Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Government: Do We Need It?

So, I guess there's some controversy over what's being taught in social studies these days.

Like this: Colorado?

And because we don't want to be accused of being biased, this: Colorado.

We're lucky enough to be able to teach some controversial topics here in 7th grade social studies.  And today, we're getting to it: government.

Mr. Helmuth asked the kids a couple questions today:  What is the purpose of government?  What does it do?  Do we (human beings/ Americans) need a government?  Is it necessary?  Why or why not?

Overall, the student responses were great.  There was some discussion about what governments do, don't do, and should do.  Mr. Helmuth tried to let the students lead the discussion, asking them a follow-up question here or there whenever appropriate.

After that, we discussed some key concepts - limited government, unlimited government, and rule of law - and we went over 7 different types of government.

There was relatively no controversy in the lesson.  But I'd like to point out that this is one of the benefits of this blog.  You get to know what's going on in the classroom - a classroom that may at times discuss issues which you have strong feelings about.

Here's the chart we filled out today:

If you weren't here, copy it down.

If you were here and want credit for reading and discussing the blog, you should have read it and discussed it with an adult.  If you've done that, find a scrap of paper, write down what's meant by an "unlimited government."  Then, have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the paper.

Turn it in tomorrow in the "extra credit tray."  ...Make sure your name, date, and hour are on it as well.  ...Do I really have to still say that?

Monday, September 29, 2014

New Post Tomorrow

I know some of you are out there eagerly awaiting my new post.  *Hi mom.*

We'll get one posted tomorrow.

For the record, we're on to government.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Globalization: The Good, The Bad, The Guilty

First of all, don't forget that my classes have a quiz tomorrow.  You may want to study.

Globalization: The Good

Countries (and individual people) produce what they have access to, and what they are good at producing.  We went to Banananovia - and this was great, because we couldn't grow bananas in northern Indiana.  (Or Northern Industralia - thanks to the anonymous person who left the comment).  We wouldn't be good at it.  Globalization allows us to get the things we want and need - as well as make money selling what we are good at producing.

Not only that, but it's cheap labor that is driving globalization.  Cheap labor means we make things for less - and that is good for us as consumers.  Consider this chart we looked at today:

The production cost is often reflected in the price - though not always.  ...I know I'm happy when I save money.

Globalization:  The Bad

As we saw from Banananovia, global culture is replacing local cultures.  The Banananovian culture has essentially died out - and if not died out, it has irrevocably been changed.  ...Changed and supplanted with our own culture.

Furthermore, globalization has allowed for the exploitation of workers in developing nations - formerly called third-world countries.  It allows companies to take advantage of places that don't (or won't) honor the rights of workers.  It allows them to move their base where the standard-operating-procedures wouldn't be deemed illegal - even if we all agree this is unethical.

Today we watched a Simpsons clip where Mr. Burns outsourced his nuclear power plant to India in order to exploit the workers.  You'll have to ask my students what they thought about the clip.

Globalization: The Guilty

We watched another short clip today as well.  Maybe you recall the 2013 Savar building collapse?  It was the factory in Bangladesh that collapsed - there weren't enough fingers to point out the blame.  Here's what we watched:

There is a reason we have safety regulations in these United States.  The question I posited to my students is, should we share in the guilt of these deaths?  This is not a mere rhetorical question.  I only wish we had more time to discuss it in class.

Some (hopefully) unbiased thoughts:  

  • Most of our clothes (98%) come from overseas; selection... what choice do we have?
  • Should we adapt to a smaller selection?
  • Some businesses treat their employees well - both at home and abroad.
  • Some factories exploit their workers.
  • Is it our place to fight for the rights of workers overseas?
  • Should we leave that up to their country?
  • Is it my responsibility to find out the working conditions of the people who made my clothes?
  • How is this similar from the north buying goods from the south during US slavery?
  • How is this different?
  • Should we share in the guilt?
You can see that tons and tons of tough questions can come up when we discuss globalization - or really, any aspect of social studies.  There is never enough time in the class day.  The biggest question is, "what is my role in all of this?"  And that one may be the most difficult to answer.

To get the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog today, you have to read and discuss it with an adult.  I would suggest focusing on some of the questions/thoughts mentioned in the bullet points.  Respond to a couple of those on a piece of scrap paper.  Have the adult you read and discussed with sign the paper.  (Make sure your name is on it as well.)  Turn it in tomorrow.

PS: Some classes also discussed this cartoon, which I originally saw in Jr. Scholastic:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Short and Sweet. ...Well, Short, At Least...

