Oral History of the Skagit River Watershed for Grades 9-10
- Grades: 9–12
- Unit Plan:
My experience of the Skagit River has convinced me that an oral history of farming in Pleasant Plains, where I'm from in Illinois, would be valuable not only for historical reasons, but also because it could elucidate the problems of modern farming. Perhaps it might even suggest a new approach to farming that would be more in harmony with the environment, as well as more profitable. Local farmers appear to be surviving to a large degree on government subsidies, which require that they grow corn, soybeans, or wheat; this lack of biodiversity - not to mention chemical fertilizers and pesticides - can hardly be good for the soil or the ecosystem.
Furthermore, I think it would benefit young people of the community to learn what the farming life was like for their elders in earlier times. They might gain more respect for them, as well as for the land and nature. They could also help devise solutions to real problems, instead of the hypothetical problems typical of schoolwork. In my experience, such abstract work tends to bore students and renders them unmotivated.
- Use graphic organizers to order their questions and discoveries.
- Demonstrate an understanding of content by participating in a question and answer discussion of their reading.
- Use a variety of technological and informational resources to conduct research about their state's past and present Native American cultures.
- Gather, evaluate and synthesize data from a variety of sources.
- Communicate their discoveries in the form of a presentation or an informational essay.
- Self-evaluate their own research and presentation.
- Trace historical developments of a specific culture
- Identify the values, lifestyles, and cultures of varied Native American groups
Set Up and Prepare
- There are three expeditions within the Native American Cultures online activity. As you plan your lessons, you may wish to print out any reading assignment pages and staple them into a book for individual students. Depending on time available, the grade level, and maturity level of each class, activities can be facilitated as independent work, collaborative group work, or whole class instruction.
- If a computer is available for each student, students can work on their own. Hand out the URLs or write them on the board so students will have a guide through the activity.
- If you are working in a lab, set up the computers to be on the desired Web site as students walk into class. If there are fewer computers than students, group the students by reading level. Assign each student a role: a "driver" who navigates the web, a timer who keeps the group on task, and a note taker. If there are more than three students per computer, you can add roles like a team leader, a team reporter, etc.
- If you are working in a learning station in your classroom, break out your class into different groups. Have rotating groups working on the computer(s), reading printed field sites and field reports, holding smaller group discussions, researching and writing about local Native American cultures.
- Learn as much as possible about farmers and farming in the area from the 19th century on through newspaper and magazine clippings as well as Internet and library research. Include research on the Native American who originally lived here and how they interacted with the first settlers.
- Compile a list of people to be interviewed, including students' own relatives, names culled from research, talking to Brandt Fertilizer Company, farmers at the local diner coffee klatch, etc, and then set up interviews. Students should draw up interview questions, with teacher's approval. The interviews could take place at the school in the classroom or in the subject's home and recorded on tape. At least two students should be designated to take notes and type them up separately, and then compare and combine. Make a point of tape-recording the farmers talking in the diner in early morning, for historical record.
- Pinpoint any pollution problems in the community and surrounding areas from agricultural chemicals. Do research on the environmental studies that have been done in the area. Contact the EPA and State Museum to determine what kind of measurements might be might be taken in local streams, soil, etc. Investigate the utility of bird count as an indicator of the health of the ecosystem.
- Do research on possible alternative crops that might thrive in Sangamon Valley soil and climate conditions, without the addition of chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers; research should include whether there is a large enough market for the crops to be economically viable for local farmers to grow. As part of their research, students might also test growing various crops.
- At the end of the year, the students should write a report on their conclusions after they have read all the interview notes and examined all environmental and horticultural data. They should include their own suggestions for possible solutions or future directions.
- Each class should add to the previous year's compilations, achieving ever-greater clarity on the issues and appropriate solutions as time goes on. This project would be the ultimate in multidisciplinary study, and I think it is something that could energize the entire student body.
Supporting All Learners
This project aids students in meeting national standards in several curriculum areas.
Reading Language Arts
International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
- Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- Students use spoken, written, and visual language for learning, persuasion, and exchange of information.
- Students conduct research by gathering, evaluating, and synthesizing data from a variety of sources, and then communicate their discoveries to different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- Students use a variety of technological and informational resources (i.e. libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and communicate knowledge.
- Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.
- Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems.
National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
- Culture (Students study culture and cultural diversity.)
- Individuals, Groups, and Institutions (Students study interactions among individuals, groups, and institutions.)
- Time, Continuity, and Change (Students study how the world has changed in order to gain perspective on the present and the future.)
- Production, Distribution, and Consumption (Students study how people organize for the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.)
Technology Foundation Standards for Students:
- use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity
- use technology tools to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences
- use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences
- use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources
- use technology tools to process data and report results.
Have students write a research paper on the culture and the change of culture of Native Americans. Depending on the maturity of the students and the amount of time available, have students write about one of the expeditions or compare two or more of the expeditions. Students can also look at one of the cultures and research the change of that culture over time. Students should follow the step-by-step process of the Writing Workshop: Writing a Research Paper where they will be guided on the steps of writing a research paper. Students can also use the Research Starter on Anasazi and Pueblo Indians to get the background on their chosen topic.
See Research Writing Rubric for help on assessing student papers. Use the writing rubric as a way to assess your students' writing skills. This rubric can also serve as a model for a modified version that might include your state's writing standards.
Informal Assessment Ideas:
After students present their information, have students read the "Evaluation section" of the "Be an Explorer" section. Ask them to write a self-evaluation. Students should ask themselves questions such as:
- Did my research answer my original question?
- Were my facts organized?
- Was my presentation in the best format?
- Did I present my information in a clear and cogent manner?
- What did I like best about my presentation?
- What could I have done better?
Meet with students to discuss their self-evaluations.