Why am I here? Where do I come from? Who am I? Questions like these are answered in part through stories handed from one generation to another. Civilizations from the past tried to explain the changing of seasons, objects in the sky, and the facts of life and death through the natural environment in which they lived. Ancient Chinese, for example, believed that daylight was provided by one of ten sunbirds taking its turn across the sky, while Ancient Egyptians imagined that a giant beetle pushed the round sun across the heavens.
What are some best practices in social studies that teachers can apply to the classroom this upcoming school year?
There is a direct relationship between culture and folktales. The tales reflect the everyday life of a people. Creole and Cajun tales have been passed down orally for many generations, but some have been collected and published. Both Cajun and Creole people in Louisiana have stories which can be used in the classroom to develop an awareness and understanding of their respective cultures.
May marks Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which is a time to celebrate the specific achievements made by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders throughout history.
Cowboys are found in many countries around the world. In Chile, they are called huasos, in Argentina gauchos, in Australia jackeroos, and in Venezuela llaneros. The original cowboys in North America were Spanish and were called vaqueros. They were very skilled in driving and handling the long-horned cattle that they introduced to on the continent in the seventeenth century. As with the black cowboys, Mexican cowboys also faced discrimination, earning less pay and being prevented from advancing to foreman or trail boss.
While their urban counterparts were restricted to more traditional female roles in the late 1800’s, women of the American West were roping and riding broncs. The term “cowgirl” first appeared in print by the early 1890s. Daughters of pioneer ranchers grew up riding and roping along with their brothers because on small ranches, everyone helped with the cattle. Attitudes of the day deemed it improper for a woman to dress and ride like a man, so many women wore full skirts and rode sidesaddle. During the Wild West shows, women first appeared as competitors with women like sharpshooter Annie Oakley, bronc rider Bertha Blancett, and steer-roper Mabel Strickland.
Dime-store novels and Wild West television shows helped construct the stereotypical images of the “white” cowboy and the red-skinned Indian “savages.” As the West was often portrayed as a battlefield between these two groups, it may be difficult for students to understand that so-called Indians were often also cowboys. However, this narrative of the Wild West is incomplete, and teachers can easily rectify this by teaching about the indigenous experience during this westward expansion period. Early Spanish missionaries actually trained Native Americans as cattle herders, leading many indigenous peoples to adopt ranching into their economies.
The cowboy is viewed as an American icon: rugged rider of the range; champion of the good. Yet our understanding of cowboys has, for the most part, been informed by movies and television shows. Cowboy culture and history are a product of diverse men and women of all backgrounds; therefore, it is important for teachers to expose students to the varied cultures that influenced the American West.
Clay has been used for many things throughout history, including writing surfaces, money, cooking vessels, and building materials. Archaeologists use ceramics as a tool for dating cultures, which can be impactful to note in the social studies classroom. Teaching the evolution of tiles, ceramics, and clay throughout various cultures can inform students about how civilizations utilized these materials and advanced throughout history.
“The camera doesn’t lie” is often assumed to be true about historical photographs, even though we know that maxim is certainly not true in the twenty-first century. This phrase first began to be used in the late nineteenth century when new technology allowed photographs to be printed in books, magazines, and newspapers.