After yesterday's latitude and longitude review, we decided to spend a little bit more time on it.

There will be a portion of Friday's test/quiz devoted to this.  The continents and oceans will also be on there again.  I like to think of these things as easy points.

The other big concept we hit on today was another aspect of globalization.

Some things to consider;

Globalization is not new.

Technology is shrinking the world.

Technology has increased the rate of globalization.  Because we can contact foreign countries with the click of a mouse, or Face Time or Skype with them in seconds to minutes, they seem closer.  Furthermore, planes and high speed rail, let alone cars allow us faster access to foreign places, and all signs seem to indicate this trend will continue.

The search for cheap labor is driving globalization.

That's it.  That's the blog post for today.  If you want credit for reading it and discussing it with an adult, write down what the phrase "the search for cheap labor is driving globalization" means.  Then, to prove you read and discussed it with an adult, have the adult sign the paper.

Turn it in tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Technology Shrinking the World

Welcome back to blog, so good of you to join us! If you're visiting for the first time, make sure you tell your friends!

Mr. Helmuth here with a recap of today's festivities. Today we focused on the idea of technology shrinking the world. I asked the class to think of all their sources of technology, and how they use it to communicate.

Many of us are fortunate enough to communicate with people outside of the United States. While contact with the rest of the world is not a new idea, it is becoming much easier for us to make connections with others around the globe.

As technology increases, the world increases its communication, developing a common culture.

Many examples were given, including: Facebook, Skype, texting, email, phone calls, etc.

To make the day extra fun, we thought we would kick it off with a latitude and longitude quiz to see what remember.

Here's the map we looked at, via mapsoftheworld.

Remember that for the extra tonight you should read and discuss the blog with an adult, have them sign and date it, and turn it in tomorrow. For the extra credit, give me three examples how you think technology is shrinking our world.

Please keep in mind that we have a test on Friday, so give yourselves plenty of time to relax and study beforehand! See you tomorrow.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Death, Languages, and T-Shirts

HEY!!!  IT'S MONDAY!!!  :)

So, you may  have heard that the Banananovian culture died out...  or at least it is slowly dying out.

The language is no longer spoken anywhere - not even in Banananovia.

On Friday we looked at an example of this happening.  (I gave 10 points for the assignment which can be viewed or downloaded HERE.)  And this Scots dialect isn't an isolated example.  If you read the end of the article, you'll see this quote:

"There are some 6000 to 7000 languages in the world and it is estimated that they are disappearing at a rate of one every two weeks."

By this point, the students should have realized some of the benefits and consequences of globalization.  The Banananovians, for instance, improved their standard of living - had access to better medicine, a written language, electricity, etc... But they lost their culture (and their very identity) in the process.

I ask the students if our interactions with the Banananovians was positive or negative for them overall.  Of course, that's a horrible question, because 99% of my students will answer the same way: I think it was both.

So, reword: if we took could go back in time and take the trip again, should we?  You're in charge - do we take the trip or not?

I wanted them to think of it from the perspective of the Banananovians, but of course, some took it further and brought up that we made a lot of money - which led to the driving force behind globalization: money and the demand for cheap labor.

We traced the route of a t-shirt, and wondered why it costs less to have it made all over the world and shipped here.  And we watched the first minute or so of this video:

I suppose some of you want the extra credit, and you don't have the time to read any more.  Fair enough...  To get the extra credit, you were supposed to read and discuss this with an adult.  If you did that find a piece of paper and write down why it costs less for a sweatshirt or a T-shirt to be made in Bangladesh than in the United States.

Have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper.  Turn it in to the extra credit tray tomorrow.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Banananovia Part II

Man, we're rich.  We are STINKING RICH!!!!!!!

We have a monopoly on bananas, since nobody knows where they come from aside from us.  Our magic school bus flying school bus had been fixed, and the students came up with tons of stuff the Banananovians might be interested in: steak, pizza, shoes, electronics, cars, schools, our language, books, bananas...

It's crazy, but in almost every class I've got a joker who will say "bananas."

We took bananas back to Industralia, and manufactured goods back to Banananovia.  Over the course of several trips, and several years we became very wealthy.

Banananovia increased it's standard of living.  Before we arrived, the literacy rate was at 0%.  Now Banananovia has several schools.  It has several hospitals.  The infant mortality rate has dropped.  People are healthier.  They're living longer.  They don't need to make new clothes every two days.  Overall this has been a win-win for everybody involved.

