Monday, July 27, 2015

Poetry, Geography, and Writing: Lesson Plans

Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Colorado
Photo Credit: Storm Crypt
Is this class a geography class that incorporates elements of writing and poetry? Or a writing and poetry class framed around geography? I'm not entirely sure, but I do know that when I can combine subjects, it makes homeschooling feel snappy. I also understand that what we all really want to do is get through these pesky "curricula" and move on to the part of the day where we're endlessly driving our children to their enrichment activities. Amirite?

Last winter a friend, Be Essert, put out a call to local homeschoolers to see if anyone would be interested in combining forces to teach geography. Six of us joined her and organized a morning class divided into three age groups. We decided to study a country a week, starting with Canada and moving down through the Americas. We added a lunch at the end -- a weekly potluck of food from whatever country we were studying that week. We met for fifteen weeks and got all the way to Australia. I have collected fourteen lessons here, from the teen group.


1. Learn basic geography of the Americas: locations of countries, mountain ranges, rivers, state capitals in the US, capital cities abroad. Tectonic plates, ocean currents, climate zones, etc. 
2. Learn map skills like identifying and using different kinds of maps, but also learn to think critically about mapping and what maps are, how and why they're made, what functions they serve. 
3. Read poetry in context, encountering authors from the countries we study and learning how poetry functions as more than entertainment and self-expression, but as a physical and historical record.
4. Practice writing in a time-limited situation. Practice looking back on first drafts to identify rhetorical strategies, find best sentences, and tighten structure.

Florida Swamp
Photo Credit: Stevie Gill
Age level: 

This class was taught to seven students ranging from 8th to 10th grade. Some of the materials we looked at were disturbing -- drug trafficking in Colombia, poverty in Honduras, and of course those Aztecs. All of the writing assignments would be appropriate for high school. 


Some countries got merged with other countries, and some got skipped entirely. Some of this was due to weather and missed meetings. Ecuador is missing because I was out of town and Be Essert did that class on her own -- maybe she will add it!

Warm Up:

Each week we did a warm-up activity while students were arriving. This could be filling in a blank map, doing worksheets, or verbal review of the last week's material. Once all the students had arrived, we put this aside. Just by working on the blank map every week, some of the students were able to remember and fill in all the countries in both continents by the end of the semester. 

The book I used for worksheets was World Geography Daily Skill Builders, which was geared for middle school and up. I have no particular love for it -- I happened to already have it and it served the purpose just fine. 

Belem, Brazil
Photo Credit: Daniel Zanini H.
Six Things:

Each week we looked at six things from the country we studied. You may feel you need to be outraged: "Only six things from each country? Way to trivialize, Netzer! Way to reduce other cultures to factoids!" Yeah, well. We only met once a week and there was no homework assigned, so this could hardly count as a full high school geography class. In 2.5 hours a week, we scraped along the surface. 

My objective with the "Six Things to Know" part of the lesson was to introduce them to some common knowledge that might spark deeper interest or learning down the line, but honestly I was okay if it just sat there as an isolated fact. They should know that Iguassu Falls are between Argentina and Paraguay. They should know that Pinochet was a dictator in Chile. They should know how the Panama Canal changed hands and why. Their understanding of the histories of each of these countries was not going to be comprehensive in an hour, but they could take away little things, and for me in this class, that was enough. 

The other purpose of the "six things" element was to teach note-taking. In the first few weeks, I didn't ask them to take notes on paper, just to get used to the format of the class. As class progressed, I had them writing down the six things with increasing detail. A predictable outline for their notes was helpful for them in learning to take notes and listen to a lecture at the same time. 

Some of the lesson plans are more detailed than others. If you're teaching this class you will probably need to do some research. I brought up a lot of images in different tabs on my laptop to show the kids as I talked, and that worked pretty well. Showing videos in class takes up a lot of time, so for videos longer than three minutes, I tried to put links out ahead of time for them to watch on their own. 

Iguassu Falls
Photo Credit: Colm Linehan

In my lesson plans sometimes I just have the name of the poet and the poem with a link. Depending on our time available, we learned a little about each poet and identified the time period in which the poem was written. We also read all the poems aloud, going around the room stanza by stanza so everyone could read. I had a few objectives with the discussion of these poems:

1. Understand how words can evoke place, how a poem can be a map. 
2. Understand how poems can be an emotional history, a necessary companion to a more factual history. 
3. The usual literary stuff like stanzas, imagery, voice, etc. 


We did a few art projects: Guatemalan worry dolls and Australian aboriginal dot paintings, for example. The kids probably would have liked to do more, and I was really happy that even the older boys enjoyed the art projects without too much eye-rolling, but time was an issue. They liked coloring with markers while we did verbal review. I used the following books for that: 

Mola Designs (from Nicaragua)
Dreamscapes (a Colombian artist)


This class was meant to teach a verb particular kind of writing: the kind where you have a short amount of time and must produce an essay without preparation. We talked a lot about taking the necessary time to think through a plan before writing, even when time is short. One of the students found it easier to draft by talking into a recording device, and that worked out fine. They all turned in what they'd written at the end of the class, and I went through it looking for high points and potential for expansion. I would never mark negatives on a first draft, so I only looked for questions to ask, good moments to underline, and places where they used rhetorical strategies to good effect. I often read aloud from their own work (without identifying the author, if the author preferred to remain anonymous) to illustrate different things I was trying to teach them. Sometimes I'd read a paragraph and ask them to pick out the best sentence. Even the "fails" where the student barely wrote anything can be used to talk about process. 

