More Than Dates & Names: Because Social Studies Doesn’t Have to Be Boring

As part of Dr. Melissa Gibson’s class Teaching Middle Secondary Social Science, students are asked to think about social studies in a new light — and throughout the course, their perceptions do shift. Through blogging during the semester, we can see these changes in the students’ own words. Read on to learn along with our students!

Originally posted on January 8, 2019 on the “This Is Social Studies” Blog

There is social studies all around us, if we we’d just look up from our lecture notes. Black Cat Alley, Milwaukee. © Gibson 2019

By Melissa Gibson

When we begin a semester learning about how to teach social studies, I ask my students about their own K12 experiences. Of course, the students who aspire to be high school social studies teachers are in love with what they are going to teach, and they usually tell me about a history teacher who told great stories, got them to write a million DBQs, or knew everything there was to know about an obscure general in the Civil War. They glow, but I think: Geez, that was EXACTLY what I avoided in high school (when I took AP everything BUT social studies).

The collection of writing from undergraduate teacher education students in my methods classes at Marquette shows the ways that they are coming to understand and enact a different kind of social studies teaching and learning.

The elementary education students in class are usually nervous to tell me what they think—I am their social studies professor, after all, and their experiences were not nearly as memorable. With some prodding, I often get: Boring. Memorizing dates and names. Re-enacting Thanksgiving. Textbooks. One or two students will light up with the memory of a teacher who dressed up like historical figures, or orchestrated role play experiences; every once in a while, someone will gush with the memory of a pet research project on Helen Keller or the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I then tell them that my goal for our semester together is to transform the way they think about what social studies is and how they can bring it to life when they teach it. We start with the why: Why not just go about business as usual? On the elementary level, it takes very little convincing; after all, they already told me that social studies was boring. When we layer in the causes and repercussions of that boredom—in light of racial inequalities in schools, in light of making schools welcoming for all students, in light of children as citizens, in light of education as empowerment—we start to shift from talking about fun to talking about “reading the word and reading the world,” as Paulo Freire has urged us to do. Secondary education students take a little more convincing; after all, they sit before me preparing to be social studies teachers precisely because they loved their K12 social studies experiences. So we also delve deeply into the socialpolitical, and cultural ramifications of how, historically, we’ve chosen to teach social studies. What does it mean that we have often perpetuated mythology in history class, as James Loewen has shown? What does it mean that the many traditional approaches to social studies lie about race, power, and inequality, as Gloria Ladson-Billings has argued? What does it mean that many civics lessons emphasize compliance and rote memorization rather than social action and public decision-making, that they tell students to let adults do the work instead of helping students become competent civic actors now, as Nicole Mirra and Antero Garcia have posited?

• • •

This first issue of This Is Social Studies is a testament to powerful transformations. The collection of writing from undergraduate teacher education students in my methods classes at Marquette shows the ways that they are coming to understand and enact a different kind of social studies teaching and learning. In the first set of pieces, “Exploring Social Studies,” you’ll read about students applying what we’ve been learning in class to their own lives and experiences out in the world. In the second set of pieces, “Teaching Social Studies,” students share resources that they’ve either curated or created to enact a critical, inquiry-based social studies in the classroom.

I also want to recommend reading about the journeys of three secondary teachers, who spent a semester deepening their knowledge on a specific topic and then designing a critical, inquiry-based unit around it. Head to these pages to access their fantastic resources for middle and high school teachers:

  • “Why is Milwaukee the most segregated city in America?” Civil Rights & Segregation in Milwaukee by Angela Scavone

 

  • “How do we define Milwaukee?” Geography & Gentrification in Milwaukee by Brigid N

 

  • “How does a society decide what to remember about historical events?” The Civil War by Carrie Sikich

 

  • “Is the Vietnam War over?” The Vietnam War & the Hmong-American community by Madison Laning

• • •

We hope these posts inspire you to transform social studies in your classrooms, too.