But I was down in Banananovia the other day, and all at once it hit me: Where am I?

I looked around, and I didn't see anybody wearing the traditional Banananovian dress.  People everywhere were speaking English, wearing T-shirts and jeans.  They were going into McDonald's and ordering in English.  The Bananafest has barely any bananas.  They're selling cotton candy and corn dogs.

I was in Banananovia, but it sure felt like Elkhart, Industralia.

If you want extra credit, you're supposed to read and discuss this blog with an adult.  Once you've read and discussed it, find a scrap of paper.  To prove that you were here, write whether you think what happened to the Banananovians was a good thing, or a bad thing overall.  Then, write one sentence telling me why.  Finally, have the adult you read it with sign the paper.

Turn it in tomorrow.  (Make sure your name/date/hour is on it.)

For fun, here are some pictures of the Banana-dance.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Going Bananas

There are few things I get asked about more than Banananovia.  ...By former students, I mean.  Every year I'll have multitudes of 8th graders come up to me and ask if it's happened yet.

...Well, it's happened.  Today, students got to hear the first half of the story.  I've never recorded it before, and I'm a little worried it's going to lose something if I try to record it...  but who knows.  Mr. Helmuth agreed to give it a shot.  So, if you missed the story, there's a chance you'll get to watch it.

Here's what happened in the story today:

  • We took a trip in a Magic Flying School Bus
  • We crashed on an island shaped like a crescent moon
  • It was inhabited.
  • The people gave us bananas.
  • We'd never had bananas before.
  • They wore banana peels for clothes.
  • They ate only bananas.
  • They offered sacrifices of their first-fruits to their banana-god The Big Banana.
  • They spoke Banananovian.
  • They had the Banana-fest, and did the Banana-dance at it.
  • Their nourishment was lacking, as was their overall standard of living.
  • But they were hard-workers, polite, and very friendly.
  • We're still stuck on this annoyingly banana-infested island.

We'll finish off the story tomorrow.

Until then, thanks for checking the blog.  If you want extra credit, you're supposed to read and discuss the blog with an adult.  Maybe you could give them your version of how the story went in your class.  When you're done, find a piece of scrap paper and write two sentences telling me what you think should happen in the story tomorrow.

Have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper.

Turn it in tomorrow for extra credit.

Don't forget to fill out the CONTACT FORM if you haven't already.  (If you're here, you probably filled out the homework paper...)

For fun, here are some pictures:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Urbanization & Industrialization

Yesterday Mr. Helmuth taught the concept of urbanization to the students.  They had the option to move into the city and have more employment opportunities.

There's a bit of a cycle here: as people would move to cities, factories would spring up in cities - drawing more people.

When a country moves from agriculture (farming) to industries (factories) we call this industrialization.

That's the term we gave students today.  They had some questions from a map for bellwork.  Here's the map:

After that, we took some notes depicting the play between urbanization and industrialization.

Mr. Helmuth even let me use my mad artistic skills for the notes today...  He's so generous:

I should probably put all the picture notes in here, but there's just not time.  And you're probably running short on time at home, too.

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog with an adult, find a scrap of paper.  Adults, ask the student what urbanization and industrialization mean.  Have them write their definitions down on a piece of paper.  Then, have the adult sign the paper.

Turn it in tomorrow in the extra credit tray.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Leave it to Mr. Helmuth to come up with another great lesson.

Among other things we learned about urbanization today.  Urbanization deals with people moving from rural areas to urban areas (cities) usually for better job opportunities.

Mr. Helmuth had the center group be the city.  The groups around the center group were rural areas.  They farmed.  (Well, they had to draw pictures of farm produce.)  The people in the city produced other goods.  Then, Mr. Helmuth went around paying the agricultural group.  He paid them in scraps of paper.

After that, he paid the people living in the city.  ...He paid THEM in Skittles.

Finally, he said students were allowed to move somewhere else.  Obviously, students who were already in the city wanted to stay there to get more candy.  And the majority of the students wanted to be in that group as well, so they moved into the city.  And were paid in Skittles.

There were a few people who continued to farm.  Maybe they just liked it.  Maybe they didn't like Skittles.  Maybe the city group was over-crowded and they found that unpalettable.  Whatever the case, the activity worked.  It showed a majority of people moving to the cities (urbanization) in order to receive better pay.  While some people still stayed back to farm.

If you read and discussed this blog post with an adult - and you're in my class - you can earn some extra credit for it.  Simply write down what you decided - whether you decided to move or not - and tell why.  (If you were absent today, tell what you would have done.)  Then, have the adult you read it with sign the paper.