My hope is that repeated exposure combined with enthusiastic positive reinforcement decreases apprehension. And learning to look critically at an imperfect first draft while not getting paralyzed by its imperfection is a skill they really need. 

Future Plans:

This class will continue, but will be blended into my planned high school English class for next year, World Literature. We will continue to learn "Six Things" but will also be reading novels and short stories, and writing papers. We'll start in Russia, head down through Asia, over through Europe, and end in Africa. And I'll post those lessons here as we do them. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Poetry, Geography, and Writing: Australia

Vocab word: Escarpment. Photo Credit: Thomas Depenbusch
Geography Warmup

Do exercises 133-138 in World Geography Daily Skill Builders

Discuss: International Date Line

Six Things to Know About Australia

1. Geology:
Australia is the oldest, flattest, lowest continental landmass in the world
Sits in the middle of a tectonic plate: no volcanoes, few earthquakes
Mostly arid, low plateaus

2. Outback
The difference between the outback and the bush.
Anything outside a city is “The Bush”, “The Outback” is more remote
A map of the Australian Outback is a map of Australia

3. Mountains
     Ayers Rock
     Great Dividing Range

4. Great Barrier Reef

     World’s largest coral reef.
     Remember Finding Nemo? How far would Marlin have had to swim from the Great Barrier Reef to Sydney?
     East Australian Current

5. History

     Aboriginal Australians arrived between 40-70000 years ago.
     1770 Captain Cook explored the eastern coast and recommended colonizing “Botany Bay”
     Penal colony established by Britain
     Gold rushes and farming
     1800s: Six British colonies
     1901: Colonies formed a federation

6. Aboriginal Australians
     Dot Paintings

Activity: Dot Paintings

You'll need paper, cotton swabs, and paint. Have a look at these for inspiration, and go to town. Here is a picture of us dot painting:


"The Swimmer" by Adam Lindsay Gordon

Find out a bit about Adam Lindsay Gordon's biography at this site. In class, read the poem aloud and discuss what type of instrumentation/beat/melody you'd use to set this work to music. Now listen to this adaptation. Did it surprise you? Do you think it works?


Time: 20 Minutes
Length: 1 page

Aboriginal Australians are connected to the landscape that surrounds them in ways we have a hard time understanding. For example, each person is deeply connected to the spot where his or her mother first felt the fetus "quickening" in the womb, because that is the spot where the soul of the baby came up out of the earth. Aborigines make word maps by describing their surroundings. Read this article to understand more. You don't have to read it all, but look at particularly the sections "Place is Identity is Place" and "Songlines and Dreaming." Now walk outside and create a story to explain the landscape you find yourself in. Maybe the cul de sac is a campfire and the trees around it are sisters. Maybe the road is a river and the houses are rocks. Maybe the skyscraper is a ladder, or the bridge is a fallen tree. Try to create a map of your surroundings by telling a story, where the reader can identify landmarks and understand what they mean. (This assignment was introduced and led in our class by Be Essert.)

Poetry, Geography, and Writing: New Zealand and Polynesia

Milford Sound, New Zealand. Photo Credit Loic Lagarde
Geography Warmup

Do exercises 129-131 in World Geography Daily Skill Builders.

Discuss: What is Oceania? (Here's a map.) What is a continent? What is a region? Look at this Dymaxion Map. How does this map make the designation of different continents seem more or less important? What is the difference between a continent and an island?

Six Things to Know About New Zealand

1. New Zealand is two islands. The north and part of the south sit on the Australian tectonic plate, and the rest of the south island sits on the Pacific tectonic plate. This means lots of geothermal activity -- hot springs and geysers. Subduction has created sunken mountains
     Fiordland National Park: glacier sunken mountains Gates of Argonath!!!
     Marlborough Sounds: sunken mountains y'all for real

2. History:
     Settled by Polynesian islanders 1000 years ago
     Maori culture
     “Discovered” by a Dutch explorer and circumnavigated and mapped by Captain Cook
     Became part of the British Empire: New South Wales
     Equal rights for Maori people: 1840 Treaty of Waitangi
     The difficult question: WHEN DID INDEPENDENCE HAPPEN?
     Dominion of New Zealand
     Did not participate in Australian Federation
     Created own constitution, knighthood system

3. Exports: At first it was just wool, but with the invention of refrigerated steamships, exports included butter, cheese, mutton, and beef.

4. Antipodes: What are antipodes?
     The antipodes of the Chatham Islands lie in France, just north of the city of Montpellier.
     The antipodes of the Antipodes Islands lie in South West England.

5. Maori: Haka Dance

6. Cities


In lieu of poetry this week, we read The Maui Cycle, part of Maori mythology. You can find out all about it here


Using this photograph as inspiration, create a piece of writing of any kind.