Getting to Know Our Students: Meet Sam Knudson

This fall, we are spending time getting to know our students! You can get to know more of our students and our faculty/ staff on previous posts. Read on to meet Samantha Knudson, one of our Noyce Scholars in the Masters in STEM Teaching Program.

rebecca-sam-2018I grew up in the country on a dead-end road in the very small town of Mindoro, WI, and I graduated from high school with 54 people in my class. I started at Luther College in Decorah, IA, before transferring to UW-Madison where I studied wildlife ecology. I had never been to Marquette’s campus prior to accepting and starting this program! My family is your average small-town family, I’m super close with my parents and brother. I have one younger brother (three years younger) who is my best friend. The road we live on is actually named after our family!

My favorite educational experience is studying abroad in Ecuador. I took a tropical ecology and conservation summer course, and I was able to do things I never thought I would. We studied howler monkeys in the dry forest, hiked in the cloud forest, swam in the Tiputini River, and climbed to a platform at the top of a Ceiba tree in the rainforest early in the morning to go birding. There we got to see the rainforest come to life. We saw the sunrise, birds, monkeys and toucans, it was breathtaking.

The NSF Noyce Program is helping to shape me as an educator by opening my eyes to many things I was unaware of coming from a small town. The program does a great job at getting you in the field and on your feet right away! I can’t believe how much I have already learned just in the summer and fall portion of the program.

I love being outdoors and being active and creative! I enjoy snowboarding, turkey and deer hunting, fishing, scrapbooking, and spending time with my friends and family. Working out or running is my go to. Whenever I get stressed it is so nice to be able to just free myself from the world for a bit. I also love to quilt but have a hard time finding the time to do so. My cat, Pizza, thinks all the material I lay out is for him to play with so when I find time, it isn’t always the most productive. I also love to cook but hate cleaning up afterwards. If you are interested in a hobby or activity, go for it! And stick with it! Someone is always there to teach you and help you. My dad introduced me to all the outdoorsy things, my aunt taught me how to quilt, and my mom always has the answers to my cooking questions. Take the initiative to reach out and do what interests you!

I like to think back to the teachers I had in school and the reasons why I liked them so much. When looking back, I always pick up on the kind and caring traits of my school band director. He really took the time to get to know his students. I want to create the same safe, exciting and caring atmosphere, and I aim to similarly connect and inspire my students in my future science classroom. I was also fortunate to have a very passionate ecology teacher who implemented many hands-on activities that got students outside of the typical classroom, which was a factor in my decision to pursue a degree in wildlife ecology in college. My goal is to create a similarly engaging classroom where students are inspired to pursue science careers.

Interested in learning more about how you can pursue your Masters Degree and Wisconsin Teaching Licensure in just fourteen months? Our Noyce Scholars graduate program is accepting applications through February of 2019!

Everything You Want to Know About Our COED Study Abroad Program

As the spring semester kicks off, the application for our College of Education faculty-led study abroad is open. Dr. Melissa Gibson, faculty leader, has put together a list of frequently asked questions to help students decide if a summer in Peru is right for them!

Do you want to experience educational systems abroad? Do you want to learn or practice Spanish? Do you want to find a way to fit a study abroad experience into your busy life as a double-major? Then join us for our annual month-long study abroad experience, “Education in the Americas.” Need more information before applying? Check out the answers to Frequently Asked Questions below. If you still have questions, email the program leader, Dr. Gibson.

“Every education student should be required to go on this program! It’s life-changing.” — 2018 participant

My sentiments exactly.87

Who can come on the trip?

Any Marquette student, although you should have an interest in education. Most participants are in our teacher preparation programs or pursuing an Educational Studies major or minor.

Do I have to speak Spanish?

No. While Spanish is definitely helpful, it’s not required. The program is designed to accommodate even those with no Spanish background. In week 1, you’ll get some language training at our university partner to learn some subject specific vocabulary. Throughout our time in Lima, you’ll have opportunities to participate in intercambios with university students who are learning English. When our field experiences are not themselves bilingual (English/Spanish) settings, we either have a translator from the university who travels with us, or Dr. Gibson translates. Honestly, you will be amazed at how quickly you pick up survival Spanish! But you have to be willing to try.

