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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Title Goes Here

Showing Mrs. Abernathy how to use Posterous.


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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Too Many Problems In The World - Who Decides What To "Fix?"


Our big question today is...

There are so many problems in the world, how can we decide what to make better?


Who is responsible for making the world a better place?

Going back to the beginning of the year, we discussed the primary role of government - to keep their country (and citizens) safe.  In the USA, we elect government officials and expect them to "make the world a better place."  If they do not do what we expect, we have the obligation to not vote for them in the next elections.

In other countries, their governments reflect their society (traditions, religions, and even problems they face as a nation).  The type of government and citizen participation is sometimes based on how they believe it is best for them to keep themselves safe and protect their country.  We will soon be describing the different styles of governments, why they exist, and how they differ from one another.

We are quickly approaching the difficult part of social studies (but it is also what makes it fun, and the best class in school).  Unlike most situations in school, where there is "one right answer" that is expected, we look deeply into problems, ideas, and possible solutions.  Backgrounds, history, cultures, and problems determine the courses of actions that can be taken, and which might be the best approach for the time.  It's not easy to think of more than one alternative to solve a problem.

THERE ARE NO RIGHT ANSWERS IN SOCIAL STUDIES.  As soon as you think you know the answer, something can change and your answer must change too. 

Two final environmental videos:

Asia's Brown Cloud:

Southeast Asia's Drought:

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From R. Murry

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Life Is Unfair, Just Like Your Parents Said - Environmental Issues (Middle East)


Simply, it means not everyone gets the same amount of the same things.

Natural resources are not found around the world in equal portions.  For example, approximately 85% of the world's oil is found in the Middle East.

This same idea is true of any natural resource (like diamonds, trees, and water).

Many economists are beginning to believe that future wars will not be fought over things like oil or diamonds, but over water; especially in the Middle East.

TODAY we consider the premise that people must have fresh water in order to survive.

[We defined premise as a statement that most everyone would agree is true.]

We then considered the following question:

Is it possible that collecting water (which people need to survive) could ever be considered the wrong thing to do?

Two videos, with differing perspectives, help us see the deep issues.  The dam being built in Southeastern Turkey, on the Tigris River is controversial for several reasons. Watch closely.

For Turkey, the issues now are drought, unused water (is it wasted) from the river, and the need for hydroelectric power.  They want the dam.

For Iraq, the future issues are 50% less water flowing into the Tigris, negative consequences to agriculture, human migration to where the water will be, and water pollution.

What do you think should be done?

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Silent Discussion - Could We Create an Online Textbook?

Today was an early release day at school.  Our class period were 40 minutes long. 

We did something new today - Silent Discussions.

There were five topics; all based on the Environmental Issues we have studied in Africa.

Each student answered five questions:

  1. What are the biggest environmental issues facing Africa?
  2. Why is deforestation occurring, and is it always bad?
  3. What are some consequences of deforestation?
  4. Why is desertification happening and what are the consequences of it?
  5. Why should we even care about what is going on in Africa?
I was really proud of the work that was done.  Especially since this was the first time we have done this exercise.

I am going to find out from students tomorrow if they would be interested in compiling and editing the student work to write our own online textbook, complete with text, pictures, and video.  I think it could be a very valuable resource for us, and maybe other 7th grade students in Georgia.

What do you think?

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mr. Kratz teaches about multiple intelligences. What's your preferred learning style?

From R. Murry

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Health Care [Not So] Funny - But True?

I caught this in the Chattanooga Times editorial cartoon for September 20, 2009. 
Subject: Let Me Get This Straight

The Congress’ new health care plan will be written by a committee whose head says he doesn't understand it, passed by a Congress that hasn't read it, whose members will be exempt from it and have never so much as run a lemonade stand, signed by a president who smokes, funded by a treasury chief who did not pay his taxes, overseen by a surgeon general who is obese, and financed by a country that is broke. 

What could possibly go wrong?

Chattanooga Times Free Press | Diagnostics

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Environmental Issues (Africa)

There are 2 reasons for Environmental problems in Africa:
  • Underdevelopment
  • Development
There are 2 types of Environmental Pollution Africans deal with most frequently:
  • Biological
  • Industrial
Many areas of Africa are under-developed.  This means there is no running water, sewer systems, or electricity.  When this is the case, people must gather water from lakes, ponds, rivers, and wells.  This water, without treatment, can be contaminated (or polluted) by microscopic bacteria.

As areas in Africa develop into more modern communities, they are doing what developed nations did as the grew...they are destroying their environment in the process.  Industrial waste and recently discovered oil deposits are polluting the rivers and land as well.

