Moving Beyond the Walls of the Classroom


Archives for Current Events

Constitution Day Resources – An Elk Grove Story

Image from

Image from

When it comes to studying about the importance of the U.S. Constitution, Elk Grove students can learn a few lessons  from local Japanese-American citizens. 

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the history of this once rural community forever changed. As the nation entered World War II, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal and “relocation” of thousands of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast. Virtually overnight U.S. citizens of Japanese heritage disappeared from the farming communities of the Sacramento valley.

The Japanese internment story is a powerful example of why it is so important for us (especially educators) to understand – and to be willing to fight for – the Constitutional Rights guaranteed to every citizen.

Last week we uploaded to the district’s Time of Remembrance website 10 new interviews with Japanese-Americans from the Sacramento area. Each story is a reminder of what can happen if we allow the loss of rights to any group of people to go unchallenged.

The new additions to the Time of Remembrance Interview Archives include first-hand accounts of the war years from:

*Marielle Tsukamoto – As an educator (Elk Grove USD) and community activist, Marielle continues the legacy and work of her mother, Mary Tsukamoto, who was a driving force in the Smithsonian’s original exhibit: A More Perfect Union: Japanese-Americans and the US Constitution. Marielle shares her memories of both the camp experience (Jerome, Arkansas) and some of the realities faced by internees following their release from the camps.

* Jack Dairiki – Born in Sacramento, Jack recounts his trip to Japan in 1941, being caught there, and surviving the bombing of Hiroshima.

* Jim Tanimoto – I met Jim last spring during an annual Pilgrimage to Manzanar. Jim’s story is the first in our collection from a No-No boy, a term for resisters. No-No boys answered “No” to questions 27 and 28 on the Loyalty Oath they were required to take.

Tsukamoto Family

Tsukamoto Family

Constitution Day 2011 – a time to reflect on what it means to be an informed citizen.

Resources for Teaching about Hurricanes

On the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, on the tail end of Hurricane Irene, and with  “tropical depression #12” starting to gain momentum, we thought you might want some resources and lessons for teaching about hurricanes.  Here’s a list to get you started:

  • Hurricane Irene: 12 Ways to Track the Storm Online – Amazing (“terrifying beautiful”) views of Irene from space.
  • Irene Roars Up the Coast – Excellent infographic from the Washington Post.
  • USA Today’s Resources: Hurricanes – Resources include a section on “Graphics to Help You Understand Hurricanes.”
  • National Hurricane Center – Good starting point for tracking current hurricane activity.
  • From Thinkfinity – If you’re looking for lessons on teaching about hurricanes, here comes – a great collection of lessons, with descriptors and grade levels included. There are several more resources that will come up on a Thinkfinity search on “hurricanes” that are not listed on the above site:
    • From Thinkfinity’s Science Netlinks partnership, we like the e-Sheet lesson (for grades 3-5) on Tracking Hurricanes. The lesson includes a link to the National Hurricane Center’s DAS Tropical Cyclone Tracker – from which you can even link to the option of viewing the map in Google Earth.
    • Also from Science Netlinks, via the Thinkfinity search engine, we like the Science of Hurricanes lesson, which provides archived NASA video footage on Hurricane Andrew.
    • From National Geographic, via the Thinkfinity search engine, we really like the What Happened to Whom lesson (for grades 6-8). The lesson has a link to another National Geographic lesson: Stormy Stories. Too often for our students, it’s hard to relate to the horrific scale of natural disasters because the numbers are simply too huge, too exponential to relate to. Here’s where the story of one child providing a personal account of a disaster can really help students relate to the human cost – and truly develop empathy for those who have lived through a natural disaster.
    • From Read/Write/Think, a lesson to help students to explore the nature and structure of expository texts that focus on cause and effect: Exploring Cause and Effect Using Expository Text about Natural Disasters (for grades 3-5).
  • Exploring Weather – “A comprehensive website that explores all of the different kinds of weather from hurricanes to winter storms.” The Hurricanes page, for example, includes general information, charts, animations, and graphics, including the one below (for grades 3-8):

Image from

… This storm is poised to affect millions of us, all up and down the East Coast. So here’s the invitation part…

Write or draw something as the storm passes through. Maybe by flashlight or candlelight while the power is out…maybe in between trips downstairs to bail out the basement. And then, let’s gather all that writing and art together to see what people created as Hurricane Irene passed through.” (for ALL grades!)