What courses do we take, and who teaches them?

Our program counts for two required courses for Education & Educational Studies majors: EDUC 4240/Critical Inquiry into Contemporary Issues and EDUC 4540/Philosophy of Education. The courses are combined into a six-credit, experience-based course called “Education in the Americas,” where we engage in comparative analysis of the diverse contexts, policies, and philosophies of education in Peru and the US. The seminar portion of the course is taught by a Marquette faculty member (in 2019, Dr. Gibson), although all of the educators we meet and work with in Peru are also your teachers.

Where do we stay?

In Lima, students are housed with host families in the Pueblo Libreneighborhood where our university partner, Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, is located. Pueblo Libre is a residential, middle-class neighborhood in central Lima. Host families are typically experienced at welcoming American university students, and there is often someone in the family who is retired or who works from home and thus is able to tend to you. Students stay with at least with one other Marquette student, and possibly more. When a host family does not speak English, we make sure that at least one of the students living there has some language proficiency. When we travel to the Cusco region, we stay in tourist hotels in Aguas Calientes and Cusco city; in the small town of Andahuaylillas, we stay in a parish retreat center. All accommodations are included in the program fee.

What do we do for the month?

Our program includes significant field experiences as well as regular seminar meetings. For the first week of the program, we are based at Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, our Jesuit university partner in Lima. This week is designed to give us a bird’s eye view of education and inequality in Peru: we have guest lectures, language classes, and visits to various Jesuit social projects (like PEBAL and SEA) around Lima trying to attend to the needs of low-income and marginalized citizens. During the first week, we also begin working closely with Encuentros, a social project in El Agustino where we end up playing a lot of soccer with neighborhood kids throughout our three weeks in Lima. Week 2 is spent at La Inmaculada, a private Jesuit school serving middle- and upper-class students; we also continue working in El Agustino. Week 3 is spent at a public school in Lima. Your weekends in Lima are mostly free for you to explore, sleep, and eat all the ceviche you can handle. We then fly to Cusco, and travel up to a small town called Andahuaylillas, where we have a field experience with a Fé y Alegría school, a public/private partnership, that serves Andean and Quechua-speaking students. The remainder of our time in Peru is spent exploring the Sacred Valley: Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Machu Picchu.

Will I have homework?

Yes. You will have readings and seminars on most weekdays, although we try to build time into your days for you to do the readings so that your evenings can be free to spend with your host families. You also will keep a blog while you’re traveling that serves as a reflection on your in-country experience. When you return home, you’ll have a final project to complete. Remember, this is a six-credit course!

How much does the program cost?

In summer 2018, the program fee was $2300. In addition, students purchase their own airfare (typically $700–$1000) and pay tuition for six credits. The 2019 program will likely be similar in cost.

That’s a lot of money. What’s included?

Almost everything! The program fee includes all in-country transportation (airport pick-ups, private coach to our field sites, airfare to Cusco, train to Machu Picchu), all accommodations, almost all of your meals, and entrance fees to cultural events that are part of the academic program, such as our visit to Machu Picchu. It also includes the cost for academic expenses such as the use of wifi on campus, tour guides, guest lectures, seminar space rental, etc.

How much spending money will I need?

That’s hard to say. It depends a lot on you and your taste and budget. Many students have reported that they spent about $300 out-of-pocket beyond their program fee. This is for things like souvenirs, unplanned excursions, eating out, and taxis. If you are a big spender, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to spend more, but most people in Peru live on what Americans would consider to be a small budget. If you don’t want to spend a lot, you don’t have to.

I receive financial aid. Can I still go on the trip?

You are encouraged to talk to your financial aid advisor. There are ways for financial aid to be applied to this program.

I’m a vegetarian/gluten-avoider/vegan. Will I be able to eat?

Yes, but the options may be limited. There are always rice, potatoes, avocados, and fruit. Your host family will be alerted to your dietary needs and should be accommodating with their breakfasts and dinners. You can also do some research ahead of time to find out where there are good spots to eat or grocery shop in Lima for your particular dietary need. But most of all, we recommend bringing a month’s supply of Kind Bars or other filling, protein-y snack to get you through the moments when pickings may be slim.

