Monday, December 29, 2008

Links to History:

As educators and historians we can all appreciate a good timeline. Timelines are a great tool to use in the classroom to give the students perspective and an ability analyze dates and events in sequential order and it's a way that kids learn, without knowing they're learning. Try having thee kids make a timeline of important events in a chapter instead of answering questions at the end. I guarantee they'll be more engaged.

If you're lucky, you have a computer lab or a laptop cart where you can have the kids create timelines online, check off that technology quota and draw them in even more.
Here are several places to do that.

You can find a plethora of timelines and links to timelines on my US History website:

But here's the timeline creator of all timelines -

This is not your typical timeline. TimeRime takes time lines to the next level by adding a level of interactivity with images, a scrolling feature and so much more which can't possibly be described. You'll just have to see it for yourself.

Though making a timeline with TimeRime could take a considerable amount of time, the results can be fantastic. Imagine the ideas you can bring to the table with pictures, and words with perspective of what came first, second and so on.

Below, I've embedded a timeline of Barrack Obama from to give you a sense of some of the capabilities.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Brief History of the "Americanization" of Christmas

I think we can all agree that the modern day Christmas holiday is a far cry from the true meaning of celebration of the nativity. And though there are still many Americans who do celebrate the birth of Christ. Those that do break bread and un-wrap gifts with visions of wise man dancing in their heads, still have a lot owed to the minds behind the Americanization of Christmas.

Let's start with Santa Claus. The name Santa Claus is derived from St. Nicklaus. Nicholas lived sometime during the 3rd century in what is now the southern coast of Turkey. Nicholas was known for his generosity and his patronage to the poor, so the idea of Santa Claus is no stretch. And holidays celebrating St. Nicholas.

But what's the deal with the flying reindeer? And what's with the sneakiness through the chimney? These things, along with idea for Rudolph are pure 19th and 20th century American adaptations.

The image of the jolly old elf was developed from the 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas," better known now as "The Night Before Christmas." The poem's authorship has been disputed over the years, but what is truly remarkable is the imagination to turn St. Nick into a sleigh riding elf who used magical flying reindeer to descend onto the roofs of good girls and boys.

The 8 tiny reindeer were purely a product of the author's imagination. Regardless of whether the author is Clement C. Moore or Henry Livingston, millions of kids still check the weather reports and check the night sky to make sure Ol' St. Nick can get to their house safely.

Here's the vision of St. Nicholas from the poem.

"He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf. . ."

But these were just words, the true look of Santa came from the famous political cartoonist, Thomas Nast. In 1863 Nast was commissioned to draw a series of annual drawings of the Santa Claus in Harper's Weekly. His drawings, based on the descriptions from the poem and an earlier Dutch representation of the character. The drawings continued through 1886 and helped to shape the Santa Claus we know and love today.

For a more robust story of the history of St. Nicholas, click on the link below.

And then there's Rudolph. Believe it or not, Rudolph came to be as a marketing ploy to entice people to shop at Montgomery Ward. The departments store would release an annual coloring book as a gimmick to promote holiday shopping. In 1939, one of Montgomery Ward's copywriters, Robert L. May, came up with the idea for an ostracized reindeer with whom it would be easy to sympathize. The story was a hit, and thus a promotion to sell more toys has turned into an American holiday icon.

Even Snopes is on the great Rudolph caper:

Leave it to the great United States to everything bigger, better and brighter!

If you've got some time, here's a pretty informational video about the History of Christmas.

The history of Santa starts at 28:26 into the video, and Rudolph starts at 34.56

Further reading:

Santa Claus: A Biography

Nicholas: The Epic Journey from Saint to Santa Claus


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Boston Tea Party 235th Anniversary

The 235th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party is set for December 16. To commemorate the event the National Constitution Center will unveil The Robinson Tea Chest.

The Robinson Tea Chest? What the heck is the Robinson Tea Chest?

According to history, on December 16, 1773, exactly 342 tea chests were dumped into Boston Harbor in protest of the new tax on tea. The Robinson Tea Chest is one of the lucky surviving tea chests that can trace it's origin to that fateful night.

Along with the chest, the NCC will also display related newspaper articles from the Masachusetts Gazette and the Boston Weekly Newsletter, from December 9, 1773.

The display will also include letters and photographs that chronicle the chest’s history from the time it was recovered in Boston Harbor, December 17, 1773, to now.

If you haven't made a trek to Philadelphia to see the Constitution Center, let alone Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Thomas Jefferson's temporary housing, Ben Franklin's house, Betsy Ross's house, etc... then you're missing out. Come to Philadelphia, let me know, we'll meet for a beer.

On another note, the Old South Meeting House holds an annual event commemorating the Boston Tea Party. The old building is the place where more than 5,000 colonists gathered on December 16, 1773 in turn starting the Boston Tea Party.

For more information, or to plan a trip there next year, go to their website:


Links to History: Teaching Economics

Today's trying economic times is enough to make you rethink the direction of our education system and ponder the thought of what is most important in education?

Is it the ability to reduce algebraic equations? Is understanding the leadership qualities of Alexander the Great really that important? What about knowing all of the prepositions and understanding that you shouldn't end a sentence with one of them? Or better yet... how about the value of a dollar and how credit works?

Yep, that could undoubtedly help in times like these.

My first 2 years of teaching, I taught economics, in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a great class, and really engages the students because it is real life... and they knew that. I didn't take economics in high school. I don't even think it was offered. I teach now in Philadelphia, PA and I don't think economics is an option. But it should be.

It is a great thing to foster a young entrepreneur and let them hash out there ideas in a business plan. Young entrepreneurship is what is going to keep this company afloat. And with the advancement of technology, the next great entrepreneur could undoubtedly come from a 12th grade classroom.

Entrepreneurship is all around and the future of our country depends on it. Fortunately there are plenty of foundations out there that help to foster ideas by way of education, support and grants, and help any entrepreneur with taking an idea to fruition. One such place is the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. (

The Kauffman Foundation is dedicated to creating a society of economically sound individuals who can contribute positively to their community in the form of staring a business or understanding business from a broader perspective.

The Kauffman Foundation has plenty of free resources for teachers and students. Choose from newsletters, RSS feeds and fact sheets.. they're all free, so check 'em out here.

One of the current resources highlighted on the site discusses math, science and technology in the classroom and see how parents and students truly feel about the current curriculum being taught in school.

I know I'm upset that Pennsylvania doesn't teach Economics. I loved teaching the subject. I became certified in Business Technology which has some economics, just so I could teach when given the chance. But alas, apparently it's not important enough to include in the core curriculum. Entrepreneurship and simple economics should definitely be a priority in any district.

Young entrepreneurship is nothing to shy away from. If anybody knows of any other foundations, or grants out there to help bring economics into schools, please share them.