If you have any resources to add, please post a comment!

Resources for Teaching about 9/11

Image via Creative Commons

Image via Creative Commons

With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 just a few weeks away, we wanted to share some resources for commemorating an event we cannot forget:

From Edutopia’s Suzie Boss (Reinventing Project-Based Learning co-author) – How to Help Your Students Observe the 9/11 Anniversary – We really like Suzie Boss’s  thematic arrangement, starting with Build Resilience to Use the News. The News section includes a link to Renee Hobbs’ excellent guide: Media Literacy Skills: Interpreting Tragedy.

From the New York Times Learning NetworkResources for Teaching about 9/11 – A growing list of resources, with an invitation to join the conversation.

From PBS: American Respondsresources to help educators teach students about peace, tolerance, war, patriotism, geography, and other related issues.

From Teaching for Change: Resources for Teaching about 9/11 – provides links for teachers to address in the classroom including such topics as U.S. foreign policy, Islam, and Arab and Arab American news.

From Facing History & Ourselves: Legacies of September 11 – lesson looks at the issues of civil liberties, freedom and safety and the tensions that may arise in a democracy.

From 9/11 Never Forgotten – a collection of lessons and resources for elementary-high school

From the Anti-Defamation League (ADL): Committing to Respect – A 9/11 Commemoration – Lessons to help youth, pre-K–12 grade, better understand concepts of bias and discrimination and respond to them in productive ways.

From the New Jersey Dept of Education Commission on Holocaust Education: Learning from the Challenges of Our Time – a K-12 curriculum

From the National Writing Project – Broadcast discussion on NWP Radio: Marking a Moment: Teaching about 9/11 – Wonderful archived discussion on how and what critical literacy practices support students in finding a voice as they navigate the complexities of challenging topics, such as 9/11. Links to lessons and texts referenced in the program will soon be available at the NWP Radio archives.

From Internet ArchiveUnderstanding 9/11: A Television News Archive – Incredible collection of video footage of “the events of 9/11/2001 and their aftermath as presented by U.S. and international broadcasters. A resource for scholars, journalists and the public, the library presents one week (3,000 hours from 20 channels over 7 days) of news broadcasts for study, research and analysis, with select analysis by scholars.”

From Larry Ferlazzo: Best Sites to Help Teach about 9/11 – Don’t be overwhelmed by the list.  Larry Ferlazzo has reviewed and shared some gems (such as the 9/11 Comic Book) – with a focus on resources for high school ELL students.

If you have resources for teaching about 9/11, please join the conversation and leave a comment!

Resources for the Days of Remembrance – Nation’s Annual Commemoration of the Holocaust

Congress established the Days of Remembrance as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust and created the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a permanent living memorial to the victims. This year’s Holocaust remembrance week is May 1–8, 2011. The theme designated by the Museum for the 2011 observance is Justice and Accountability in the Face of Genocide: What Have We Learned?

Because so many of our students are introduced to the Holocaust through the Diary of Anne Frank, we’ve gathered online resources for going into, through, and beyond Anne Frank’s story.

* Film footage of Anne Frank – Filmed in celebration of a neighbor’s wedding in July of 1941, shortly before the Frank family went into hiding, this is the only footage of Anne Frank.

* We Remember Anne Frank – Scholastic’s unit includes interviews with Miep Gies, the loyal employee of the Frank family. Lessons are arranged by grade level, starting with grade 3.

* Anne Frank, Writer – From EDSITEment (National Endowment for the Humanities), this site scaffolds their lessons and provides resources for connecting Anne’s story to other examples of racism and exclusion.

* Anne Frank – Lessons in Humanity and Dignity – Provides activities for school and home.

* Anne Frank Received Her Famous Diary in 1942 – From ReadWriteThink!, the unit introduces students to the importance of first-hand accounts in understanding historical events.

