That History Day Guy

September 26, 2008

Defining “Legacy”

Filed under: theme — historydayguy @ 8:54 pm

 The question has arisen recently about what the term “Legacy” means in the latest theme: The Individual in History: Actions and Legacies.

There are many of us with near honorific memories of trying to define the word “conflict” for our student’s parents and teachers. When this topic came around I hadn’t remembered what consternation it had caused and we wrestled with the physical, human, moral, military and commercial compromises that happen in history and worked hard to help students understand these ideas.

So I have a short classroom activity that may help with the idea of “legacy”

Step I:

 Break your kids into small groups. Tell them that they have all received some sad news that Your favorite rich Uncle Bernie has passed away. But they are also informed that this relative has left a considerable amount of moiney behind, but there are some strings attatched: the money can’t just go anywhere it must be given away to charity, and you must decide which charitiy it goes to!

The Choices for the inheritance which is 2.25 million dollars are the following:


Charity One: Dogs without well to do wners: This organization seeks to pair dogs of exceptional breeding, or pure bred dogs, with wealthy families. They usually find pure bred dogs who are being given up for adoption, have been abused, or just living in a person’s home who makes less than $25,000 a year and places them in the home of CEOs, starlets, heiresses, royals, and other individuakls deemed to be appropriate home environments for dogs thought to be “only fit to live in homes where they can live in the life style they were born to inherit.”

The organization owns a series of shelters or “spas” as they call them and a small fleet of planes to transport dogs around the country. The Foundation also gives money to the Beverly Hills College of Veterinary Medicine to support the continued goal of keeping animals healthy and beautiful for all the years of their life.

 Charity Two:

Help for the children: This is an organization that seeks to reach out directly to families in emergency situations to provide for immediate help when they need it. Weather it be families in disasters who have lost everything and need schools for clothes, food, and medicine, or families who lack shelter or housing, the foundation also supports a number of temporary residences for families around the country.

The money would be used to open a new shelter where they would be able to support a large city that has a large population who regularly is experiencing issues of reliable housing.


And Three:

Tomorrows Leaders:

Tomorrows leaders are a nonprofit group that follows at risk students from grades k all the way through graduation of undergraduate college. The students are assigned mentors, spend two weeks each year in leadership camps in the summer, and provide parent workshops. The parent workshops are directed at health, child rearing, budgeting and helping your child transition to college. If students remain successfully in the program for the first twelve years, T.L. will assist students with acquiring scholarships or provide them for their transition to college.


Your Uncle Bernie trusts you. He thinks you’re his smartest living heir. His instructions are: Choose the charity that will have the most important and longest impact out of the three organizations.


Step II

Have groups review the organizations. Ask them to create a three column chart. Place the organization’s name at the top.

Have the groups listed the most important impacts and the farthest reaching impacts, these organizations will provide.


Step III

Have the students report out their responses. List the benefits of giving the money to each group on the board.

 Engage the group and see if you can come to a class consensus on what group will meet Uncle Bernie’s requirements.


Step IV


Share with the students that these long term impacts will represent the “Legacy” of your Uncle Bernie’s Will. They are the good deeds and contributions made after he has gone.



Step V

Choose a number of individuals from history. Examples: Abraham Lincoln, Lucretia Mott, Jane Adams, Booker T. Washington, George McCarthy.  

Remind the students that all of these people’s lives and actions resulted in later legacies.

Ask students to choose three and complete the same exercise individually for homework. As a follow up, discuss these historical legacies to further illustrate the point.



August 20, 2008

You better watch out…

Filed under: Resources,teacher support,theme — historydayguy @ 2:07 pm

It is that exciting time of year where History Day teachers all over are going to bed earl, being extra good and are giddy with excitement because the History Day Fairy will soon deliver their FREE 2009 Curriculum Packet!

This year it is all about the individuals who have impacted the larger historical fabric. Sure to be a page turner!

The History Day Gal and I are heading at to the amazing city of Buffalo today to prepare for a meeting that will hopefully have around 50 folks. We are eager to ring NYSHD to the people in Sabres country.

So for those of you who end up taking us up on being a part of this magical cult we call history day, here are a few great names to tie to local history Joseph Ellicott Fredrick Olmstead George Washington Jonson I realize these are three white guys. Not representing the entirety of Buffalo’s rich diverse past and present, ut i isn’t even 8 a.m., so I’ll let you dig through the links and find the other figures who will be great topics for this year’s contest!

August 15, 2008

Tu Pac Kurt Cobain and Marlyn Monroe

Filed under: theme — historydayguy @ 1:36 pm

So the question is, beyond cheap bedspreads at flea markets, do these figures represent historic individuals who should be remembered in effigy?

Certainly we don’t have to go very far to look at the cultural implications of their lives, lifestyles, fashion, and even music. I myself sat with friends and watched the unplugged shows and mourned Curt’s tragic passing. I owned a nappy green sweater and a striped shirt. I still hear the angst and cries of his work repeated time and time again in today’s popular music. But Kurt did not affect my civil rights. Or redefine how I power my home. Or make a decision that determined my nationality for the next 200 years. Are you following me?

There are many kids who could give a flip about pursuing a HD project and being able to explore the musical influence, and fashion and cultural circumstances behind a cult or popular figure may engage them in an academic pursuit that will give them important academic experiences. It should be encouraged. But who was the figure in history that really started Rap or Hip Hop? What historic structures and events produced the world that led to the explosion in musical movements? How did early Bluesmen, who are at the roots of American Music, affect Tu Pac today? How did white flight, the crack cocaine epidemic, and the disproportionate number of African Americans serving and dying in Vietnam affect the culture that led to the emergence of Hip Hop culture?