Time: 20 minutes
Length: 1 page

The challenge in this assignment is the lack of instruction. With a time limit of twenty minutes and an open assignment like this one, you can spend half your allotted time trying to figure out what you're going to write. The key is to remember this is one page of writing that you will create in one fraction of one of the many hours of your life. It doesn't have to be perfect, or epic, or exactly what you've always wanted to write and turn in. It only has to fulfill the assignment. This exercise is about picking something and running with it -- maybe a fictional account of a mountain ascent. Maybe a poem. Maybe a description with lots of physical detail. Maybe a description with lots of emotions, telling what it's like to be lost in the mountains. What you write is up to you -- that's great for your creativity but also hard for your focus. Try to give yourself a short period of time to brainstorm: no more than two minutes. When  you come up with an idea and a direction, stick with it for the whole page. You can write something else tomorrow.

Poetry, Geography, and Writing: Chile

Valparaiso, Chile. Photo credit: Paula Soler-Moya
Geography Warmup

Do exercises 53-56 in World Geography Daily Skill Builders

Map Warmup

Fill in all the countries on the map of Central and South America.

Six Things to Know About Chile

1. Three sections of Chile:
     Continental Chile
     Insular Chile
     Antarctic Chile

2. Easter Island
     Moai are human figures carved by the Rapa Nui people on the Chilean Polynesian island of Easter Island between the years 1250 and 1500 CE. Tie back to Olmec heads.
     Image 1  Image 2  Image 3

3. Antarctica (image of Iceberg in Paradise Harbor)
     Antarctic Treaty 1959: The main objective of the ATS is to ensure in the interests of all humankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord. Pursuant to Article 1, the treaty forbids any measures of a military nature, but not the presence of military personnel or equipment for the purposes of scientific research.

4. Andes Mountains Image 1 Image 2

5. Santiago

6. Pinochet was a dictator who ruled Chile from 1973-1990. Pinochet, among other horrific things, possibly murdered Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, which leads us to...


I Like For You To Be Still by Pablo Neruda

This link takes you to a site that is pretty hokey-looking. However, it shows the poem in Spanish and English with a video embedded of Glenn Close reading it. Neruda is known for his love poetry. Embrace the hearts. This poem actually caused us to disagree over its meaning and led to a good discussion.


Time: 20 Minutes
Length: 1 page

Think back to the beautiful images of mountains and lakes and rivers we've been looking at, and also the interesting archaeological and historical sites. Also recall those videos we watched, and our discussion of what makes a country seem attractive to tourists. Write a one page personal essay about what makes you feel interested in a trip abroad. Are you more drawn to beautiful natural wonders, like the Grand Canyon or the beach? Or are you motivated by human artifacts, like museums and famous buildings? There is no right or wrong answer, but do engage in a little introspection before you begin writing, and try to use examples from the places we've studied. For example, you may talk about Belize and say whether you'd be more interested in the Mayan ruins or the beautiful beaches.

Poetry, Geography, and Writing: Argentina

Jujuy, Argentina. Photo Credit: Abel Jorge
Warm Up Activity: 

Watch these three videos. This will take about 30 minutes, and can be assigned in advance.

1. Coming Home: Argentina

2. "Go or No?" Review of Buenos Aires

3. Argentina Travel and Tourism Video

Discussion questions:
What audience is each of these videos trying to reach?
In each video, name one specific bit of info you don't get from the others.
Which video is most realistic?
Which video tells a story?
Which video is the most fast-paced?
Which video has the best visuals?
Given all of the elements, and thinking only of your personal preference, which do you like best?
Which do you think would be the most effective in attracting people to visit Argentina?
What type of people do you think would be most attracted to "Go or No?"
What type of people do you think would be most attracted to the Argentina Travel and Tourism video?
If you were to advertise a country as a destination, what would you focus on?

Geography Review

In World Geography Daily Skill Builders, do exercises 47-50.

Six things to know about Argentina

1. Buenos Aires Image 1 Image 2

2. Patagonia was named because Ferdinand Magellan reported giants called Patagons.
          Map of Patagonia
     Aconcagua is the highest peak in the world outside Asia.
     Cuevo de los Manos is a 8000 year old cave with cave paintings

3. History

Spanish colony
Independence in 1810
19th century: A century of rising power and economy, one of top ten economies in the world
Decline in 20th century

4. Eva Peron
     Of course they should watch the movie Evita, but they also should probably visit's page on Eva Peron. And then sing this.

5. Gauchos and the Argentine beef industry.



Read this article about gauchesque poetry and discuss, then read the first section of the poem "MARTÍN FIERRO THE GAUCHO" found here with notes.


