Monday, May 28, 2012

For the final 'Folklore 2012' exercise at Valencia Middle School we took a fast trip along the spine of Appalachia, from Georgia in the south to the Canadian Maritimes in the north, including the Green Mountains of Vermont.
We used a terrific 'word harvest' activity to examine the colloquial tradition as it applies to post-Colonial American myth and legend - everything from 'A painter (panther) kilt muh chickens' to 'Course that blizzahd they had the lahst night theyah was wicked, ayuh,' referring to the horrific New England winter storms of 1888, and the equally devastating winter of 1816, known in legend as 'the year without a summer.' These and other events inspired the poetic voice of writers like John Greenleaf Whittier, Ezra Pound, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Frost.
The excerpt below is just a sample of verse that originated in those remarkable times and places. I hope you like it, the kids sure did!

'Months that should be summer's prime,
Sleet and snow and frost and rime.
Air so cold you see your breath,
Eighteen hundred and froze to death.'

Friday, May 25, 2012

My congratulations and best wishes to 8th graders throughout the TUSD! With graduation and promotion ceremonies going on at city schools today (5-23), 13 year-olds will join their peers in the fall as members of various high school classes of 2016.... It's an important day for families, whether their sons and daughters are off to Cholla, Tucson, Catalina Magnet, or elsewhere; they can take this opportunity to pause and reflect on the joined sacrifices made in pursuit of an educational dream.
These students know that nothing of value in life is easy to obtain - from solving difficult social problems to mastering the English language. I am confident they will do themselves and their families proud!
Good luck, and have a safe summer!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

                        Folklore 2012

Thanks once more to teachers and students at Valencia Middle School for participating in Thursday's 'Folklore 2012' program (the second installment of four). We had a terrific time with plains Indian winter counts, scenes from 'Dances With Wolves,' and a 'fashion show' that included a feather fan and an authentic antique buffalo bone chest protector, like the one worn by 'Wind in His Hair' in the film. My example from a Lakota original was fashioned (hand-made, using all natural materials) by Dr. Fred Wiseman, anthropology professor at Johnson (VT) State College, and tribal representative for the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi.
Congratulations and good work to students who started their own 5-year winter counts! Before starting work on the counts, they studied the actual drawings of Oglala Sioux chief, American Horse (the accompanying photo is of his daughter, Julia American Horse, taken in 1930).
Next Thursday, we will measure and plot out a bull buffalo, and look at mysterious sand paintings of the Navajo! Awesome!