* Diary of Anne Frank, the movie – PBS provides a Teacher’s Guide to accompany the DVD (which you can order from the site). The site also includes the Take Action page, a listing of projects and activities for empowering students to make a difference.  In the current test-driven climate, all too often the reading of powerful stories ends with the “what,” and students are not moving on to explore the next two components, so essential to meaningful learning: “so what” and “now what.”

* Anne Frank Timeline – Part of the Secret Annex Online site, the timeline provides background and compelling images from Anne’s story, starting in 1914.

* Anne Frank the Writer: An Unfinished Story – From the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the resources include a beautifully done tour of Anne Frank’s diary through images and audio clips.

* Beyond Anne Frank.pdf – Created by Jennifer Norton, Regional Education Corps Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, to complement reading of The Diary of Anne Frank.

* The Danish Solution – From Snag Learning, this documentary film is a tribute to the “upstanders” of Denmark.  It details how the Danish were able to save many of Denmark’s Jewish population when the Nazi’s Final Solution was implemented.  There are even discussion questions on the page, but thanks to Holocaust Educators Network (HEN) educator Diane Williams, here are two more thought-provoking, guiding questions:

* What inspires us to act?  or Why act? (I think this is a question that gets to the root of what my students have grappled with over the years when studying the Holocaust – why did some act and some did not?)  This also allows them to look at fear as a motivator, principles, religious beliefs, humanitarian reasons.

*What forms of resistance are the most effective?  When and Why?

If you have Anne Frank resources to add to the list, we hope you will post a comment.

First Grader Filmmakers Help with Japan Relief Effort

antsAn up-and-coming screenplay writer in Skye Smith’s 1st grade classroom at Prairie Elementary also has a starring role in the soon-to-be-released video  Ants in Your Pants. With a bit of directing from her teacher and much encouragement and support from her classmates, this young writer has moved through the process of taking a story from a  draft to a multimedia production – one that will make a difference to the victims of Japan’s recent disaster.

“What started as a language arts activity soon blossomed into a social action project,” Smith explained. “As we studied about Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, my students wanted to do something to help the children. We have dedicated Ants in Your Pants to the children of Sendai, Japan.”

This group of students puts into practice the belief that “making the world better starts with us.” As for their Ants in Your Pants production, here are some thoughts they’ve shared in their daily writing journals:

* We want to help the children of Sendai, Japan…I will tell the children, ‘Do not be frightened. There will be a better future. We all love you.'”  (Jhertau)

* “I want them to feel safe again. ” (Pashia)

* “When the children of Japan see our movie, I know that it will make them smile. Even if it’s a little smile.”, (Dulce)

* “I want to say to the children,’ I am so sad you had an earthquake and I wish you were in (our movie) Ants in Your Pants.'” (Jason L.)

* “I will tell the children of Japan,  ‘Don’t be frightened, I will give you my copy of the movie (Ants In Your Pants) so you can laugh again.”‘ (Javier)

* “To the children of Japan, I’m sorry of the earthquake.  I want you to have food, water and clothes and sweaters. When you see our movie, you are going to laugh.  The movie name is Ants In Your Pants. It’s funny!” (Jennifer)

What a treat it is to visit  Skye Smith’s classroom and to see first-hand the level of student engagement, excitement, collaboration, and purpose!

Japan’s Disaster – From Learning to Action


If you are looking for projects that allow your students to take what they are learning about the aftermath of Japan’s  earthquake and transform learning into action, we recommend visiting the Students Rebuild website. This non-profit organization,  initially founded to help rebuild Haiti, is now partnering with to provide students with a worldwide way to help their Japanese peers: the Paper Cranes for Japan Project.

Thanks to foundation funding,  every origami paper crane students make can generate $2 towards Architecture for Humanity’s relief efforts. Visit the Students Rebuild site for more information.

If you and your students join the Paper Cranes for Japan project, please leave a comment and let us know. Be sure to include any lesson plans or resources you would recommend to other K-12 teachers.

As always, we moderate all comments, but will be checking this site often so that others can benefit from your insights.

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