Time: 20 minutes
Length: 1 page

Write a short essay comparing and contrasting two of the videos we watched for today. Spend a couple of minutes thinking about the structure of your paper. Remember you can either write about two elements of the first video, and then the same two elements in the second video, or you can write about one element in both videos, and then the second element in both videos. The body of your paper may look like AABB or ABAB. You'll also need a conclusion: save your opinion of which video is more effective for that final paragraph.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Poetry, Geography, and Writing: Brazil

Amazon River
Photo Credit: Mariusz Kluzniak
Map Warm-up

Complete the blank map exercise

Geography Warm-up

Do exercises 41-44 in World Geography Daily Skill Builders

Six Things to Know About Brazil

  1. Portuguese origins and language.
  2. Rio de Janeiro
    1. used to be capitol
    2. Christ the Redeemer statue on Mt. Corcovado Image 1 Image 2
    3. Carnivale Image 1 Image 2 Video
    4. Copacabana Beach
  3. Brasilia
    1. Palacio Da Alvorada: Image 1 Image 2
    2. Cathedral of Brazil: Image 1 Image 2
    3. New capitol
    4. planned city (Can stop here and do planned city exercise)
      1. Celebration FL: Image 1 Image 2
      2. Los Alamos New Mexico
      3. Reston VA
  4. Architecture
    1. National Congress Image 1 Image 2
    2. Iberapuera Auditorium Image 1 Image 2
    3. Oscar Niemeyer
  5. Iguassu Falls Image Video


"the city goes on sleeping/awake" by Armando Freitas Filho
On this page, you can click between the original Portuguese, the first attempt at a literal translation, and the final translation, to give you an idea of what goes into translating a poem.

Activity: Plan a City like Brasilia

After looking at the maps of all the planned and unplanned cities like Celebration, FL, and Brasilia, think about how you would structure an ideal city. What would your priority be? Ease of transportation? View of a nice horizon? Clean air? What elements need to be included in all cities -- hospitals, police stations, food stores, schools, etc? Where would these things be located in your ideal city? How would you name your streets? Do you think bad neighborhoods are ever planned or are they the result of poor planning? Take a large sheet of paper and use a pencil to plan a city.


"All I ever wanted was a world without maps."
--Michael Ondaatje in The English Patient

Time: 20 minutes
Length: 1 page

We've seen how maps can divide us. Think of the dividing line between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, or the barriers between the US and Mexico. We've also seen how maps can help us -- think of the map of biodiversity in the Amazon, or maps used by early explorers to stay alive. What do you think the character in The English Patient (who was a cartographer) meant when he said all he ever wanted was a world without maps. Can you imagine such a world? Would there be benefits to getting rid of any kind of map -- political, resource, population? Or are maps essential to our life? In a one page essay, answer the question: Would you want to live in a world without maps?

Poetry, Geography, and Writing: Colombia and Venezuela

Photo Credit: Rodrigo Suarez
Map Warm-up

Try this blank map of Central and South America. How many countries that we studied can you remember? How many South American countries can you fill in?

Geography Warm-up

Do exercises 37-30 in World Geography Daily Skill Builders.

Six Things to Know about Venezuela

1. Simon Bolivar. Hey, check out this YouTube video made by a kid, that uses Legos to tell a quick biography. Or you can look fondly back on the Crash Course World History video we watched during Cuba week.

2. Angel Falls

3. Merengue

4. Oil. Venezuela has the world's largest proven oil reserves and is the world's eighth largest oil exporter. Many US companies and US citizens go to Venezuela to establish and work in the oil industry.

5. Orinoco River flows from Guiana to Atlantic Ocean. Most of it is in Venezuela and some in Colombia.

6. Capital city is Caracas.

Six Things to Know About Colombia:

1. Colombia's major export is cocaine. Here are some illustrations of cocaine production.

2. Most of Colombia's old forests have been cut down to create farmland.

3. Capital city is Bogota. Under Spanish colonial rule, this was a major administrative center in South America.

4. Bolivar helped to liberate Colombia too, and was its first elected president.

5. For a long time, liberals and conservatives fought over who should lead the country, but then one liberal president issued the "Declaration of Sitges" which introduced the National Front. This meant that liberals and conservatives would share leadership and govern jointly, alternating control every four years.

6. Colombia has an Atlantic and Pacific shoreline, and contains part of the Andes mountain range and part of the Amazon river basin.


Consider this poem, attributed to Simon Bolivar:

Happy is he who is satisfied with his humble fortune.
Free of the proud yoke to which I am bound,
He lives in the obscurity in which Heaven has hidden him.
Blessed is he who is content with his humble fortune.

Bolivar is pretty much the most famous historical person in South America, and lots and lots of things (including a country!) are named after him. Read this poem, in which Chilean poet Pablo Neruda ponders Bolivar's fame:

"Song to Bolivar"
by Pablo Neruda

Our Father thou art in Heaven,
in water, in air
in all our silent and broad latitude
everything bears your name, Father in our dwelling:
your name raises sweetness in sugar cane
Bolivar tin has a Bolivar gleam
the Bolívar bird flies over the Bolivar volcano
the potato, the saltpeter, the special shadows,
the brooks, the phosphorous stone veins
everything comes from your extinguished life
your legacy was rivers, plains, bell towers
your legacy is our daily bread, oh Father.

Activity: Geography Game

Continue developing your geography game, using Part 2 of the Geography Game Workshop planning sheet. This is a good time to bring in a box of random things and see what interests you that you might want to use in your game: poker chips, connectable blocks, erasers, stickers, markers, small plastic pineapples, post-its, beads, coins, blank cards, cards shaped like boats, actual boats, buttons, foil flowers, etc.


Watch this video about drug trafficking in Colombia.

