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Colonial ClothingPosted: Monday, March 6 Discuss

Clothing was much different in history.  In the 1770’s both boys and girls in the American colonies wore these types of dressing gowns called shifts until they were almost 5 years old.   

As they got older young girls would wear what was called a stay.  A stay was like a corset.  It made sure the back was supported when doing work around the house, like lifting heavy milk buckets or cooking pots.

Girls and women would also wear aprons made of linen.  Although the apron did keep a dress clean while a woman was doing housework, most women in this time wore it for fashion.  Also, girls’ dresses didn’t have pockets, so they would attach a pocket to keep their personal items.


                                                                               Apron                                             Pocket

Boys  also dressed differently.  They wore knee-breaches sometimes called knickers.  They also wore stockings and shoes with shiny buckles.

Examine the clothing in the pictures.  What do you think about the way children dressed during colonial times?  How is it different than the way you dress? Would you like to dress this way?  Why or why not?

Go to the Massachussetts Memorial Hall Museum online Dress Up activity to learn more about people's clothing in the past!

What Counts as a Culture?Posted: Monday, February 27 Discuss

Every society has unique factors that separate it from all other societies.  These factors such as the language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations are some of the artifacts that make up the culture of a society.  Each of these factors tells us something about the beliefs and values of the culture.  Some cultures are self-contained because they rely on a certain ethnic heritage.  For example there is a culture that goes with people of Hispanic, Asian, or African descents within the United States.  In other countries beyond the United States there is a culture that is developed out of their history.  Egypt, Germany, and Russia each have a culture that is unique to their society.


We can see the evidence of the differences in culture by looking at, and listening to, some of the art work of a society.  When a person is in Russia there is a uniqueness to their buildings is created by their distinctive domed tops.

We all know that there are foods that are unique to many different cultures such as stir fry and rice type dishes in Asian cultures and curry spiced dishes from India.  In many cases the distinctive dishes of each culture have arisen due to the utilization of the foods and ingredients that are native to the geographical region of the world where the country lies.


When you combine all of the various artifacts of a culture you get what everyone refers to as “the culture of a society.”  All of these things together give a society a flavor, or some might even say a personality, that makes that society unique.  The people within that society will often work to preserve that culture because of a sense of pride in the culture and what it stands for. 


When you think of your culture what do you think makes it stand out from others?  Within the United States there are many different cultures such as those distinguished by a religion or ethnicity.  What are some of your cultures?  How do cultures reflect the beliefs of the people within that culture? 

Causes and Consequences of Slavery: The Economic, social, political and personal impactPosted: Monday, February 20 Discuss

          Slavery has existed as long as recorded history.  The status of slaves and how people were enslaved has varied throughout time.  The Atlantic Slave Trade brought between 11 and 16 million slaves to the Americas between 1500 and 1900.  For every 100 slaves who made it to the Americas another 40 died along the way.  (Digital History)  So what were the causes and consequences of slavery?  The basic cause was a need for labor in the “New World”.  Europeans turned to West Africa as their source for labor for many reasons.  There was no strong central government to stop slavery since the major West African empires of Songhai, Ghana, and Mali had declined.  European ships could get into and out of West African ports quickly due to their ships and the wind.  West Africa was well populated.  Most slaves were captured in war, or victims of crime, etc.  Racism was both a cause and effect of slavery.  This was one of the first times in history slavery was based on almost solely on race. (Digital History)

The consequences of slavery are more difficult to quantify.  In Africa the consequences included a skewed sex ratio.  Many more men were captured and sold into slavery then women; the ratio was about 3-1. (Digital History)  In the United States, where about 500,000 slaves were taken.   However, by 1860 the number of slaves increased through natural birthrate to 3.96 million. (Digital History)  These slaves dramatically contributed to the wealth of the growing United States.  They mined precious metals, grew tobacco, indigo, rice, and of course, COTTON.  The south was the world’s biggest producer of cotton until the Civil War.  The south also exported well over half of all U.S. exports.  Slavery certainly impacted the way African American families held kinship ties, or were torn apart, passed on traditions, their education and their wealth.  Slavery deepened the racism in both the north and the south.  It also impacted the United States economy by initially making the south agricultural and the north industrial.  It also dramatically impacted politics at the government level, and even within families, obviously eventually it was a primary cause of the Civil War.   The consequences of slavery are so far reaching that they are impossible to list entirely.  It is even more difficult to describe the consequences of slavery on the millions who were forced to endure it.     


Your turn: Was slavery different in the United States then it had been throughout history?  Does this impact the causes and consequences of slavery in the United States?

 For more information checkout PBS Slavery and the Making of America
Mintz, S. (2007). Learning Modules: Learn About Slavery. Digital History. Retrieved 21 July 2008 from http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/historyonline/slavfact.com

No Need for MathPosted: Monday, February 20 Discuss

Take a moment to think about how often and in how many ways we use numbers.  We use numbers to tell time, to count money, to measure distance, to design buildings, to create computer programs and countless other functions.  Math and numbers are such an integral part of our lives, that we rarely pause to think about their use.

And yet, the Piraha people, an indigenous hunter-gatherer tribe who live on the Maci River banks in Brazil, have very little use for numbers.  The Piraha do not count and do not have precise words for numbers.  In fact, they really only have three words to represent numerical values:  “one,” “two,” and “many.”

After being taught math for eight months, the Piraha people could do little more than count up to three.  Some researchers claim that they do not have the capacity to learn numbers while others believe they simply choose not to. 

Piraha Tribe

What would it be like to live in a world without numbers?  Would it even be possible in our society?  What do you think are the most important uses of mathematics in our world?

Shake Rattle -N- RollPosted: Monday, February 13 Discuss
Earthquakes occur at the boundaries of the Earth's crustal plates.  Where there is enough strain between two plates, an enormous amount of energy may be released resulting in an earthquake.  Shaking and breaking ground are the biggest results of an earthquake and result in the destruction of buildings, bridges, roads and other structures. 

This energy reaches the surface of the Earth is the form of seismic waves.  You will hear mostly about P waves and S waves, both of which have a different motion.  You can watch an animation of each type of wave.  After you click on the link, select "view animation" next to the heading Seismic Wave Motion.  CLICK HERE
I have seen many middle schoolers complete science fair experiements in whcih they are testing the strength of different types of buildings or bridges during an earthquake.  While these students spend hours building their structures, the real challenge comes in simulating the earthquake.  I have seen the following "earthquakes" used in these experiments:
  • washing machine on the spin cycle
  • clothes dryer (power on of course)
  • plank of wood with a power sander attached underneath
  • a table top attached to springs which is then shaken by hand
After viewing the animation, which of the above do you think is the most realistic representation of P waves?  Explain.  Which is the best representation of S waves?  Explain.  Can you think of a better way to inexpensively model the energy from an earthquake?  What are the limitations in modeling an earthquake using any of the above methods?
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