My Own Personal Treasure Map

   A MiddleWeb Blog

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According to legend, “Blackbeard is perhaps the most notorious of the sea robbers who plagued shipping lanes off North America and throughout the Caribbean in the early-eighteenth century–an era commonly referred to as the Golden Age of Piracy.

“Despite his legendary reputation, little is known about the early life of Blackbeard. Even his true name is uncertain, though it is usually given as some variation of Edward Thatch or Teach…” (more here)

So, the members of his crew called him Teach? That makes me smile…

blbeard statue crop

Blackbeard, portrayed on St. Thomas, VI

I felt a bit like a pirate, vacationing in the Outer Banks of North Carolina while digging my toes in the sand, quite close to where Blackbeard and his ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, ran aground so many years ago. My travels weren’t on a galleon, though. This summer’s maritime adventures involved surfing the Internet.

There were no incidences of pillaging and plundering, but there certainly was treasure to be found. As I combined work and pleasure, sailing along a new trade route on the high seas of technology, I uncovered many jewels.

What our pirate crew discovered

By involving myself in the development of an online course for teachers this past July, I joined a crew of inspired and inspiring educators who continue to look for riches in new and uncharted waters. We worked together to dig up some incredible resources.

Here are a few gems that the participants of this summer’s course encountered in their travels:

Lewis and Clark – Students can travel with these brave explorers and experience, more realistically, the journey west and its impact on our world: here and here from National Geographic, and another from Discovering Lewis & Clark.

Landis House, a stop on the Underground Railroad on the Susquehanna River.

Landis House, a stop on the Underground Railroad on the Susquehanna River.

The Underground Railroad - These resources provide learners with a variety of experiences and connections that address deeper wisdoms about slavery and early US History: from National Geographic, Deceptively Educational, and Scholastic.

Sojourner Truth – This History.com video expresses incredible emotion. It inspired me to think about ways to use primary documents effectively, in an effort to evoke empathy and understanding in kids, and to look at different viewpoints about a painful time in America’s past.

Harriet Tubman – This video, also from History.com, emphasizes not only Tubman’s brave escape from slavery, but the significance of her choosing to go back to help others to freedom. It asks students to think about the deeper courage in that choice.

Social Studies Alive – These are related links to the new program my district has adopted to use as a tool in teaching our recently updated curriculum. I’ve only begun to peek into the contents of this treasure chest.

histaliveDuring quiet beach mornings, I clicked around, creating custom PowerPoint presentations and navigating through the features of the on-line curriculum support materials that are now available to me. As a reforming technophobe, it was reassuring to find this safe harbor, a place to drop anchor and prepare to incorporate its use into my teaching.

All of these jewels were uncovered, or rediscovered, by educators in places that are quite far from North Carolina (or New Jersey for that matter). It seems geography doesn’t have to limit my PLN’s (Pirate Learning Network?) search for hidden gold. Many of these places are land-locked, but that doesn’t have to keep the tide of imagination and collaboration from flowing, allowing us to steal valuable opportunities for ourselves as teachers, and for our students.

The voyage ahead

A main area of focus this year will be familiarizing myself with this new social studies curriculum. I’m excited, but I know that the first year of a new idea can be daunting. I’ll need to channel the spirit of my inner pirate, the part of me that boldly seeks adventure and searches for riches.

pirate ship black 220 reverseThere will be hard work involved in the upcoming year, provisions to replenish, decks to swab. Summertime, thankfully, allows me the freedom to sail the open seas, following my own, personal treasure map in search of resources to use in the upcoming school year.

We don’t need to pillage or plunder like Blackbeard. There are too many dedicated educators out there who are willing to share their booty in this Golden Age of Technology….It is time to set a new course for September. I’m a little nervous, but I’m ready to climb aboard.

Mary Tarashuk

Mary Tarashuk teaches 4th grade at Woodrow Wilson Elementary in Westfield, New Jersey. Mary has been an educator for 17 years and trying to balance her old-school teaching style with New Age methods that integrate ever-changing technology keeps her on her toes. She is also a consultant and online facilitator for the national non-profit initiative, The Walking Classroom, and believes that fresh air and exercise enhance learning and engage students of all ages. Check out her Kids on the Cusp Facebook page.

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