Time: 20 Minutes
Length: 1 page

After watching the disturbing video about the drug trade in Colombia, you may wonder why the USA doesn't step in and do something, after all we have done plenty of the intervening and "peacekeeping" in Central America over the last century. Or maybe you feel that we should stay as far away from Colombia as we can and let them figure out their own problems. I want you to think hard about whether that instinct is correct, and write an essay either advocating for US intervention in Colombia or advocating for a hands-off policy with regard to this situation. Should the US go in there and keep the peace? Why do you think we haven't already? What are our interests in Colombia? Do we owe the people in this video any help?

Poetry, Geography, and Writing: Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico

Geography Skills:

What is a colony? What is a territory? What is a commonwealth? What is an ally?

Click the link at left for a zoomable version of this.
Check out this map of the world in 1910, showing all the empires and their colonies.

The USA has the following "Unincorporated Organized Territories":

American Samoa
Northern Mariana Islands
Puerto Rico
U.S. Virgin Islands
Wake Island

Baker Island
Howland Island
Jarvis Island
Johnston Atoll
Kingman Reef
Midway Atoll (administered as a National Wildlife Refuge)
Navassa Island (disputed with Haiti)

It used to have the following:

Panama Canal Zone — jointly controlled with Panama 1979–1999; exclusively in Panama from December 31, 1999.
Philippines — independent since 1946
Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands
Marshall Islands — independent since 1986
Federated States of Micronesia — independent since 1986
Palau — independent since 1994

Why don't we make Puerto Rico a state? For a discussion of the 51st state, go here.

Six Things to Know About Puerto Rico:

1. First occupied by Taino Indians, then by Spanish.

2. The US won possession after Spanish American War (1898). This was decided in the Treaty of Paris (not the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War).

3. Puerto Ricans are US citizens, after the Jones Act of 1917, signed by Woodrow Wilson. Benefits of US takeover: Freedom of assembly, speech, press, and religion were decreed and an eight-hour day for government employees was established. A public school system was begun and the U.S. Postal service was extended to the island. The highway system was enlarged, and bridges over the more important rivers were constructed. The government lottery was abolished, cockfighting was forbidden, and a centralized public health service established.

4. Puerto Rico has mountains, lowlands, and rain forests. No lakes or large wild mammals.

5. Puerto Rico is the easternmost island in the Greater Antilles. Everything east of Puerto Rico is Lesser Antilles.

6. The Puerto Rico Trench is about 75 miles north of Puerto Rico, parallel to its shoreline. It contains the Milwaukee Trench, the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean.

Six Things to Know About Haiti

1. Haiti was the Hispaniola where Columbus first made a settlement. The Spanish got rid of their settlement there due to uprisings of settlers. French pirates established a colony on Tortuga, and France claimed western Hispaniola.

2. Slaves working on sugar plantations were treated inhumanely. One slave's account: "Have they not hung up men with heads downward, drowned them in sacks, crucified them on planks, buried them alive, crushed them in mortars? Have they not forced them to eat excretement? And, having flayed them with the lash, have they not cast them alive to be devoured by worms, or onto anthills, or lashed them to stakes in the swamp to be devoured by mosquitoes? Have they not thrown them into boiling cauldrons of cane syrup? Have they not put men and women inside barrels studded with spikes and rolled them down mountainsides into the abyss? Have they not consigned these miserable blacks to man-eating dogs until the latter, sated by human flesh, left the mangled victims to be finished off with bayonet and poniard?"

3. 1770 Port Au Prince earthquake and tsunami, 200,000 people dead

4. French revolution, emancipation of slaves, slave rebellion. The slaves got control of their country but did not claim full independence from France. Napoleon invaded, tried to reestablish slavery, take away rights from people of color. Dreamed of reestablishing French empire in the new world. Louisiana purchase happened in 1803. In 1804 Haitian army defeated French, declared independence.

5. Haiti was the first black republic. Constitution:

1. Freedom of religion (Under Toussaint, Catholicism had been declared the official state religion);
2. All citizens of Haiti, regardless of skin color, to be known as "Black." (before that there was a racial hierarchy based on darkness of skin color, and this was an attempt to eliminate that prejudice)
3. White men were forbidden from possessing property or domain on Haitian soil.
4. Should the French return to reimpose slavery, Article 5 of the constitution declared: "At the first shot of the warning gun, the towns shall be destroyed and the nation will rise in arms."
Earthquakes, political upheavals

6. US Occupation in 1915. In 1915 Haiti had 3 miles of usable roads. By 1918 it had more than 470. This was due to peasants being forced to labor on the roads or pay a "road tax."

Haiti and Dominican Republic from the Space Station. Photo Credit: NASA

Six Things to Know About the Dominican Republic:

1. Taino / Columbus / Spanish rule

2. French took over, then Spanish took over again, then the Haitians took over after getting their independence.

3. Independent state in 1844: Santo Domingo, then reconverted to Spanish Colony in 1861. Second independence after American Civil War.

4. USA bailed them out of debt with foreign creditors when there were warships in their harbors demanding payment, so that USA was their only creditor. Two US occupations in the 20th century.

5. The Dominican Republic has 27 different climate zones in its mountains, highlands, jungles, lowlands, deserts. It still has a lot of productive agricultural land and forests, unlike Haiti. Check out this image of the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, showing deforestation in Haiti.

