Teachers become the studentLocal social studies teachers learned the details of military life from the experts last month. Groups of educators clustered around area veterans from all eras July 17 at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, drinking in real-life details and asking a barrage of questions.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Local social studies teachers learned the details of military life from the experts last month. Groups of educators clustered around area veterans from all eras July 17 at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, drinking in real-life details and asking a barrage of questions.
Korean War veteran Sid Palm served in the armament section for the U.S. Air Force, preparing planes with guns, rockets and bombs.
“In Korea it was bombs,” he said.
He recalled the day they pulled everything off planes and loaded them with napalm to take out Chinese tanks that had surrounded some marines.
Making the napalm was “just like making Jell-O at home,” he said, except the powder was mixed with gasoline before getting sloshed about. Once the planes were loaded, they took off.
“I heard we destroyed every tank but one, so we saved the marines,” Palm said, and the pilots were awarded medals.
Bob Hoyt served in Vietnam with the U.S. Navy. He recalled how the people of North Vietnam would use portable bridges at night to move troops around, then hide them during the day. He had a definite opinion on the Vietnam War.
“I don’t care what anyone says, it was a civil war,” Hoyt told the teachers.
World War II veteran John Kanzler described how he pestered his mother to let him sign up for the U.S. Navy at age 17. He had to promise to get his high school diploma if he returned. He served on the battleship USS Colorado in the Mariana Islands, Philippines and Okinawa, where they spent 63 days under air attack providing cover fire for marines on the island. Kanzler saw a lot of his friends, a lot of kids, go and not come back. But he made it home. And the day he graduated, Kanzler said, his mother was the happiest woman in town.
The session was part of a weeklong colloquium funded by the Teach America History grant. For three years the teachers — who hail from 16 school districts including Duluth, Superior, Solon Springs, Ashland and Cloquet — have become the students. The theme of the sessions is “Defining America: Times of Crisis and Recovery.”
In 2010, they studied the Revolutionary War and early America. Last year, the Civil War took center stage. This year they focused on the Great Depression and World War II. “Rock stars” in the history world have been among their teachers, according to Kyle Smith, a Superior High School teacher who helped apply for the grant.
Although no funding was available for this year’s program, they were able to use leftover grant money from previous years to pay for the five-day course. The annual sessions have been good for teachers, Smith said. “They’ve been exposed to good resources that will carry on.”
One of those resources, an online digital resource called CICERO, which will be piloted in a couple of classes at SHS this year, Smith said. Through the district’s new One to One program, SHS freshmen will each receive a laptop for use in and out of class through their high school career. In future, paying $5 per student for a license to an online database like CICERO could replace traditional textbooks.
Another tool teachers studied was Document-Based Question Project, which involves having students read and analyze historical documents to come up with their own conclusions. Smith uses a lot of primary sources for his AP history classes. Learning about the project “reaffirmed some things I was doing.” It also led to a workshop for Superior social studies teachers on the Document-Based Question Project.
“That’s something our district is using because of this grant,” Smith said.
The teachers left with another resource July 17, a thumb drive packed with veteran interviews collected through the Bong Center’s oral history project. Air Force veteran Scott Markle, education outreach coordinator for the center, said it’s important to capture these stories.
“Everybody does have something to offer,” he said. That includes nonmilitary women who worked in the shipyards during World War II. Without those workers on the homefront, Markle said, “we couldn’t have won the war.”
He also encouraged teachers to get some primary sources from the center — presentations from veterans, oral histories and other options.