Welcome Back!

September is finally here! School is about to start in a few days and I have so many things to tell you. First, the big news … I am the new social studies teacher at Brimm Medical Arts High School in Camden! This school year, I will be teaching U.S. History I and U.S. History II. I am so excited for this opportunity and have many new and fun things planned for the school year.

We’ve been busy this summer. My oldest is also starting a new school – KINDERGARTEN!  This partially explains the hectic, but fun, summer we had. We visited the Constitution Center and the new Museum of the American Revolution. At the Constitution Center,  my son enjoyed the Hall of Signers and the interactive touch screens.

We also stopped at some historic sites on our way back to the train station including the site Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.

I visited the Museum of the American Revolution during the school year with two colleagues so I knew I wanted to go back with my dad and son. Some highlights of the visit were George Washington’s original sleeping and office tent and costumes used by the actors on the AMC show Turn: Washington’s Spies.

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Like last summer, this summer included some professional development. I attended the James Madison Legacy Project – We the People Institute at Rutgers. With a focus on the citizen and the constitution, it was awesome and we were busy from the minute we got there until we left. I got to meet amazing educators from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The first night we went to downtown New Brunswick for ice cream at one of my favorite places, Thomas Sweets. After we walked around the campus and it was overwhelming to see how much my Alma Mater and hometown area have changed since I left over ten years ago. Later in the week we took a trip to Princeton University to learn about the Jefferson Papers. Next we had lunch at Washington Crossing State Park followed with a visit to Johnson Ferry House, where George Washington and his staff stayed after the crossing of the Delaware River. My husband and I attended the Christmas Day reenactment in 2011 at Washington Crossing Historic Park in Pennsylvania so I was looking forward to see the historic sites on the Jersey side.  I love being able to visit local historical sites and bring the experience back to my classroom.

Last, my sons and I visited the Historic Village at Allaire (Allaire State Park) with some friends of ours, who is also an English teacher in Camden. It was interesting to learn what life might have been like for people who lived at Allaire almost 200 years ago. At the time, the United States was slowly changing and becoming more industrialized. We ended the day with a train ride, which the kids loved.

After a fun summer, I’m ready to get back to school to start the new school year and meet my new students.  See you soon!

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Amistad Commission Summer Institute for Teachers – 2016

Last summer (2016), I attended the Amistad Commission Summer Institute for Teachers at Rowan University. The Amistad Commission is a division of the New Jersey Department of Education and as per their website “The Amistad Commission ensures that the Department of Education and public schools of New Jersey implement materials and texts which integrate the history and contributions of African-Americans and the descendants of the African Diaspora”. The experience was amazing.

I was exhausted at the end of each day! Our workshops were fascinating. For our region, the topics included W.E.B. Du Bois’ study of Philadelphia’s Black Community and The Great Migration. In my U.S. History II class, we study W. E. B. Du Bois. We discuss his philosophy and his contributions. We compare his ideas with Booker T. Washington’s. Yet, I learned so much more about Du Bois on the walking tour and I love that I can take my new knowledge back to my classroom.

W. E. B. Du Bois was commissioned by the University of Pennsylvania department of sociology in 1896 to conduct a survey of blacks living in Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward. At the age of 30, he and his new wife moved to Philadelphia. The research was published in his 1899 paper, The Philadelphia Negro. We did not just learn about Du Bois’ research, we walked it.

On day 2, we took a walking tour down South Street, past shops and restaurants I have seen dozens of times, and walked a small portion of what he walked. His case study covered Philadelphia’s central Seventh Ward running north-south from Spruce Street and east-west from Seventh Street to the Schuylkill River. Probably the only similarity was the weather. Dr. Du Bois conducted his research in August, wearing a top hat and long coat. We walked part of it in July wearing shorts and sneakers. I always tell my students when we study history that someone lived through it and try to imagine what it was like for that person. Here I was doing just that. Imagining the street we were on, imagining what it looked like in the late 1800s and imagining Dr. Du Bois knocking on all the doors, asking questions, and collecting data over and over.

The mural above is titled Mapping Courage: Honoring W.E.B. Du Bois and Engine #11.  Artist Carl Willis Humphrey completed in 2008. It is located at 6th and South Streets. The scene is painted on the wall of Engine #11, a historical African-American firehouse. W.E.B. Du Bois is depicted observing a city scene with a census in his hand.

As we walked around, we saw more beautiful murals and mosaics. If you are visiting Philadelphia or are interested in planning a field trip, you can find information about it here.

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Cato Sign
A sign dedicated to Octavius V. Catto. Camden City has a community school named after him.

From there we visited Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church. The Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1794. While visiting Philadelphia, there is so much to do, but I highly recommend visiting Mother Bethel. Below are some pictures. The church has beautiful stained-glass windows with both religious and Masonic images. In the basement, is a small museum with original artifacts and the tomb of its founder, Bishop Richard Allen.MB outside

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Next, we were off to lunch at City Tavern, a reconstructed Colonial tavern where servers are in period dress. City Tavern first opened in December 1773 and was home to some of history’s most famous people. It even hosted a banquet for George Washington as he traveled through Philadelphia on his way to New York for his inauguration. The building was damaged by fire in 1834 and later demolished in 1854. However, a replica was built in 1975 just in time the nation’s bicentennial.