6. Capital city is Santo Domingo.


Creole Poetry from Haiti (We read II and III. Talk about Creole language origins and relate back to last week's discussion of language and identity.)

Activity: Geography Game

Develop a geography game to be played by younger students. Use part one of the Game Workshop planning sheet today. The next page will be done next week. Work alone or in pairs, teams.

US Air Force dropping supplies on Haiti after earthquake. Photo Credit: US Air Force


Watch this video about poetry and Haiti's recovery from the earthquake of 2010.

Time: 20 Minutes
Length: 1 page

Imagine you have $100 to give to relief efforts in Haiti. One organization you might donate to provides nourishing food. Another is raising money for a library. Where will you put your money? Think about our class discussion and decide: books or bread? Explain your answer in a one page essay. You can use whatever logic you like -- this is a personal decision. Don't feel that you have to persuade your reader with rhetorical devices. Just explain your own thoughts and feelings as clearly and effectively as you can in this personal essay.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Poetry, Geography, and Writing: Cuba, Jamaica, and the Bahamas

Havana, Cuba. Photo Credit: Anton Novoselov
Warm up / Review

Do World Geography Daily Skill Builders exercises 27, 28, 30, 32.

Map Work

Label the extended Central American Blank Map Worksheet with Central American countries and now also the islands. Use a reference map to help you with the top one and then fold the paper over and fill in as much of the bottom one as you can without looking. When you need to look, just look!

Six Things to Know About Cuba

1. Spanish control

2. Spanish-American War -- US won control of Cuba, Puerto Rico

3. Why did we not make it a state?

4. U.S. sugar interests in Cuba (A Story of Sugar)

5. Cuban revolution. Hey, there's a Crash Course World History about Latin American Revolutions! Let's watch it now.

6. Communism and Fidel Castro. Changes to contemporary Cuban government.

Six Things to Know About the Bahamas

1. Lucayan National Park on Grand Bahama: World's largest underground cave and cavern system.

2. Vocab: archipelago, cay, atoll

3. Pirates had their headquarters on many small Bahamanian islands because of the Gulf Stream carrying Spanish ships full of gold back to Spain. Check out some pirate vocabulary. Why did the pirates develop their own words for things?

4. Folk tales

5. Gullah storytelling.

6. Gullah vocabulary. How did the Gullah language come about?

Six Things to Know About Jamaica


1. Originally populated by Taino Indians, until discovered by Columbus. Then British took it away from Spain.

2. Pirates and privateers used to operate out of the British settlement of Port Royal until that city fell into the sea in 1692. The British actually invited the pirates in to help them keep the Spanish away.

3. Huge slave population due to sugar industry. Emancipation of slaves in 1838. An early slave rebellion in Jamaica was called Tacky's Revolt after the slave who led it.

4. Marcus Garvey promoted the "Back to Africa" movement, advocating for slaves to return to Africa.

5. Rastafari religion and Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia. Watch this video, The Livity of Rastafari.

6. Reggae music and Bob Marley.

Activity: Rastafari Vocabulary

Take a look at this list of Rastafari words. After watching the video, can you figure out what all of these words mean?


I and I
I-tal or Di food fula itality
I man
Idren or Bredren and Sistren
Whore of Babylon


"Cultivo una rosa blanca" by Jose Marti

Cultivo una rosa blanca
en junio como en enero
para el amigo sincero
que me da su mano franca.

Y para el cruel que me arranca
el corazón con que vivo,
cardo ni ortiga cultivo;
cultivo la rosa blanca.

One translation:

I cultivate a white rose
In July as in January
For the sincere friend
Who gives me his hand frankly

And for the cruel person who tears
out the heart with which I live,
I cultivate neither nettles nor thorns:
I cultivate a white rose

Another translation:

I have a white rose to tend
In July as in January;
I give it to the true friend
Who offers his frank hand to me.

And for the cruel one whose blows
Break the heart by which I live,
Thistle nor thorn do I give:
For him, too, I have a white rose.

"Si Ves Un Monte De Espumas"
... (Verso V) by Jose Marti

Si ves un monte de espumas,
Es mi verso lo que ves,
Mi verso es un monte, y es
Un abanico de plumas.

Mi verso es como un puñal
Que por el puño echa flor:
Mi verso es un surtidor
Que da un agua de coral.

Mi verso es de un verde claro
Y de un carmín encendido:
Mi verso es un ciervo herido
Que busca en el monte amparo.

Mi verso al valiente agrada:
Mi verso, breve y sincero,
Es del vigor del acero
Conque se funde la espada.

"If You've Seen A Mount Of Sea Foam" 
(Verse V)
Jose Marti

If you've seen a mount of sea foam,
It is my verse you have seen:
My verse a mountain has been
And a feathered fan become.

My verse is like a dagger
At whose hilt a flower grows:
My verse is a fount which flows
With a sparkling coral water.

My verse is a gentle green
And also a flaming red:
My verse is a deer wounded
Seeking forest cover unseen.

My verse is brief and sincere,
And to the brave will appeal:
With all the strength of the steel
With which the sword will appear.


