Thursday, August 29, 2013
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." The advent of agriculture is the single most significant event in human history. Without agriculture, none of what we take for granted today would be possible—the good, the bad or the ugly. Agriculture, the domestication of animals and plants, allowed a chain of events to occur that catapulted culture into "civilization." By choosing to follow the path created by agriculture, humanity, while tapping into its vast, but until then latent, talents moved from individual self sufficiency ten thousand years ago to at best regional and at worst, global self sufficiency today. But domestication is a two way street. Just think how many people dread power outages (I mean they're fun for a while, but a protracted power outage would be a real challenge). And what would happen if the grocery stores failed to open for a month? This unit will allow students to explore this period of truly revolutionary change and explore its consequences both intended and unintended. The links below offer some more insight into this pivotal time period. This site from WSU aka WaZoo is the closest to local that I've got on my site so far. It outlines the Agricultural Revolution very well and it's nice to be able to tap into experts in our own backyard. You should check it out regardless of who you root for in the Apple Cup. Also of interest is this encyclopedia-type article about the history of agriculture. It does a good job of relating the many issues relating to the development of agriculture and you can learn a lot of jargon to boot. Jared Diamond, writer of such books as Guns, Germs and Steel and Collpase, had this to say about the Agricultural Revolution.
This unit is about the human need to answer the questions: "What does it mean to be human" and "How did we get here?" Throughout the year we focus on creation stories from around the world. This unit relates the creation story that science tells. Concurrent to this exploration the class is arranged into "cave clans." One wall of the room is devoted to this simulation. Each clan is given a part of the wall—its territory—to fill with land forms and plant, animal and mineral resources. As the unit progresses, the class reflects their learning in the world they create on our wall, adding technological and cultural characteristics as they earn them. One day is devoted to trying our hands at cave art, as the room is transformed into a darkened cave, the doorway reduced to a mere crawlspace. Using small flashlights as torches, students find alcoves beneath their desks lined with a simulated rock surface and etch their own designs, reminiscent of those from Lascaux, upon the "rock." Here is a great website for human ancestry. Another good place to look for more information on the story of Hominid Development is Donald Johannson's site. If you're interested in rock art, here is great site to explore paleolithic art from around the world. Of course you should be deeply interested in this topic. It is, after all, the symbolic representation of the world that is a prime differentiator between humans and other members of the aminal kingdom. Enjoy.
Monday, August 26, 2013
Anthropology and Archaeology
Simply put, archaeology is the science of digging things up, trying to figure out what they are and using an educated guess to decide what they meant to the culture you are studying. Anthropology is the study of cultures. In this unit, students will learn a little about the art and science of studying the past—tools, methods and resource—in preparation, of course, for their own explorations. Of particular focus is evaluation of source materials to determine their usefulness for a given area of research. For more information on archaeology, check out this website hosted by the BBC. You can learn more about excavation techniques and something about archaeolgy worldwide, though it focusses mainly on the British Isles. There's even a challenging activity that puts you at the helm of an archaeological dig. Smithsonian Institution K-12 Anthropology Site It may take a little reading and cyber navigation, but if you're interested in learning more about what's going on in anthropology and archaeology, this site will get you there. I've been warning students for years now about the dangers of the internet as a research tool, primarily because any kook with a computer can put something on the web. (I mean, really, you're reading this aren't you?) You could be out surfing and land on some site talking about how some people found some mystery item in the mountains of California (that, described, sounds suspiciously like a spark plug). That's where your friendly, neighborhood Smithsonian Institution comes in. This link leads to a site that does a great job covering the spectrum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The Smithsonian is a top-shelf organization and they've done all the hard work for you—kept you safe from the looney fake sites. And that's a good thing. Another Anthropology site, the National Geographic Society hosts an interactive site chronicling the work of Dr. Spencer Wells. This site outlines the spread of Homo sapiens sapiens around the globe. Check out the Interactive Atlas of the Human Journey..
BBC World News
- N Korea: Leader's uncle executed The North Korean leader's uncle, Chang Song-thaek, is executed after being purged for "acts of treachery", says the state news agency.
- EU failing Syria refugees - Amnesty European leaders should be ashamed by the paltry numbers of refugees from Syria they are prepared to resettle, human rights group Amnesty says.
- Ukraine protesters rebuild barricades Pro-EU protesters in Ukraine reinforce their position in the centre of Kiev, rebuilding barricades torn down by police earlier this week.
- Bangladesh hangs Islamist leader Bangladesh executes Islamist leader Abdul Kader Mullah, who was convicted of atrocities during the country's 1971 war of independence.
- US captive in Iran said to be CIA An ex-FBI agent believed held in Iran for the last seven years was working for the CIA on an unapproved mission, the Associated Press reports.
- Spain to block Catalonia referendum Parties in the Spanish region of Catalonia agree to hold a referendum on independence next year - but the Spanish government vows to block it.