that’s sure to impress, engage, and inform students. Smarthistory is a captivating digital substitute for traditional art history textbooks.  The site evolved from a blog featuring free audio guides to the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These days, Smarthistory contains also contains videos about works of art.


Food for Thought

foodmanIf you’re teaching Social Studies this year, consider adding an extra ingredient to the meat of the content your students will be consuming. Toss in some fresh information about about food. Why? Food is a relevant part of each learner’s life in and out of the classroom. The topic is meaningful to just about everyone–administrators, educators, community members, and parents, included. People like talking about

  • things to eat
  • how foods are prepared
  • how they taste
  • why certain meals are more important than others
  • how edibles are used as a reflection of culture and beliefs
  • who discovered a dish, and so on.

More importantly, when pupils encounter information that is significant to them, they tend to pay attention and retain the information for longer periods of time. By teaching Social Studies within a culinary context, chances are students will associate the content along with the food-related facts. One more reason to consider adding food to the mental menu is that the topic also makes it possible for educators to integrate technology in a novel and useful manner.

For example, an engaging Social Studies teacher might introduce a concept–say explorers–and elicit a few essential questions from students, questions such as…

  • What causes people to want to explore the unknown?
  • What is the most important thing people accomplish through exploration?
  • What is the most important trait for being a successful explorer?
  • Who is history’s most important explorer?
  • Who changes more–cultures that are “discovered” by explorers or explorers that have discovered new cultures?

In order to add relevancy to the concept, the teacher might also ask food related-questions such as…

  • What kinds of foods were being consumed by humans at this point in history?
  • What new foods were discovered when ___ found ___?
  • Who had better (tastier, healthier, et cetera) foods in their diet–the explorer or the people the explorer met?
  • How did food change the way these people behaved?
  • Which foods, now commonly consumed, would have benefited an early explorer?
  • In what ways has food changed the practice of exploration or the course of human history?
  • What types of technology existed to help these people prepare and preserve their food?

To assist students with their own exploration of these and other questions, the instructor could suggest that learner use the following web-based resources:

By investigating the role of food in Social Studies, students and educators also have an opportunity to integrate technology in the form of spreadsheets. Using spreadsheets to calculate the energy requirements needed perform daily human activities (an Excel file is available for download via PubMed) will give pupils insight into the amount and kinds of food various people in assorted eras needed in order to survive. By incorporating a wee bit of Science and using cognitive tools such as spreadsheets and other resources in the classroom, students develop a clearer understanding of humans who lived along ago, humans, who like themselves, needed food for survival. Using free, collaborative resources such as Instacalc, Google Docs and Spreadsheets, and NCES Create A Graph site pupils can begin creating their own tools for analysis. Think about it: you can create students that hunger for learning. Make them crave your content.