Primary Sources

There are two thoughts that are an essential part of my teaching tools:

Tool #1:  Use your resources.

Tool #2:  Don’t be afraid to ask people for things, the worse thing they can say is no.

So, armed with these two tools, the second Erickson Weekend School commenced.  However, opposed to last Saturday’s cold soiree into the snow and woods, this Saturday’s excursion was a much warmer affair.  Based on some of the thinking that resulted after last Saturday’s trek to Dino Swamp, the students wanted to find out more about this land and what they could find out about it.   One sub-group had worked on finding out about what Henry David Thoreau wrote about the Blanding’s turtles.  They found lots of references in his journals, but with the exception of Great Meadows, did not know where the other locations were.  The other group wanted to find out more about the land around Dino Swamp as well as find out more about the little covered over pond near the Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Concord Public Library

So I pulled out tool #1 and called a resource:  Leslie Wilson, who is in charge of the Special Collections at the Concord Public Library.  I met Leslie very early in my teaching career and she is an invaluable resource about anything Concord.  Leslie was thrilled to have us come visit on Saturday.  When we arrived, she pulled out some maps.  Funny thing is that I am currently taking an on-line course about Primary Sources offered by my favorite professional development place, Primary Source, and on our last snow day, I sat and watched about an hour worth of video of children doing the same thing – working with maps as primary sources to learn about a rebellion.  So, two days later, here four of my children were, pouring over maps that were up to 180 years old.  The connections they were making were incredible.  The critical thinking and problem solving skills were highly evident.  I don’t want to give away their findings, but let’s just say at the end of the hour they were asking for another “mystery” to solve.

Onto Tool #2:  Don’t be afraid to ask people, the worse thing they can say is “no”.

Looking at the Head-Starting Display at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge

One of our DPC guiding questions was to find out how other people are helping the Blanding’s turtles.  Dr. Windmiller had mentioned that the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge was now starting a Blanding’s turtle colony from headstarts from Great Meadows and Oxbow National Wildlife Refuges.  He sent me an e-mail address to someone from Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, so I e-mailed whether my class may come and visit.  I quickly received a reply from Kizette Ortiz-Vanger, a park ranger at Assabet River.  We arranged a trek there for this Sunday afternoon.  Unfortunately, due to the even more snow on the ground, we were not able to trek the 1.5 miles into the area where the turtle colony is starting (but we were invited to come back in the spring), but both Kizette and Dan Cannata had prepared a great talk on what is being done at Assabet RIver National Wildlife Refuge.  This presentation was a great way to show the students what biologists do in the field (weigh and measure turtles, collect data – sounds like our classroom) as well as a complete overview of Blanding’s turtles from egg laying to a 60 year old turtle.  The Refuge also has a very nice Visitor’s Center, which prominently displays the Blanding’s turtle.

So, tomorrow, we will still utilize these tools again as we will be skyping with Brennan Caverhill, a Blanding’s turtle expert, from the Toronto Zoo.  Primary Sources… you can’t beat them.  As my on-line course is coming to an end, I have found lots of wonderful primary sources to use with my students around the immigration theme.  But, often time, primary sources can be right in your backyard, or just a skype away.