Turn it in tomorrow in the extra credit tray.


Friday, September 12, 2014

A Cultural Friday

As the title suggests, today is Friday, and we are back into culture!

This is Mr. Helmuth posting today; here is what we covered in class.

The bellwork asked us to write a short story using five of the ten ingredients of culture. The story could portray a real event, or it could be made up.

The important thing to remember for this assignment was that we wanted to give examples of the ingredients, and not just say which ingredient we were using.

Following the bellwork, we FINALLY finished off the culture notes, and jumped into a new assignment.

For this, the students were required to draw pictures of each of the ten ingredients of culture (food, government, religion, standard of living, language, values, arts, dress, customs, and ethnicity) without using words.

Due to our easy going nature, Mr. Habecker and I decided not to have the class complete this assignment as homework, so we will continue to work on it next week.

For the extra credit this weekend, tell us a story of something you did this weekend using at least 5 of the ten ingredients of culture,  underlining the ingredients as you go. After reading the blog with an adult, have them sign the paper, put your name, date, and hour on it, and turn it in Monday.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Explaining the Walk/ Finishing Up

Mr. Helmuth went over the stations of the 9/11 Gallery Walk today.  Surreal teaching moment: I had approximately 10 students who were born before the attacks.

Another surreal moment: Mr. Helmuth was in 3rd grade.  (No offense Mr. Helmuth... I'm sure you couldn't help it...)

He did a great job of breaking down the pictures.  Students often struggle with symbolism and intentional ambiguity.  Mr. Helmuth broke it all down for us though.

After we discussed each of the stations, we finished our culture notes.  (Maybe you should tell the person you're reading this with about one or two of the stations...)

The ingredients of culture are going to tie into everything we do for the rest of the year, so it's important that our students both know them, and explain their significance to culture.

It's a short blog today.  You're welcome.  If you want extra credit, you are supposed to have read and discussed the blog with an adult.  If you did that, write as many of the ingredients of culture as you can remember on a piece of paper.  Then, have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the paper.

Make sure your name, date and hour are on it, then place it in the "extra credit tray" tomorrow.

See you then.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

9/11 Gallery Walk

As Mr. Helmuth wrote yesterday, we did our 9/11 Gallery Walk today.

We looked at editorial cartoons/ political cartoons that were written about September 11th.  Each cartoon had several questions, which became progressively more difficult.  I began by asking students what they saw in the picture, moved to what students thought the objects/people represented, and then into what point the students believed the cartoon was trying to make.

Overall, I thought the activity went really well.  Here are some pictures:

If you want extra credit for reading/discussing the blog with an adult today, write two sentences telling what you thought about this activity.  Have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the paper, then turn it in tomorrow.  Feel free to remind your friends that they can do extra credit for my class every night.  On Instagram or whatever.  Yeah... whatever you kids use these days.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Gallery Walk and 9/11

*Don't forget to bring in the "made in ____________" tags.  They're due tomorrow.*

Hello everyone, and happy Tuesday. This is Mr. Helmuth reporting on the day's activities.

Today we continued to study the events of September 11, 2001, and we viewed some of the news clips that chronicled the events "as they happened."

A major goal of class today was to try and understand the events from the point of the individuals.

Following the news clips, we then participated in Mr. Habecker's "gallery walk," in which the students walk around the class viewing different political cartoons from the era. The students answered questions at each of the stations they visited.

An example of a political cartoon can be viewed below:

For the extra credit tonight, discuss with an adult the meaning of the cartoon above. Write this response on a piece of paper, have the adult sign it and turn it in tomorrow. Make sure to include your name and date as well! 

Monday, September 8, 2014

9/11 Just Another Day

We're taking a break from cultures to discuss September 11, 2001.

We'll spend 2 days on this, and then get back into cultures/ globalization/ ethnocentrism/ industrialization/ etc...

I don't want to belabor the points here on the blog.  It's an emotionally draining topic to teach.

We'll watch 4 short videos, and then do a gallery walk of political cartoons drawn shortly after the attacks.

Watching the first video now, I do find it interesting that more than a decade later, we're having some of the same debates: drones, how do we handle the Middle East, should Michael Jordan come back to the NBA?

...Ok... most of us probably aren't talking about that last one anymore.  But the issue of drones continues to be bigger and bigger deal.  And the Israeli/Palestinian conflict?  ...?