Below are videos of Guinea Worm infestation and Lymphatic Filariasis.

I find it necessary to remind us of TOMS Shoes too.

Remember, shoes (and proper sewage treatment) can help prevent up to 50% of the world's infectious diseases.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

9-11-01 - Stories and Videos

On the day that change our worldview, Dalton Middle School was somewhat unique.

At the time, we had about 110 adults (teachers, staff, etc.)  We had about 1200 students.

Just before 9:00 our principal came on the intercom and told us a tremendous accident had happened in New York, at one of the Trade Center Towers.  Those of us who recall the building of the Towers also may remember the controversy with the height and location near JFK Airport.  We thought we were seeing what all the controversy was about.

Most of the teachers turned on their TV sets.  But one teacher was on her phone.  She called her brother, David Bauer, who worked between 3 to 8 floors above where the first plane crashed into the North Tower.  David did not answer.  Our teacher, Mrs. Abernathy called her sister-in-law to see if David was at work or not yet there.  He had gone in early that day.  He was killed in the attack.

But DMS was not finished with the affects of the morning.

We had another teacher, a 7th grade science teacher, Mr. Budding, who was a first-year teacher with us.  He was in the reserves, and had served as a counter-terrorist specialist in Egypt for several years.  He received a call around 10:00 to report for active duty.

But DMS was not finished with the affects of the morning.

Our School Resource Officer, Officer Smith, was once the bodyguard for Colin Powell.  He also spent 10 years in Europe as a counter-terrorist specialist.  His sister, our principal's secretary came to the cafeteria to tell her brother he had a phone call.  Officer Smith was to report immediately for active duty.

By noon, three of our school's faculty and staff were gone. 

We also have a student with us today who was in a Day Care 3 blocks away from the Towers.  Her father, a doctor, was not allowed across the bridge from New Jersey to see if his 4-year-old daughter was safe.  She was.  She says all she remembers was screaming, crying, and a dark sky.  We are so blessed to have Andrea with us.  She is a beautiful girl, with a wonderful spirit, and the world would be missing something if she wasn't here.

For those who lost their lives, our world suffers because you are gone.

Officer Smith and Mrs. Abernathy are still with us at DMS.  Officer Smith comes to speak with my classes each year now.  My kids are attached to him like a laser beam as he speaks of his role.  I'm proud to know him, and understand my blessings because of people like him.

After Officer Smith spoke to my classes, I told my story of "Where was I when the planes hit the Towers."  My classes in 2001 watched the second Tower get hit by the plane.  We watched the first Tower (the second one hit) crumble.  We watched it LIVE.  As Officer Smith told my kids, "our building of nearly 1300 people was eerily quiet when the Towers fell, and for the rest of the day."

I struggle each year with what to show & tell my students.  They were young and protected from the realities of the world into which they had been born.  They will never know the "freedom" of arriving at the airport 5 minutes before takeoff and making it to the plane with time to spare.  They will never know the freedom of carrying a full tube of toothpaste on a plane.

We watched the newscast of the morning of 9-11-01.  Somehow, I wanted them to experience what we felt that day, without the garbage of interpretation, blame, and conspiracy.  Just the event.  Pure, unadulterated history.  Here is what happened, as it happened, with total disbelief, attempts to explain away what was happening, and utter shock of the reporters.

I won't forget it. 



The students in Kindergarten through 12th grade have a very limited memory of the events.  They live in a country where they are protected from such horrific events.  As I mentioned to my kids, in other parts of the world, children at the age of 5 already know what to do in case of bombs, gunfire, and enemy attack.  Some even know how to fire back. 

We say the difference in America is that we have freedom and democracy.  True. 

But perhaps one thing that really separates us from other countries is that we protect our young from knowing the events and effects of war.  So I thank our military men & women who, in the words of Officer Smith, "Take the war to those who seek war, so they don't have the opportunity to bring the war on our soil."

Since 2001, there have been numerous terrorist attacks around the world.  Not in the USA.  We have succeeded in re-galvanizing our resolve to remain free and be a beacon for freedom throughout the world.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Back To The Drawing Board

I hate it when I forget what worked in past years.  I have struggled this week to get the Land & Water Features into the brains of the students. 

But a student did something after a class that reminded me what I did last year.

I used the Marker feature in PowerPoint to draw the Land Features on a map I had projected on the wall.  The students watched what I did, then they did it on the maps at their seats.  How could I forget something so easy!?

Thanks to Araceli for "playing" with my computer after class.  Now we can move forward much quicker.