Time: 20 minutes
Length: 1 page

Write about how language unites and divides people. Take as your example either the Gullah language, pirate vocabulary, or Rastafari wordsounds. Why do people create new languages, or new words? In what ways does misunderstanding separate some people and bring others together? What is the motivation for an oppressed people to develop a sublanguage? How do practitioners of Rastafari use language to define their beliefs? You might even use the example of the poetry we read for today, as our understanding of Spanish may connect us with the poem or prevent us from connecting with the poem.

Prewriting thinking time: Before you begin, think through the examples you might use and decide which will be the strongest. Which do you remember most about, and about which can you think of good solid details to illustrate your point? Your essay might not be about the topic that's of the most interest to you, but about the one that you can most effectively mine for details that will help you support your thesis.

Poetry, Geography, and Writing: Costa Rica and Panama

Costa Rica
Photo Credit: Arturo Sotillo 
Geography Skills:

Population Map.
Look at some different types of population maps, ones that use colors or dots to track different info.
Here's a good one to start with.

Warm Up: 

Do the blank map of Central America worksheet. On the top map, use a reference map to help you. On the bottom map, try labeling as many countries as you can on your own.

Six Things to Know About Costa Rica:

1. Costa Rica was part of the intermediate region between Mesoamerican to the north and Andean to the south native cultures.

2. Christopher Columbus landed in Costa Rica in 1502. Costa Rica became part of the Captaincy General of Guatemala, a province of New Spain.

3. After the Mexican War of Independence (1810-1821) Costa Rica became part of the independent Mexican Empire in 1821.

4. In 1823 Costa Rica became part of the Federal Republic of Central America in 1823

5. Full independence in 1838.

6. Today Costa Rica has dismantled its military and depends on eco-tourism for an income.

Six Things to Know About Panama

1. A French company first tried to build a canal in Panama, which was owned by Colombia.

2. U.S. had helped Colombia suppress rebels and prevent Panamanians from seizing control of Panama, but when Colombia wouldn't let the U.S. take over the canal, the U.S. sided with the rebels and helped them become independent.

3. The U.S. got sovereignty over a strip of land ten miles wide and fifty miles long, forever.

4. Simon Bolivar, South American liberator, had said: "The Isthmian States, from Panama to Guatemala, will perhaps form an association. This magnificent position between the two great oceans could with time become the emporium of the universe. Its canals will shorten the distances of the world: they will narrow commercial ties between Europe, America and Asia; and bring to such fortunate region the tributes of the four parts of the globe. Perhaps some day only there could the capital of the world be established! New Granada will join Venezuela, if they convene to form a new republic, their capital will be Maracaibo….This great nation would be called Colombia in tribute to the justice and gratitude of the creator of our hemisphere."

5. Construction of the Panama Canal. Watch this documentary from PBS.

6. Panama Canal Treaty: Giving back the canal to the people of Panama.

Activity: Mola Designs

The teens like coloring. What can I say? Here's a page about Mola designs, an indigenous art form in Panama. And here's the book I bought for them to color. When they do their memory work. Because it helps the brains.


"My Country" by Ricardo Miro


Time: 20 Minutes
Length: 1 Page.

Using specific details from the videos you watched, write an essay arguing that the construction of the Panama Canal improved life for the people of Panama. You can talk about building villages, controlling mosquitoes, creating jobs, introducing new technology, or whatever you think makes a strong argument. You will need to ignore some facts and arguments in order to focus only on the details and bits of information that support your thesis.

Pre-writing planning time: Think about your essay in terms of problems and solutions. In order to present the solutions, you have to explain the problem. So you'll need two paragraphs for each one of the problems you say the Panama Canal solved. Look at your blank page and think of how much space you'll need to make each of your points, and try to write within those limits.

Poetry, Geography, and Writing: Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala

Beach in Belize
Photo Credit: Bob Reck
We missed a day because of terrible weather and had to smash some of the countries together, thus the five countries in this lesson, rather than the two lessons (Guatemala and Belize; Honduras Nicaragua and El Salvador) that were planned.

Geography Skills

Ocean currents: El Niño and La Niña, and the Gulf Stream. Here's a starting page, from NOAA.

Warm Up/Review 

Do activities 19-22 in World Geography Daily Skill Builders. 
Go around the room on a state capital challenge. First person says a state, next person names the capital and another state, next person names the capital and another state. If you have to pass, say pass in a funny accent. If you can't think of a state, say New Hampshire.

Six Things to Know About Belize

1. Mayan history: preclassic 1000BC-300AD, classic 300AD-900AD, post-classic 1000-1500. 
   Chichen Itza (actually in Mexico)
   Caracol (in Belize)

2. Christopher Columbus named Bay of Honduras in 1502.

3. First settlers English Puritans, set up trading posts, British buccaneers “Baymen” took protection money from the Spanish in the form of logging rights

4. British Colony: British Honduras. 1840-1981 

5. In Belize today, three distinct Maya tribes still exist: the indigenous Mopan in the north; the Yucatec, who migrated from Mexico, also in the north; and, the Kekchi, who migrated from Guatemala, in the west and south.

6. From a Belize web site: “Do not buy and sell antiquities. Protect our cultural heritage.” What are antiquities? Why would people be selling them? Why should they not?

