Monday, February 21, 2011

You Say You Want a Revolution? Connecting the Russian Revolution with Current Events in Egypt and the Middle East

Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.
- Machiavelli

Joann’s explanation of the Russian Revolution tied the events together for me much more clearly than I can remember from history class. This is a problem… I should know a lot more about history! Granted, I was a science major in college, but as we discussed last week, it is very important to create well-rounded students. Why should we teach our students about historical events like the Russian Revolution? I think the answer lies in quotes like the one above from Machiavelli. In order for our students to become productive, inquisitive, and informed members of society, they need to learn and understand major events in history that have shaped different cultures throughout the years. Even if a student decides to major in science or engineering, we want each of them to understand past events so they can use that knowledge to understand similar events in the future.

Joann selected some great resources this week for teaching about this historic revolution in your class. She will be featuring them all week on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so be sure to follow them so you won’t miss a thing. She has chosen activities for different subjects and grade levels, even some art lessons.

As a preview of the kinds of extra activities Joann is featuring, look at the Russian Revolution Simulation, a great resource catalogued on The Gateway. In this lesson, students get to act out the roles of the characters involved in the Russian Revolution. I really like the way it allows them to feel like a part of the history, so they might be able to empathize with individual characters to better understand that person’s feelings and motivations that led them to act a particular way. This empathy is especially important right now, as media coverage in the Middle East is allowing students to experience another revolution taking shape before their eyes.

As protests for democracy sweep across nations in the Middle East, we have the chance to experience history first-hand with our students. I have been talking with different teachers about how they have been discussing the events with their classes, and a surprising amount of them haven’t been able to fit any time into their schedules to cover it much (or at all).

These teachers already have the next few weeks of their lessons planned out; a novelty for me, who is planning to think about stopping my procrastinating tomorrow. In all seriousness, it is wonderful to have a plan, and it is very important to teach all the things we are required to teach during the year. That being said, making our plans flexible enough to expose our students to the authentic learning they can get from experiencing real life events is a worthwhile challenge for every teacher.

In a social studies or history classroom, you could create a wonderful unit exploring a revolution in the past, such as the Russian Revolution. During that study, you could allow your students time to watch media coverage of the current situation in the Middle East, or assign it as homework. In the past, this would entail watching news coverage on tv at school or at home. As media has changed over time, there are plenty more outlets to learn about current events like this. It’s hard to know where to start looking for quality information, so I turned to my PLN on Twitter for help. I decided to send out the following tweet to all our followers on Twitter and to the social studies chat people (#sschat) and the #edchat people. I did this as kind of an experiment to see what kind of support I could find on these social networking sites.

“Anyone have ways to incorporate events in Egypt and Middle East into different subject areas? All ideas are appreciated! #sschat #edchat”

Right away, I received a suggestion of one blog with a collection of many different resources for learning about the protests and revolution in Egypt. If some of these resources become more permanent, we will catalog them on The Gateway so they are easier to find. For now, please look at Larry Ferlazzo’s edublog for some ideas. Another response suggested building Egypt events into other subjects with songs of freedom and protest from United States history. A few of examples were, “People Got To Be Free” by The Rascals, “Revolution” by The Beatles, and “Get Up, Stand Up” by Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Last year, we featured Garbage Dreams, a resource from PBS about people who collect and recycle garbage in Egypt. This video and accompanying lesson explore a very poor sector of Egypt’s population, many of whom might have been involved in the recent protests. In response to the recent events in Egypt, ITVS (part of PBS) has created a collection of resources called Egypt & Democracy including this resource along with other videos and lesson plans relating to the subject. This is another good place to start if you want to include the Egyptian Revolution in your plans this month.

~Peggy's Corner - 2/18/2011~

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