Am I going to get sick? Is the food and water safe?

Your best bet is to check out what the CDC has to say about health in Peru. In general, if you take precautions — such as drinking only bottled water, not eating uncooked vegetables, only eating uncooked fruits that have a think skin, washing your hands frequently, only eating well-cooked meats, and getting all recommended vaccinations before you leave — you lower your risk of getting sick. If you do get sick, through our university partner and our home stays, we have easy access to medical care.

Is Lima safe? Is Peru safe?

You can find official information on travel and safety from the US Department of State. Lima is a big city, and so you will face many of the same challenges that you do in Milwaukee or Chicago. You will be encouraged to use city street smarts: travel in groups, know where you’re going, don’t walk through unknown neighborhoods after dark, keep your belongings close to you, etc. Traffic in Peru is a challenge, and so as a pedestrian, you have to be extra alert in order to cross streets safely. Our neighborhood in Lima is a residential, middle-class area, and you are staying close to the university. We also have private bus transportation that takes us to all of our field experiences, and we always visit field experiences with someone who works in the community and acts as our guide.

Will I have free time?

Yes. In Lima, the program is designed so that your evenings and weekends are free, with the exception of Saturday mornings when we play soccer in El Agustino. We will often suggest or organize activities that you may choose to join. You can also do your own thing, or stay at your host family and relax. Remember, on the weekends, all your meals are included at your host family. Once we go to Cusco, your free time is less consistent, although you will have time to explore the city on your own.

Since this is a faculty-led, MU program, does that mean we’re going to be in an American bubble?

No! You stay with local families in Lima. We interact regularly with university students at UARM, several of whom will essentially spend the whole month with us. We will usually be the only Americans at our field experiences, where we’ll be working closely with local kids and educators. We have organized intercambios and meals with UARM students. However, when we travel to Cusco, we will be a much more insular group.

Are there other MU students in Peru at this time?

Yes! It looks like the College of Nursing will be running a parallel program to us, and we will be working together to find interdisciplinary opportunities. You may end up sharing a homestay with a nursing student.

I’ve never been out of the country. Is this too adventurous for me?

Not at all! Our first group had several students new to international travel, and they had a fantastic time. The program is designed such that you should feel supported at all times.

I want to go to graduation, though. Can I still study abroad?

Yes! This year, we will depart on Monday, May 20, 2019, with programming beginning in Lima on Tuesday, May 21, 2019.

I have to work during the summer. Doesn’t that make participating impossible?

Not necessarily. We return home from Peru on Sunday, June 16, 2019. In past summers, most students have gone on to work summer jobs in Milwaukee or their hometown without a problem. As long as you can finish your final project while you are employed, there is nothing about the course preventing you from working once you return to the US.

I have to take other classes this summer, too. How will that work?

Marquette’s Summer Session 2 begins after we return from Peru. In addition, many students have taken on-line classes during the summer, some of which overlapped with our time in Peru. They simply made their own time to complete work for that course.

I want to stay and travel after the program ends. Can I do that?

While we recommend that students arrive and depart on the same days, it is ultimately up to you and your family to decide.

How do I apply?

The application is through Marquette University’s Office of International Education. Typically, the application opens around January 1, and applications are due by February 1. For more information on the application process, consult the Office of International Education.

How can we plan our schedules if we don’t hear if we’re accepted until spring semester has already started? What if I’m not accepted? Then how will I take those required courses?

Students are always nervous about this. In the past, we’ve been a very small group, and everyone who applied was able to go. If you’re nervous about your application due to past grades or disciplinary problems, please talk to Dr. Gibson before scheduling your spring semester. In general, though, it’s less likely that you wouldn’t be accepted than it is our group would be too small. The program requires six students in order to run. So drum up some interest among your friends to make sure we have enough students to go to Peru!

Happy New Year!