Six Things to Know About Guatemala

1. Sierra Madre in the west has three active volcanoes. Last eruption in 1976 killed 23000 people. (20,000 people were killed at Pompeii)

2. Hurricane Stan, 2005, killed 1500 people. 

3. Locate the fault line between the North American Tectonic Plate and the Caribbean Tectonic Plate. Central America Volcanic Arc: Subduction Zone at the Western end of Caribbean Plate

4. United Fruit Company: After the industrial revolution (late 19th early 20th) big companies, supported by the US government, took over production in Guatemala, with horrible labor practices and exploitative economics. 

5. Guatemalan revolution: 1944 Arevalo and Arbenz presidencies -- sweeping social and economic reforms, increase in literacy. United Fruit Company asked for the US Government to end it and we did. 

6. Tikal, ruins of ancient Mayan city. 

Six Things to Know About Nicaragua

1. When invaders landed, they found three tribes, all different, all ruled by different kings, migrated up from Colombia. They destroyed the indigenous population with war and disease. Indians were killed, forced to work or sold as slaves. Troubled history, US occupation from 1912-1933. 

2. Somoza Dynasty. U.S. interests in deforestation, plantations, and ranches. 

3. Mid-20th century. Nicaragua became the top beef supplier to the U.S. for fast food and pet food industries. Meanwhile U.S. pesticide exports to Nicaragua, where DDT was used, illegal to use in U.S. 

4. Sandinistas rebelled against Somoza. U.S. backed Somoza. Sandinistas won in 1984.

5. Ronald Reagan colored the Sandanistas as communists, particularly because they were supported by Fidel Castro. He colored the opposing fighters, the Contras, as freedom fighters, and said they were "the moral equivalent of our founding fathers." Contras planted mines and U.S. used sanctions against Nicaragua to aid them. 

6. The Iran Contra Affair of 1986-1987. In 1982, legislation was enacted by US Congress to prohibit aid to the Contras. Reagan's officials illegally supplied them anyway, using money they got from selling arms to Iran and also from donations. 

Six Things to Know About Honduras

1. Honduras literally means "depths" in Spanish. The name could either refer to the bay of Trujillo as an anchorage, fondura in the Leonese dialect of Spanish, or to Columbus's alleged quote that "Gracias a Dios que hemos salido de esas Honduras" ("Thank God we have departed from those depths"). 

2. Spanish conquered them and mined their silver with slaves from elsewhere. Independent in 1821.

3. U.S. fruit companies built self-sufficient enclaves in northern Honduras that contributed no taxes and did not aid the local economy. American troops were inserted many times to keep the peace. 

4. Honduras suffers many hurricanes, earthquakes, floods.

5. Trash Mountain. Tegucigalpa. Watch this short film about garbage picking in Honduras. 

6. The Train of Death. La Bestia. Migrants escape Honduras and attempt to flee to the U.S. through Mexico on this dangerous train. Watch this image slide show

Six Things to Know About El Salvador

1. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Volcanoes: San Miguel and Izalco, known as the "Lighthouse of the Pacific. 

2. Capital city of San Salvador has been destroyed twice and damaged three times by earthquakes. 

3. Heavy rainstorms and droughts affected by El Niño and La Niña. Famine, flood, landslides.

4. First big crop was indigo, replaced by coffee in mid-19th century when chemical dye replaced indigo. 

5. Military dictatorships, war, upheaval, leading to civil war in the 1980s.    

4. Current murder epidemic, gang violence. Here's a good article, but not for younger students. 


Mayan poetry examples can be found on this page. We discussed the one below. 

The most alluring moon
has risen over the forest;
it is going to burn
suspended in the center
of the sky to lighten
all the earth, all the woods,
shining its light on all.
Sweetly comes the air and the perfume.
Happiness permeates all good men.
We have arrived inside the woods
where no one will see what we have
come here to do.
We have brought plumeria flowers,
chucum blossoms, dog jasmines;
we have the copal,
the low cane vine,
the land tortoise shell,
new quartz, chalk and cotton thread;
the new chocolate cup,
the large fine flint,
the new weight,
the new needle work,
gifts of turkeys, new leather,
all new, even our hair bands,
they touch us with nectar
of the roaring conch shell
of the ancients.
Already, already
we are in the heart of the woods,
at the edge of the pool in the stone
to await the rising
of the lovely smoking star
over the forest.
Take off your clothes,
let down your hair,
become as you were
when you arrived here on earth,
virgins, maidens.

Activity: Make Guatemalan Worry Dolls

I'm not going to go into instructions here. There are lots of places online to find out what they are and how to make them with better illustrations than I have! :) Here's a picture of ours though:


Time: 20 minutes
Length: 1 page

Consider this quote:

“Do you understand the sadness of geography?”
― Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

What do you think the writer is saying about geography? To what extent do you agree with what he is saying? Can geography be sad? When or where? You can focus on anything, from exploitation of resources to natural disasters to overcoming boundaries. Give an example from something we talked about today in class. Pay close attention to the rhetorical device you use in your intro. Will you choose to paint a picture for the reader, to put the reader into a scene? Try starting with the word "imagine" and see where it takes you. Try to draw your reader into the emotion of sadness from the beginning of your essay.