Tomorrow will be an emotional day for our school family.  One of the teachers I started with 14 years ago had a brother on the 104th floor on the North Tower during the 9/11 attacks.  I remember vividly where I was, who I was with, and watching the 2nd plane crash into the South Tower, then watching the towers plummet to the ground...on live TV. 

It was like a movie, unreal, not surreal.

Another teacher was called that afternoon and told to report for duty; he was an Marine Reservist.  Our School Resource Officer was called into active duty to train Military Policemen in Kentucky.  Three people in our school were directly affected by the events of that day.  Because they were, so were the rest of us.  Never before or since has our faculty, staff, and school been so supportive of one another.  In that sense, I miss those days.

Our students rallied, and gave of themselves.  I'll tell you about it this weekend.

As I return from my stroll down memory lane, I look forward to tomorrow.

I was reminded last year that my students were protected from the horrors, and rightfully so, due to their age.  I am one of the first people to tell them the story, to pass on a major turning point in American history.  What an honor, and yet what a responsibility. 

There are very few people who personally remember Pearl Harbor.  How important is it that the older generation pass on to the children the circumstances, tragedies, and the national pride that followed?  I think it is one of the greatest thing we do for our children.

Remember this one?

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Land Forms of Africa, Middle East, and Asia

Back to the basics.  It's dry, dull, and not very exciting to learn the locations we are required to know. 

But until we know where they are, we cannot understand why people behave the way they do in these areas of the world.

Land Forms:

    • Atlas Mountains
    • Sahara Desert
    • Kalahari Desert
    • Sahel
    • Savanna
    • Tropical Rain Forest
    • Gaza Strip
  • ASIA
    • Himalaya Mountains
    • Taklimakan Desert
    • Gobi Desert
    • Korean Peninsula
We discussed how the Sahara is growing.  The word we will begin using is desertification.  Desertification is occurring because as people move into the area next to the desert (Sahel or Savanna) they cut the trees (deforestation) for buildings and fuel.  Without the trees, there are no roots to keep the dirt in place.  The dirt (soil) becomes loose, and the strong winds blow away the dirt; allowing the sand of the desert to takes its place.

Herders allow their livestock (camels, goats, cattle, etc.) to overgraze the grassy areas, and the roots from the grass die, making the soil loose and easily blown away; also allowing the winds to blow away the dirt while the desert sand takes over.

As plant life dies, people are forced into smaller and smaller areas for living.  A struggle for the essentials of life (food, water, shelter) leads to conflict over life-sustaining land.

The following video is about the people of the desert.  It is part of a documentary called Women of the Sand.

We also discussed the Gaza Strip (Arab land within the border of Israel).  We had a taste of the reason behind the Arab-Israeli conflicts dating back to the time of Abraham, and the idea behind the "promised land."  We obviously did not cover all the details, but the conflicts we see today are nothing new in the middle east...it has a history of 3500 years!

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Mom & daughter (student) at Open House. Mom from Ghana.

 From R. Murry

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Why Teachers Should Feel Great About President's Speech

Many of my kids didn't pay enough attention for the speech to make a difference. Good speech, normal students.

 The topic of responsiblility was lost on too many.

 I don't feel so bad when they ignore me. There's a bright spot, huh?

 From R. Murry

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Music Video - Final Cut - Countries for 7th Grade Georgia USA

Here is the final cut for learning the 19 countries we are required to know for 7th grade social studies in the state of Georgia, USA.

Thanks to Paul and Anna Joseph for their music and leadership and my classes for learning the "lyrics."

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

Countries We Have To Know - Music Video

It's Raw, barely edited...but fun.  Enjoy.

Based on the Georgia Standards for 7th Grade Social Studies.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Unknown customer at n2 Shoes just bought her first pair if @TOMSShoes. She let me take her picture.

 From R. Murry

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Allison from n2 Shoes in Chattanooga is going to help us with our school project. Goal is 50 pair of shoes if it's just our team or 250 pair if we make it school-wide. Hoping to make orders during Cougar Carnival.

 From R. Murry

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Music Video Coming Soon!

What a great day in class. Paul & Anna Joseph came to my classes to sing and play music. Not just any music, but familiar tunes with the names of our countries of study for the year.

 We sang a lot, we danced a little, learned it all. My students know the countries and where they are located. Bring on that part of the CRCT! My kids will finish that part in about 30 seconds.

 We move on to the features of Africa, Middle East, and Asia.

 Then we begin discussing the real issues of our world: human rights, health and sickness, reasons for war, environmental issues, and how to make our world a better place.

 I'll be editing the 4 hours of video for the next day or two. It will be posted for review and pleasure by the weekend.

 From R. Murry

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