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Getting to Know Our Students! Meet Denice Brunner

We’re continuing our blog series Getting to Know Our Students this week by featuring Denice Brunner, one of the Noyce Scholars. Want to learn more? Check out the entire series and previous posts!

OCHS 2017-2018My name is Denice Brunner. I am a current Noyce Scholar pursuing licensure as a secondary math teacher. I was born and raised in Rochester, MN, with five older siblings.  I moved to Milwaukee after high school to attend Marquette University and obtained an Electrical Engineering Degree. After graduating from Marquette, I stayed in the Milwaukee area working as an engineer at various companies.  After seven years working as an engineer, I began to ponder pursuing an education degree. I started taking education classes on a part-time basis. That was put on hold, though, after I married and began a family with my husband, Jeff. We have six children; one with special needs. I kept finding myself in different education roles over the years, as learning coach to my children when they attended public virtual school, as an instructional aide for ELL high school students, and a media aide in a high school library. I thoroughly enjoyed all of those educational experiences, so it is no surprise to me that I found my way back to Marquette to become a high school math teacher!

Interested in learning more about how you can pursue your Masters Degree and Wisconsin Teaching Licensure in just fourteen months? Our Noyce Scholars graduate program is accepting applications through February of 2019!

Be Present to Receive the Gift

By Karisse Callender

downloadA lot happens during the holiday season. There’s a lot of food, celebrations, family visits, travels, and time with loved ones. No matter the situation or our experiences, there is a gift we can all give to ourselves – the gift of mindful living so we can be present, in the moment, to fully experience life.

 

Here are some mindful tips and suggestions for the holiday season to help you remain present:

  • Practice gratitude: I use the word practice because being grateful takes intentional effort and it is a habit that needs to be cultivated. During this season, take a moment to think about at least three things you can be grateful for. It can be as simple as “I’m grateful for having a meal today,” “I’m grateful for a safe place to sleep,” “I express gratitude today for waking up.” A gratitude list can help to remind us of the simple things in life that make the biggest difference. On the days when it seems hard to find something/someone to be grateful for, think about what you would express gratitude for if you were having a good day.
  • Set intentions: Think about what you want this holiday season to represent for you. Is this a time for you to bond with distant family? Create new rituals with loved ones or for yourself? Is this a time to be contemplative and introspective? Whatever your intention, write it down and work towards it.
  • Journal: This is a great way to keep track of your thoughts and feelings over the holiday. It’s also a way to sit with what you are experiencing, in the moment. What did you learn about yourself? How did your intention(s) manifest? What were you able to do for others? How have you grown in the year? What lessons from the holiday can you take into the new year? How have you shown yourself loving-kindness over the holiday?
  • Radical acceptance: It would be ideal if things happen the way we want, all the time. However, that’s not the reality of our lives. When we feel confused and have no control over how things happen, you can remind yourself that “it is what it is, it is as it should be.” In other words, you are recognizing what is happening, as it’s happening, and acknowledging that it is out of your control.

Mindfulness is less about sitting still and more about being present in our lives – each moment, each experience, each day. When we take the time to be attuned to what is happening within and around us, we learn more about ourselves and our needs, and what we are capable of giving to others. As we think about what we can give to others, another mindful practice this holiday season is to remember and reach out to those who may also be in distress. Some may experience grief, a sense of loss, poverty, homelessness, and discord in relationships. As we think of the ways we are blessed and the simple privileges we have, let us also think about how we can be the difference for others.

May you all be happy, healthy, and at peace during this season and the new year. Be well.

Educational Studies Student Sharpens Her Skills

In March of 2017, the College of Education launched a new major and minor for undergraduate students called Educational Studies. Starting in the fall of 2017, interested students could enroll in this program geared towards those interested in education outside of the traditional classroom. Throughout the their time with this program, students will embark on semester- or year-long internships with local nonprofit organizations. Our first student intern is completing her placement at SHARP Literacy this fall — we caught up with Bri Cross, our College of Education senior, and Marisa Riepenhoff, VP of Education with SHARP, to learn more about it!


