Posts Tagged 'This Is Social Studies'

A Brief History of Butter…

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 their blogging during the semester, we can see these changes in the students’ own words. Read on to learn along with our students!

Western-pack-butterBy: Audrey Meyersieck 

While it seems insignificant in our daily lives, butter has a huge impact on the different types of food we eat. Without realizing, I likely consume butter 3–4 times a day. Whether I use it when I’m cooking, spread it on my bread, or even when I eat premade baked goods. Although butter is seemingly a normal, household staple, it actually has an epic history that not many people are aware of. Behind every piece of buttered toast, buttered noodles, or batch of chocolate chip cookies, there is a story. Where did that butter come from, and how did it get into your local grocery store? In first grade social studies we learned that the pilgrims invented butter, and even dressed up at pilgrims to make our own butter in class. But that might not be the case.

In the Desert of ancient Africa around 8000 B.C., a lonely traveler made an accidental discovery. Thirsty from the hot terrain, he reached for the sheepskin pouch attached to his pack animal. However, when he tilted the pouch to take a sip of milk, he was shocked to discover that the milk had turned into a thick mush from churning around on the animals back. Surprisingly, it tasted delicious!

At least that is likely how it happened according to Author Elaine Khosrova in her book, Butter: a Rich History. She writes that butter is like “a historical roadmap of humanity.” While we often get our butter from cows today, early butter came from the milk of yak, sheep and goats. Over the years, butter has taken on different uses. In ancient Rome, butter was used for cosmetics as well as for healing balm; ancient Sumerians offered butter as gifts in temple, and the first student protest was even linked back to butter in 1766 at Harvard after a meal with rancid butter was served to students (Jankowski, 2017).

Today, most of the butter we consume is from cows. In order to make it, cream is held at room temperature, it is then aged in an aging tank for about 12–15 hours. After this process is done, the cream is churned and eventually butter granules form and condense; the liquid left over is called buttermilk. Salt is added to improve the taste and shelf life. In the final step, the butter is shaped, packaged into wax paper, and shipped off to the grocery store where it can be purchased for consumption. Butter factories did not come to the United States until the 1860’s, and it soon became a table top staple. Today, Americans consume about 940,000 metric tons of butter per year, and there is an increasing demand.

While butter can be found in a majority of American homes and grocery stores, many of us forget about the long process that it takes to produce it, or the environmental implications that it has on our planet. Through economic thinking, we can analyze the long-term effects and processes of producing different foods, and weigh the costs and benefits of buying certain things from our grocery stores. As social studies teachers, we can encourage our students to dig deeper into where our food comes from, and can provide them with opportunity to explore something of interest to them. They can discover a wealth of information about the culture during the time the food was discovered, and how such products have evolved over time.

Sources

“Overview of the Butter Making Process.” Animals | Causes of Color, 28 Nov. 2018, www.webexhibits.org/butter/process-steps.html.

Patton, Leslie. “Americans Are Eating More Butter Than Ever.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 14 Mar. 2017, www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-14/a-fatty-staple-once-public-health-enemy-no-1-makes-a-comeback.

Jankowski, Nicole. “Spread The Word: Butter Has An Epic Backstory.” NPR, NPR, 24 Feb. 2017, www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/02/24/515422661/spread-the-word-butter-has-an-epic-backstory.

To My Teachers of the Past

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 their blogging during the semester, we can see these changes in the students’ own words. Read on to learn along with our students!
ross

Retrieved from The Ways, © 2019 Wisconsin Education Communications Board.

By Keanna Ross

Growing up, when my teachers or classmates found out my ethnicity, they treated me either as a foreign creature or as if they knew my entire life story: “You people still exist?” “Do you live in a teepee?” (I live in a sturdy house like the rest of my family and my ancestors actually lived in wigwams.) “You won’t have to work as hard for college because you get to go for free!” (If only they knew that my tribe is so poor, they avoid students’ emails and phone calls in order to avoid giving out an $800–$1,100 grant, which I have yet to receive in my fourth year of college.) Or, my personal favorite, “You’re lucky, you don’t have to ever pay taxes!” (Hahaha, I wish!) As you may be able to assume, I am Native American–well, half anyway. My dad is Ojibwe and Oneida, and our family is from the Bad River reservation in northern Wisconsin.

