BlogWalker

Muddling through the blogosphere

February 2, 2020
by blogwalker
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Adding a New Chapter to Time of Remembrance

I have blogged about and referenced the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project many times in recent and past years. I first shared about the TOR project in 2007 (Time of Remembrance: Move Over Ken Burns!), blogging that I would soon be documenting the stories of Japanese-American citizens in the Florin-Elk Grove region (south of Sacramento, California) who, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, faced discrimination, exclusion, and forced removal from their communities. Thanks to my district’s partnership with the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC), their talented videographer Doug Niva joined me and my colleague Kathleen Watt on the journey, filming and editing professional quality interviews with over 30 former internees.

Five years ago Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly, a City Councilman at the time, shared a little known story from the Vietnam War with our superintendent. Steve had learned about our TOR World War II project and asked that we consider documenting the Secret War in Laos. As a refugee from the Secret War, he thought it important for the Elk Grove community to know about the  many ways Hmong and Mien (two growing populations in Elk Grove) had supported U.S. troops during our involvement in the Vietnam War.

Steve Ly was the first interviewee in our Vietnam War section of the TOR project.

Thanks to Steve’s recommendations and the continued commitment by the SECC to bring history alive, we now have 16 interviews from our Hmong and Mien community. Their interviews provide invaluable insights to understanding the challenges faced by refugees, such as language barriers, cultural differences, huge shifts in geography, and loss of homeland and heritage.

We also have interviews with American pilots (“Ravens”) who flew secret missions over Laos, which stand as a testimony to the contributions and sacrifices of their brave “backseaters”/”Robins”.

This week we will be transforming our former Student Gallery page to a broader topic: On Coming to America. The On Coming to America page will still feature student-led interviews, but also teacher and community-led interviews, all with the common thread/theme of the challenges, contributions, and resilience of our immigrant and refugee populations.

Our first spotlight story is an interview with author, poet, community activist, and Holocaust survivor Hannie Voyles.

In 2011, my Chico friend (and TOLI colleague) Pam Bodnar contacted me to share that she had invited Chico resident Hannie Voyles, a Holocaust survivor from the Netherlands, to share her survivor story with a group of students at Marsh Middle School. Minutes after Hannie’s visit, Pam called to recommend that Doug Niva and I come to Chico to interview Hannie. We did.

Note: To quickly access specific parts of Hannie’s interview, here is the link to the time codes and short descriptors. Thank you to Doug Niva and our partnership with the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC) for filming the interview.

Nine years later, I connect with Hannie on every opportunity I can find – including four bike & barge trips across the Netherlands (with a 5th trip coming up in August). With each visit and each trip, Hannie provides me with another window into her childhood in Amsterdam, where she attended the same Montessori school as Anne Frank before the Nazis invaded.

Last week I drafted a lesson to accompany Hannie’s interview. As always, I sought feedback from Kathleen. We soon had the lesson ready to share, along with a teacher’s guide. Accordingly, the On Coming to America page (formerly the Student Gallery page) of the TOR website now includes a link to Hannie’s interview, along with time codes and descriptors (so students/teachers can quickly move the YouTube bar to specific parts of the interview).

We anticipate more Holocaust interviews to come, starting with “second gen” authors: journalist Judy Fertig Panneton and former teacher Joan Arnay Halperin.

If you know Holocaust survivors or “second gen children” in the greater Sacramento region who would be willing to share their stories, please leave a comment. I strongly believe in the power of story to change hearts and minds – and the need to document first-hand and second-hand accounts before they are forgotten and lost.

“We must keep this history at the forefront of our collective memory, to prevent other individuals or groups from suffering as we did. We are always vulnerable to societal weaknesses;we are not too wise to repeat ourselves.”     Hannie J. Voyles, Storming the Tulips

As always, we invite students to document On Coming to America stories from their families, school districts, and communities – and share them with us via the TOR website.

 

August 5, 2019
by blogwalker
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Can We Stop History from Repeating Itself?

For the past twelve years ago, I been posting about a project I’ve had the privilege of co-directing for my district: The Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project.

Initially, the project focused solely on a World War II event: The mass removal of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the onset of War War II.

Literally overnight, an entire population was denied the rights guaranteed to all citizens under the U.S. Constitution, and the history of the communities surrounding my school district was forever changed. Few would return to reclaim their farms, businesses, or former lives. The 16-minute documentary below provides a window into a time in our nation’s history when justice failed – and, more importantly,  a reminder of the need to constantly strive for a “more perfect union.”

As you can see from visiting the Time of Remembrance website, my co-director Kathleen Watt and I have expanded upon the project to include The Secret War in Laos, stories of our Hmong and Mien refugee community. Not surprisingly, there are many connections between the stories of WWII and the Vietnam War.

This year, we have returned to these timely and timeless WWII stories, always inspired by lessons learned from our interviews. More recently, Stan and Christine Umeda have drawn our attention to some similarities in what is happening at our southern border.

Scene from border protests regarding separation of families.

Image from 2019 border protests, via Christine Umeda. #StopRepeatingHistory

To see senior citizens (80+ years) standing up for those who have no voice speaks volumes. Considering they themselves were silenced during WWII, as they were stripped of the rights guaranteed to all U.S. citizens, their voice and commitment to social justice should resonate with everyone following current immigration events.

Photo from Sacramento Bee, showing Marilee Tsukamoto, Christine Umeda, and others at the border, protesting separation of families.