Today we also watched part of The Initial Bulletins. Here it is, in case you're interested:

If you want the extra credit today, you were supposed read and discuss the blog with an adult.  To prove you did this, ask your parents (or whoever you read this with) how America changed directly after 9/11.  Write down 3 sentences of their response on a scrap of paper, and then have them sign it, and turn it in tomorrow.  (Make sure your name, date and hour are on it as well.)

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Yarn About Globalization

My colleague/ student teacher came up with a great activity, which he taught in class yesterday.

You may be aware that we've been discussing what we mean by "culture."  And we've discussed some of the various aspects and ingredients that go into making a culture.  ...What is it that gives a group of people a collective identity?

Well, Mr. Helmuth took it to the next level - one culture interacting with another culture.  If you're an adult, you may recognize this as globalization.  If you're one of my students visiting the blog... you should definitely recognize this as globalization, since we just had a lesson on it.

Mr. Helmuth split the class into groups of countries.  Each country had a major export listed.  Bangladesh exported clothing, Saudi Arabia exported oil, etc...  He then took a ball of yarn, and started in one group.  That group had to determine what it wanted.  It passed the yarn to another group - so if it wanted grain, it would pass the yarn to the United States, establishing a trade partnership.

Because different cultures often speak different languages, and have various other cultural obstacles to overcome, speaking at all was not allowed in this activity.  ...Ok... this also made the activity easier to control.  If the students broke the rules and spoke, Mr. Helmuth came around with a pair of scissors and cut the yarn... stupid break-down in trade.  Sometimes he was the U.N. imposing sanctions.  Bravo, Helmuth!

By the end, an elaborate web of trade was woven all around the classroom:

This activity introduced many topics that could come up later in the year, and which may be used as a reference point later - even if we didn't explicitly discuss it yesterday.  (For instance, this illustrates the idea of economic interdependence, quite well - but we didn't give that term yet.)

If you want the extra credit, you were supposed to read and discuss the blog with an adult.  To prove that you did that, go to google, and type "Define interdependence."  Then, find a scrap of paper and write the first sentence of the definition.  Have the adult you discussed the blog with sign the paper.  If you want to discuss it further, go ahead.  But if you'd rather watch football or something, go ahead.  Thanks for stopping by. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Continents and Culture - AND LAT LONG VID!!!

So, Mr. Jerlecki's digital media corp finished editing the video footage from our latitude/longitude activity.  You can check it out at the bottom of the post.  I'll talk about it more later... but I wanted to mention it, since I know that is the reason several of you stopped by.

Today we continued our discussion of culture - and what makes a culture.

But we also spent a lot of time on the continents.  Since the majority of students have aced their continents and oceans test, we can spend some time deconstructing all the ideas they have built up during the course of their education thus-far.

If you want to know exactly what I meant, you'll have to watch this video...  We watched it twice:

If you came here to get extra credit for reading and discussing the blog with an adult, you have to read and discuss it with an adult.  ...If you did that - BAM!  You're in luck.  You just have to prove it by writing two sentences telling me whether the adult that read the blog with you also watched the "What Are Continents?" video.  ...If they did (and I hope they did) ask them what they thought about it, and write another sentence telling me what they thought.  Have them sign it.  Then, put your name, date and hour on it, and turn it in tomorrow.  Five free points!!

P.S.  Now, I know some of you are here to see the video from the activity.  The other day we went around the school using latitude and longitude to guide us.  It went really well.  It gauged how well students knew latitude and longitude, but it also showed them how to follow a map.  Like I said at the top, it was edited by Mr. Jerlecki's Digital Media Corp.  That was nice, because it gave me some free time, and allowed them to have added practice video editing.  Win-win.  Check it out if you have time.  Maybe you're even in it!


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Culture and Cake

After a long weekend, its nice to see everyone back and wide awake today! Mr. Helmuth here with another guest blog post.

Today in class we began with a memory map, which asked us to draw the world and label the continents and oceans. The goal of this assignment was to see how fast we could label these items, and not worrying so much about our drawing skills.

Following the map, we were introduced to the cake that makes our world so different: Culture!

We managed to touch on a few aspects of culture, which we compared to a cake. Similar to a recipe, culture requires ten BIG ingredients: food, customs, religion, standard of living, dress, arts, values, language, government, and ethnicity. 

And remember, while these ingredients are important, there are many other ingredients that can be added for extra flavor. We named history, education, and "swagger" as other possible ingredients. 

For the extra credit tonight, discuss with a parent an aspect of your family's culture, write down what they say, have them sign it, and turn it in tomorrow.