Now with Kurt, he is just another angry suburban white boy. I can’t help you there.

In these situations it is a teaching moment. As an adult it is up to us to point out these larger cultural and historical connections. This will open the eyes of our students and broaden their world views.

July 5, 2008

July 4 in America’s Most Perfect Village

Filed under: theme — historydayguy @ 2:09 pm

We have celebrated by visiting with friends in the Village, as the clank of bats and cheers of fans wafted over the high fences of Double Day Field and into the yard where my girls were enjoying climbing over our friends Cake and Dabe, as my youngest calls them.

One of our friends (who is a Tory at heart) was wearing a bespangled British Flag T-shirt and it was only after some ribbing did we realize we were imbibing with Canadian beer, and German Sausages . No real room to make fun.

But I am always taken aback to this time in History when General William Howe and a flotilla that was described as “all London afloat” came to settle the question of American Independence. Thousands of English and Hessians-massive ships-guns-bayonets and the Union Jack flying over water that at that time may have actually supported life. The lands were green. Trees instead of street signs. Wood smoke and animals, instead of smog and sewage. How frightened Washington and the men must have been. Such a turning point-such a conflict of place and heritage. So many individuals from Washington and Howe to Adams and Jefferson to George the III and all the nameless men in the trenches. War on our own streets. Something we have not known for almost 150 years.

If you have a chance over this three day weekend, grab a history book. Read through the circumstances and thoughts and arguments that were raging in this so very new nation to be.

My favorite founding father- John Adams-is someone I like to read.

“When I consider the great events which are passed and those greater which are rapidly advancing, and that I may may have been instrumnetall in touching some springs, and turning some wheels, which have had and will have such effects, I feel an awe upon my mind which is not easily described.”

This is not a bad time as you eat brats, watch fireworks, and play baseball to think about the individuals who have made our history worth celebrating.

Happy Independence

August 7, 2007

So you need a Topic?

Filed under: theme — historydayguy @ 7:55 pm

1799. An Act for the gradual abolition of Slavery, March 29,1799Laws of the State of New-York, Passed at the Twenty-Second Meeting of the Legislature Begun. ..theSecond Day of January, 1799 (Albany, 1799), 721-723.Be it enacted .. . That any child born of a slave within this state after the fourth day of July next shall be deemed and adjudged to be born free: Provided nevertheless. That such child shall be the servant of the legal proprietor of his or her mother until such servant, if a male, shall arrive at the age of twenty-eight years, and if a female, at the age of twenty-five years. 

So begins the end of Slavery in New York State. Many people think of New York State as a bastion of progressive politics and social movements that were instrumental in the ending of slavery. While this may be true to a certain extent, a harder look at our relationship with slavery will reveal businesses in New York City reliant on the cheap labor provided to the cotton industry and businessmen  who actually called for the cession of the city to demonstrate comrade with their partners in the South.

The Draft Riots of 1863, and the attacks on African Americans demonstrate the conflicts present in our state. And even abolition leaders choices at times seem suspect.

New Yorkers constantly wrestled with the question of slavery. Even John Jay who helped

 to found the New York Manumission Society was a slave owner and eventually settled on compromise when freeing the slaves in New York.

Always personal and economic interests seem to conflict with the efforts of those who sought to end the horrible institution of slavery in the Empire state which seemed to lead to the compromises that held back with granting full freedom to an imprisoned people.

Wait a minute… Conflict? Compromise? Where have I heard those words before.

Yes dear History Day students, you need look no further than our own States History to develop a compelling topic. Our nations struggle with the issue of race demonstrates this years theme in stark terms and offers a plethora of angles, individuals and events to explore for History Day. Start with the major players and events and dig to find those fascinating forgotten instances in History that demonstrate the larger march of time. And have a good month of History!

May 23, 2007

The New Phone Book is Here! The New Phone Book is Here!

Filed under: theme,Uncategorized — historydayguy @ 6:32 pm

Ok, so most people don’t get as excited as Mavin Johnson when he sees his name in print for the first time when the new National History Day Theme Sheet comes out, but I do! It looks like the Theme is Conflict and Compromise. This is a great Theme that gives us an array of topics. I am hoping that all of you hard core history geeks move beyond the surface and come up with a topic that really wows us at regional and state levels this year!

All too often we see the same topic : Atomic Bomb: The Bomb that ended it All,The Atomic Bomb: The Triumph of the Tragedy…The Atomic Bomb: The Only Topic I found Cool Photos Of…The Atomic Bomb: I saw a History Chanel Special On This…

This is just an example. The tragic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki still offer us a myriad of historical avenues to approach History Day from, but all too often the look at this topic is just that: a general look without exploring a new side to it.

What I would love to see is more students taking large global or national topics and taking a more localized approach. If Someone is going to do the Compromise of 1850 ,as I expect many will, look to your communities’ family, or state’s tie in. Who in your state was involved with this act or the resulting circumstances? Use the event as the back drop for something that at first glance may appear smaller, but also can be linked to national or even global history.

If there is a big topic like D-Day you are interested in, go to a good source and find a smaller aspect. When you analyze a big event and tell the small stories, you help make a topic have a personal element that can be very compelling.

So enough of all that. I will continue to bug you about keeping your topics narrow and I look forward to seeing this years work!

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