From childhood to adulthood, I have always been very involved in my culture. Though my mom is German, she was always much more enthusiastic about having my sisters and me know our Native half. She would sit with my grandma, my dad’s mother, and learn about all of the traditions; she took us to powwows religiously, learned how to bead, learned how to make regalia, allowed us to dance. When my mom passed away in the fall of 2015, she requested a traditional Ojibwe service at the Congregation of the Great Spirit, the Native American Catholic Church founded by my family years ago. Because of my mother and grandmother, my sisters and I have always been very involved in our culture and always will be. As you can see from this small backstory, my culture is very important to not only me but also to my entire family. I wear Native pride on my sleeve.

Due to this pride, I openly share my background with everyone. This is not a bad thing when people want to become educated. It is a bad thing when you’re a shy second grader, and your teacher puts you on the spot during November because we are talking about the pilgrims and the ‘Indians,’ and makes you the example ‘Indian’ to represent a whole nation. It is a bad thing when you are a senior in high school and you are told by a classmate, “You should be happy the Europeans came! They made this place better,” without having any knowledge of the cultural genocide that occurred.

Along with a HUGE majority of K-12 students, I have only ever been taught small fragments of the truth. We have been taught only one perspective. Imagine the knowledge being passed down as an animal exhibit at the zoo. As students, we have only been taught what we can see when we grab onto the binoculars. We have been focused on only one tiny part of a truth. If that is all we are taught, that is all we grow to know, because we are never taught to take the binoculars away from our eyes and see the rest of reality around us.

This cycle is still happening. Children are being taught a single perspective. This is not only a problem with Native American history being accurately represented but also African American history, Japanese American history (which I have yet to formally learn about), Mexican/American history… world history! As a sophomore in college I took an African history course, taught by an extremely knowledgeable and sweet man from Nigeria. You wouldn’t believe how many times he had to correct students when they referred to Africa as a COUNTRY, or implied that it was tiny, not modernized, or that they felt sorry for Africans. People do not know how huge the CONTINENT of Africa is; they do not know how many diverse countries are in Africa. This professor would always tell us stories about how people would ask– because he was from a country in Africa– if he knew their friend who was located on the opposite side of the continent! This is sad because this is all a result of inaccurate education.

In American schools, we are only taught about the slave trade and of Africans being “primitive;” we only learn about the dehumanizing of these people. When I learned about Egypt in sixth grade, I was never taught that it was a country in Africa; it was never even mentioned. When learning about Native American history, we were taught that the pilgrims and ‘Indians’ had Thanksgiving and that the stealing of homes was consensual. We were told that the Europeans helped the natives. We were taught about the Trail of Tears in high school, but this only consisted of a section of a chapter which was not its focal point. We were not taught that it was wrong of the Europeans; we did not mourn the deaths of millions of indigenous people (not only in what we call America, but also Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, what is now known as Mexico, and also Canada, along with South America, Hawaii, and many many more).

***

If I could suggest anything to my teachers of the past, it would be to take into account all of your students. Stop teaching the dominant narrative of colored people being less intelligent and less capable. It does not matter what your background is, you can teach history with a broader perspective. You can represent ALL of your students, truthfully. Be open to, not only, learning from your students, but also changing how you teach. Understand that history textbooks were made by white Americans who create them to appeal to a certain audience. Learn with your students, because what you were taught is not coming from a point of multiple perspectives. Becoming the difference in your students’ lives is educating them on different people. It is allowing yourself to stray from tradition. Be the one who helps develop humans who are knowledgeable about the world, instead of the one who contributes to stereotypes.

As an educator you should care about how you are shaping the future. Let’s take the binoculars off and see the entire reality and truth.

 

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.


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