…the need to improve education in my community makes me want to be a part of trying to make a change.


Bri Cross, Educational Studies Intern

Iwas born and raised on the north side Milwaukee, WI. I attended Messmer Prep St. Mary for elementary/middle school and graduated from Pius XI Catholic High School in 2015. I have a lot of inspiration for my work and my passion! Growing up in Milwaukee is just one of them and the need to improve education in my community makes me want to be a part of trying to make a change.

Bri Cross, College of Education senior

My mom was in childcare for over 20 years and is now working in MPS. Therefore, watching how she was with the kids and how hard she worked made me want to be like her when I grew up (now I’m all grown up and following in her footsteps). I also have about 30+ younger cousins and they all look up to me. I am a first-generation student, and soon some of them will be, too. I want to be a positive role model towards them and encourage them to live up to their full potential. Since I’ve gone through it, I hope to be a resource that they will use in the future.

As an intern at SHARP Literacy, I assist with office work and programming. My office work includes: calendar inputs, organizing and analyzing surveys, printing and putting together materials for SHARP workshops and events. The programming duties include a couple of different pieces such as reading with the Golden Eagles and Pioneer program. I reach out to schools’ liaisons to see when collegiate athletic players are able to visit classrooms to read and interact with students. I also attend these events to make sure the day runs smoothly. Additionally, I assist with lesson planning for the intergenerational program. This program allows for students to visit assisted living homes to do projects with the seniors. When the students are at the location I help facilitate with the SHARP representative or the teacher. When they are not able to make it, I facilitate the workshop.

I’m so used to being around kids and interacting with them that it’s hard to pick a favorite educational experience. That being said, I’ve enjoyed stepping out my comfort zone and interacting with those who work in the SHARP office. It’s been a pleasure gaining insight from Marisa! She’s an incredible person to work with, and I’m highly appreciative that I received this opportunity.


Ask yourself what you are passionate about and then find organizations that fit your passion.


Marisa Riepenhoff, Vice President of Education for SHARP Literacy

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My role as VP of Education means that I manage the full-time education department at SHARP Literacy while working with the executive team and the board of directors to shape the overall education vision for the organization. I also work closely with school district leaders, school principals and community center leaders to make sure our programming meets the needs of elementary students and teachers in the classrooms and sites where we work. Finally, I am responsible for making sure we are accountable to our donors and that we are evaluating whether or not our education programs are meeting the goals we set to achieve.

I’m originally from Lake Ozark, Missouri, and have lived in Milwaukee for nine years. I was a theatre undergraduate major at the University of Missouri-Columbia and then I earned a Master of Science in Teaching from Pace University in New York City. I completed my certification to be a principal or director of instruction in the State of Wisconsin from Carroll University through their Educational Leadership program. I am currently an adjunct professor at Carroll University teaching an Educational Studies class about the design, development and delivery of education programs in non-profit settings.

I had a wonderful teacher when I was in elementary school named Barbara Duffy. The experiences she gave us in the natural world and in the arts shaped my vision for the types of content-rich learning experiences all kids deserve. From making dandelion waffles and violet syrup with flowers we picked ourselves to performing Shakespeare every year from first through eighth grade, she made science and reading come alive in ways that have enhanced my life personally and make me want to give back professionally.

My favorite experience working with Bri has been seeing her grow in her ownership of the programs she manages, especially the Reading with the Golden Eagles and Reading with the Pioneers programs. Seeing her confidence grow as she solves problems and works through coordinating with so many different schools has been rewarding. I also love laughing with Bri; it has been an honor to have an educational studies intern at SHARP. Our whole team loves working with her!

If you’re interested in pursuing an Educational Studies program, there are so many great organizations in Milwaukee to get to know! Ask yourself what you are passionate about and then find organizations that fit your passion. Set up informational interviews and even consider volunteering at organizations you’re curious about. My other recommendation is to have a disposition of flexibility. Working in the nonprofit sector means that you’ll wear many hats and will need to pitch in when necessary. Coming in with an attitude of being open to what needs to be done will go a long way!


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