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Our final destination for the day (this is only day 2) was Lazaretto. In 1799, the Lazaretto Station was established in response to the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793. If you are interested in historic novels, be sure to read Fever 1793, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

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African American women who have already made history in Rio

Leading up to the Olympic Games in Rio, there was already so much talk about some of the athletes. Ibtihaj Muhammad made headlines as the first Olympian to wear a hijab during competition. She will return home to New Jersey with a team bronze medal. Below are four other African American women who have already made history in Rio.

Simone Biles, Gymnastics: First, a little about gymnastics. There are four events in women’s gymnastics: floor exercise, uneven bars, vault and the balance beam. Gymnasts compete in each event and are scored by judges based on the difficulty of their routine and how well they execute the routine. Deductions are given for any mistakes and can sometimes mean the difference between winning and losing. Back to Simone. 19 year old, Simone Biles is arguably, the best gymnast in the WORLD. Prior to the Olympics, she was the world All-Around champion in 2013, 2014, and 2015. That means she completed in each of the four events and her total score was the best out of everyone that competed. In addition to the All-Around medals, she won individual medals in some of the events and the US women’s team, won the gold medal in the 2014 and2015 World Championships too. That brings us to the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Simone won a total of 5 medals in Rio: 4 gold and 1 bronze. The US Women’s team won gold. Simone also won the gold medal in the All- Around competition, floor exercise, vault, and a bronze on balance beam; she most decorated gymnast in United States history! Finally, Simone was chosen to be the United States flag bearer for the closing ceremonies.

Simone Manuel, Swimming: Swimming also has different events. Swimmers can compete in the freestyle, breast stroke, and back stroke style at different lengths, 50 meter or 100 meter. There is also a team medley where 4 swimmers compete in the event. Simone Manuel was a champion before Rio, but adding an Olympic gold medal to your resume is awesome. Simone earned the gold medal in the 100 meter freestyle and the 4×100 meter medley. The best part was watching her reaction after she realized she won and her interview after is an inspiration to all.

Ashleigh Johnson, Water Polo: The 21 year old from Miami, Florida is a student at Princeton University. Johnson’s also making history because she is the first African American women to compete in water polo at the Olympics. She said, “I definitely feel the responsibility to be a role model for other black people and minorities because there are so little of us in this sport. Just being myself, being black draws more attention to me. But I didn’t feel like looking different means I had to play differently, or had to prove anything to anybody. I felt like I could be myself and play as well as anybody else.” (Time.com) Johnson is the goalie for the women’s water polo team.

Michele Carter, Track and Field: Michele Carter won the gold medal in the Track and Field shot put. Carter is another athlete making history since she is the first American woman to win gold in this event. It has to be cool to win a gold medal in the Olympics. It’s even better when your father won silver and is your coach. Michelle’s father, Michael, won a silver medal in the same event at the 1984 Olympic Games, which were held in Los Angeles California. He was also a defensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers and won three Super Bowls with the team. Mr. Carter was beyond ecstatic for his daughter’s victory. “It’s no comparison,” he said. “With a Super Bowl, you’ve got a chance to win it every year. This only comes around once every four years or once in a lifetime. I’m numb right now.” (USAtoday.com). Michelle is a great example of how giving all you got, even when others don’t think you can do it, pays off. In addition, Michelle is promoting body image for all women. Her program You Throw Girl aims to help women build confidence. Check out this article from The New Yorker.

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Summer Olympic Games

Every 4 years, the world’s best athletes come together to compete. The 2016 Summer Olympic Games opened last night in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. More than 11,000 athletes from 205 countries will compete in 28 events over the next 17 days (August 5-21, 2016)

More than 11,000 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees will compete in 28 Olympic sports. For the first time, athletes from Kosovo and South Sudan are taking part (Kosovo gained their independence from Serbia in 2008). There are 554 athletes (262 men, 292 women) from the United States.

Opening ceremonies honor the host country’s history and culture with performances. Then, each country enters the stadium during the Parade of Nations in alphabetical order by the host country’s language (Portuguese is the official language). Greece is credited with the revival of the modern games and always enters first. The host nation always enters last. Michael Phelps, swimming, carried the flag for Team USA at the Opening Ceremony. Phelps is the most decorated Olympics medalist with 22 medals and is expected to win more in Rio. Phelps debuted at the 2000 games in Sydney Australia when he was just 15 years old. This is Phelps’ 5th  Olympic Games and he said it would be his last.

New to the Parade of Nations this year was The Refugee Olympic Team. This is the first time refugees have been represented at the Olympic Games. There are just 10 members on the team displaced from 5 countries but they represent the 19 million refugees in the world. They carried the Olympic flag as a symbol of unity and cooperation. After all nations entered the stadium, the games officially opened with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron. Olympic marathoner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, of Brazil had the honor.

The Olympic Games will be exciting to watch. Of course, by time school starts, the games will be over and the athletes will have returned home. I’ll be posting more about the games soon. Enjoy!

Mrs. Johnson