Search Results for Heritage Project Website

Title Excerpt Author Date
Poetry of Place: Where I’m From On Monday, in a post on A Shrewdness of Apes, the author thinks of her terminally ill father and reflects on the pieces of her childhood that shaped who she is.  “I come from a place that plays gospel music over the loudspeaker at a gas station-- you can get Jesus while you get Super Unleaded and a bag of pork rinds to go. I come from a place where one loves God, Mama, and football-- but not necessarily in that order, particularly on a Friday night or a Saturday afternoon.” The post reminded me of one of my favorite writing assignments. A few years ago as a way of beginning to study our local community I had students, who were mostly local, write about where they come from. I thought the background work we did and discussions we had leading up to the writing were very valuable. Students enjoyed thinking about and photographing the places important to them, but the quality of the writing wasn’t as high as I would have liked or as good as I thought is could’ve been.  Right after I finished the writing assignment I found a much better model for getting the kind of specificity I wanted from students. George Ella Lyon’s book Where I’m From seems to be the original source. Though I haven’t actually read her book, I’ve since run into hundreds of great examples that follow this form. Some just use the model, others have more specific guidelines. Unlike many “forms,” rather than ending up with many examples of vague, similar writing, the style of this makes each piece unique. I especially like the idea of creating a sort of hyper text poem—along the lines of the first post I mentioned, with links to some of the places and things the poem might reference. I don’t have examples of my own students work, but there are many others —students, teachers, bloggers—who have also given the format a try. The Minnesota Writing Project has even used it as a demonstration lesson, as does the United Nations Cyber School Bus. Almost all the versions I’ve read are interesting. This was the case with my students as well. Nearly every poem my students wrote was powerful in some way—either through the language, imagery or experiences conveyed. Students seemed to appreciate the chance to think about and share what pieces of their pasts had shaped them, and I found that the short assignment really did help me understand where my students where coming from. Christa Umphrey 01/19/06
Library of Congress Partners with Google The Library of Congress just announced that Google Inc. has agreed to donate $3 million to be the first partner in a public-private initiative to begin building a digital library for the world. Google Co-Founder and President of Technology Sergey Brin said, “Google supports the World Digital Library because we share a common mission of making the world’s information universally accessible and useful. To create a global digital library is a historic opportunity, and we want to help the Library of Congress in this effort.” Librarian James Billington introduced the idea of the World Digital Library, which he believes would have both educational and diplomatic benefits, in a June speech at Georgetown University: “Through a World Digital Library, the rich store of the world’s culture that American institutions have preserved could be given back to the world free of charge and in a new form far more universally accessible than ever before.” Over 60% of the Library of Congress’s holdings are in languages other than English. Billington sees the project as a way for the experiences of these people of many different backgrounds to help people around the world: “…recover distinctive elements of their own cultures through a shared enterprise that also may make it psychologically easier for them to discover that the knowledge and experience of our own and of other free cultures might be of more benefit to their own development than they would otherwise be willing to admit.” This new project follows in the footsteps of The Library of Congress’s previous digitization project. The 1994 the National Digital Library Program has resulted in more than 10 million rare and unique materials available free of charge in the American Memory Web site. This is another way technology is making it easier for not just other countries, but also rural America, to better understand, and become better prepared to shape, the world they inhabit. Christa Umphrey 11/23/05
Words from Henry David Thoreau’s blog today and originally from his journals November 23, 1860: “Most of us are still related to our native fields as the navigator to undiscovered islands in the sea. We can any autumn discover a new fruit there which will surprise us by its beauty or sweetness. So long as I saw one or two kinds of berries in my walks whose names I did not know, the proportion of the unknown seemed indefinitely if not infinitely great.” I like this idea that there is always more to discover—even in our most familiar places—if we look closely enough. There are many other ideas and writings of Thoreau’s that I think are insightful and useful in working to connect reading and writing to a clear awareness and curiosity to investigate the places around us. I think this site could be a useful resource. Every day there is a new excerpt posted from Thoreau’s writing (of that same calendar day). Christa Umphrey 11/23/05
Lessons from Vine Deloria, Jr. Sunday Vine Deloria Jr, a Sioux Indian, passed away following complications from an aortic aneurysm. From the LA Times obituary: Vine was a great leader and writer, probably the most influential American Indian of the past century — one of the most influential Americans, period,” said Charles Wilkinson, of the University of Colorado School of Law at Boulder and an Indian law expert. Deloria wrote more than 20 books, but it was his first in 1969, “Custer Died for Your Sins,” that brought him to the nation’s attention. In 2002, Wilkinson called it “perhaps the single most influential book ever written on Indian affairs” and described it as “at once fiery and humorous, uplifting and sharply critical.” Deloria was an articulate, outspoken, and often controversial figure. Though it’s not his best-known work, I think some of his insights on education are valuable to consider regardless of the ethnic backgrounds of the students you work with. The following passage is from Power and Place which he published in 2001 with Daniel Wildcat. “It is instructive to move away from Western educational values and theories and survey