Christine Umeda and Marielle Tsukamoto at a July 2 immigration protest outside Sacramento federal courthouse.

I stand in awe of Christine, Stan, Marielle, and other members of the Florin Japanese American Citizens League for traveling to the border to speak out against the separation of families, a traumatic childhood experience from the incarceration experience that still haunts them – and moves them to take civic action.

And thank you, Christine, for sharing the resources listed below:

Can we stop history from repeating itself? Yes – by eliminating bystanders. It is through the courage and actions of upstanders, even a small group of upstanders, that it is indeed possible to reverse history.

#UpstandersNotBystanders

If you are discussing the border issues in your classroom, I invite you and your students to post a comment on how to #StopRepeatingHistory.

Christine Umeda and friend outside Heart Mountain relocation Center Barrack

Christine Umeda – Heart Mountain Relocation Center

 

 

On Coming to America Featured Image

January 7, 2017
by blogwalker
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On Coming to America – Small Moments, Big Meanings

We are a nation of immigrants.” Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, etc.

The greatest gift we can give someone is the gift of their history.” HmongStory40

Yes, we are a nation of immigrants. I am fortunate to work in a school district that is yearly enriched by its history of cultural diversity. Last year, in recognition and celebration of the experiences, challenges, and contributions of those who have come to America, I collaborated on the Coming to America – Small Moments, Big Meanings Lesson and Teacher’s Guide. This year, I am adding another resource: On Coming to America Hyperdoc.*

Both these online lessons are invitations to your students to interview, document, and publish the story of an immigrant or refugee, with a shared goal of:

  • Introducing students to the differences between an “immigrant” and a “refugee”
  • Providing a collection of primary source interviews (videos) with recent refugees
  • Providing guidelines for students to step into the role of oral historians by conducting an interview
  • Encouraging students to publish their Small Moments, Big Meanings projects to an authentic audience via several online options.

On Coming to America Hyperdoc Lesson Graphic

I have posted before about the Time of Remembrance Project’s recently added Student Gallery. The Student Gallery is one of the suggested publishing venues for On Coming to America – Small Moments, Big Meanings, especially via the hyperdoc.

How about your school or district? Have your students had the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and do the work of an oral historian? If not, I can promise that in the process of interviewing an immigrant or refugee, they will discover what I have learned: history happens one story at a time. It would be an honor to showcase your students’ On Coming to America projects.

Questions? Suggestions? Please leave a comment. Let the conversations begin!

*Note: The term “hyperdoc” stems from the ever-amazing Lisa Highfill’s commitment to use tools (such as Google Docs/Slides/Sheets) to create lessons with access to “instructions, links, tasks… to get kids thinking.”

May 5, 2012
by blogwalker
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Thank You, Scholastic

There was a time when I was not a proponent of students’ having access to technology during class time. Twenty years ago, when we moved from San Francisco to a semi-rural district in the Sierra foothills, I pulled my then 1st grade son  out of a 1×1 desktop class he had been assigned to for a little remedial work in English/language arts.  I was not OK with his being plugged in for drill all morning.  He needed more opportunities to interact, listen, and speak, not multiple-choice exercises done in isolation.   Funny how quickly his reading, writing, and speaking skills jumped following his departure from the 1×1 desktop environment.

Image from http://www.scholastic.com/home

The following year, I was hired at the middle school in the same district.  And there, thanks to Scholastic, I came to embrace and advocate for technology as part of my 6th grade humanities program.  It started with Scholastic’s Authors Online program.  As I handed out Scholastic’s monthly book order form (another great Scholastic product), I noticed an invitation to sign up for an online discussion with author R.L. Stine, a favorite of many of my students.  Well, by the time I was able to get my computer hooked to the external box required for an Internet connection at that time (thereby becoming the first classroom in El Dorado County connected to the Internet), R.L. Stine had finished his 2-week session.

We were in time for a two-week round with Paul Zindel, author of Loche.  Neither my students nor I were familiar with this author, but, oh my, what an impact he had on a number of them, including a few very, very reluctant readers.  As students engaged with Zindel on an interactive writing assignment to change “telling writing” to “showing writing,” I was blown away by both their  level of engagement and their earnest desire to write something that was truly “good” (as opposed to “good enough”).

The following year, Scholastic opened the world of current events to my students by connecting them with Zlata Flipovic, young author of Zlata’s Diary, her first-hand accounts of surviving the Bosnian genocide.  Thanks to Scholastic, our tiny, semi-rural district no longer seemed as remote and isolated as it once had.

I’m in another district now and working as a technology integration specialist.  Although I do not have my own classroom, I often send great Scholastic resources on to teachers, such as:

Yesterday I visited Richard Byrne’s Free Technology for Teachers blog – and discovered another great resource from Scholastic: An Interactive Timeline of U.S. Immigration.  This rich resource includes five eras:  A New Land, Expanding America, The American Dream, A Place of Refuge, and Building a Modern America. Each era includes a video, such as the video below, which was  filmed at the Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, with a historical interpreter taking on the role of Miles Standish:

Typical of Scholastic, each immigration era includes teacher guides and resources (books, teaching ideas, printables). Twenty years later, I’d like to thank you, Scholastic, for continuing to provide resources that take technology options far beyond multiple choice and that promote a love of reading and a window into events of the past for our students.
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