the educational practices of the old Indians. Not only does one get a sense of emotional stability, which indeed might be simply the act of nostalgia, but viewing the way the old people educated themselves and their young gives a person the sense that education is more than the process of imparting and receiving information. Indeed it is the very purpose of human society… ...Education in the traditional setting occurs by examples and not as a process of indoctrination. That is to say, elders are the best living examples of what the end product of education and life experiences should be. We sometimes forget that life is exceedingly hard and that none of us accomplishes everything we could possibly do or even many of the things we intended to do. The elder exemplifies both the good and bad experiences of life, and in witnessing their failures as much as their successes we are cushioned in our despair of disappointment and bolstered in our exuberance of success. ...We share our failures and successes so we know who we are and so that we have confidence when we do things…” We can always continue to do more to build on the knowledge and experiences students already have, acknowledge where they come from and what they already know, and enlist the help of those at home who have been the first, and often times remain the most influential, teachers.  Christa Umphrey 11/17/05
Thoughtful and Responsible Student Blogging Happenings in Africa and New Jersey are intersecting in interesting ways for teachers this past week. In Tunis, 170 countries and more than 20,000 delegates are taking part in the UN’s largest ever summit. The delegates are looking into ways to use information communication technologies to help improve living standards in some of the world’s poorest nations. A key aim is connect all the villages of the world to the internet by 2015. “There is a tremendous yearning, not for technology per se, but for what technology can make possible,” said Kofi Annan, UN secretary General, urging delegates to take action. As the rest of the world strives for ways to allow more than the current 14% of citizens access to the global online community, here in the U.S. 62% of us are busy on the net. I think it’s highly likely that the percentage is even higher among our teens, so high that while the rest of the world is trying to figure out how to get their countries online, we have organizations (from educational to corporate) hard at work developing ways to restrict and monitor our students’ access. Of course educators need to be concerned for our students’ safety, but recently the internet (and blogs specifically) are making mainstream news not because of all the innovative ways teachers are using them but for being banned completely, as happened last month in Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta, New Jersey. At a school assembly the Roman Catholic school’s 900 students were told they must delete personal blog sites such as and or risk suspension. “The Internet is a forum with unrestricted global access,” a spokeswoman for the diocese explained. “For minors to be vulnerable in that forum is not acceptable.” A few days later blogs were in the news again when threats on basically shut down another New Jersey high school after threats were posted. The school district is looking for the website to be held accountable and one of the teens was arrested. Is this where our country is headed when in comes to teens and technology? The internet does give young people more power. It lets them express their own thoughts and ideas. It allows them to find other people who think like they do. And many who don’t. Scary yes, but important, too. As the rest of the world comes on-line, if we as teachers try to screen everything first and make all the decisions about what students will see, learn and experience, we are going to fail. And more importantly, we are not going to be giving students the tools a good education demands. When it comes to the internet we need to help them learn to do the same things we have always done with whatever we are studying: think critically, filter appropriately, and develop an honest, informed and responsible voice to present their own ideas. As a teacher I am always searching for an audience that is real and in some way consequential to my students. Blogging can provide this, but not if we don’t allow anyone to read the words we hope our students are carefully crafting. In pondering the expanding assortment of software cropping up to make blogging safer for students Will Richardson shares an experience I think many of us who’ve had students use the internet could echo: When I first had my students blogging four years ago, their blogs were open to the world. Nothing but good things came of it. They met people from Spain and Japan and Canada and all over the states who shared their ideas and questions and knowledge. It didn’t happen often that someone we didn’t know chimed in with a comment, but when it did happen, we all shared in a positive experience. Were we lucky? Maybe. But I think that by and large people are good, and it was nice to have that borne out in that class. As more people from around the world begin to have access to the internet, they are going to find our students there. Young people already have so many examples of how the internet can be used poorly, we have a responsibility to step in and expose them to better alternatives. They are going to be out on the internet regardless of what is happening in school. Our students are already leaders in the field about which those 20,000 delegates in Tunis are meeting. What a wonderful opportunity we have to step in and help them to fulfill this role well.  Christa Umphrey 11/16/05
Organization Tip for Oral History Work Keeping track of information and processes Christa Umphrey 02/09/05
Checklist for Students Collecting Oral Histories List of things to remember when interviewing Christa Umphrey 02/09/05
Ronan High School Students Collect Veterans Oral Histories Another class also interviewed Eldon Umphrey, a veteran of the War in Iraq. In addition to sharing his experiences, Eldon also brought photos and artifacts like an Iraqi gas mask and the prayer rug he’d holding here. Christa Umphrey 02/07/05
Christa Umphrey My life has always been a chaotic whirlwind of family and learning. I grew up on the Flathead Reservation in Montana with parents who were both teachers. School was always a part of my life, even before I was old enough to attend. In the nearly three decades I’ve been… Christa Umphrey 02/07/05