Thursday, March 13, 2014

Great Depression Photos

     I use a LOT of photos from the different eras to teach about the people who lived during that time.  As we began our Great Depression unit, I of course started with the great photos of Dorothea Lange, and others who documented that decade.

     My students were already working on a cartoon (programmed in scratch) reflecting a topic they were assigned for the 30's (I'll try to link to those soon).  It occurred to me though that it might be fun for them to recreate, or design new pictures to reflect their topic as well.

     Our topics were divided up as Farm Workers, Hard Times, Dust Bowl, Stock Market, FDR, New Deal, Entertainment, and Unemployment.  They had already made a lot of connection from that time period to our current politics, and knew them well. I asked them to research actual photos from their topic, and then sketch what we would do to represent them.  They were INTO IT.  Comments like, "Best project ever!" and "AWESOME" were flying around the room.  Students sketched out their photo layout, came up with costumes, where on campus their photo should be shot, and a list of props and then  we compiled them in case someone else could bring in something we might need.  Then I called in my mom, who is a photographer, and she did the best she could in honoring their wishes. Some of the resulting photos were absolutely gorgeous, others were more typical.

Here are my farm workers.  These students wrote essays about losing farms due to financial reasons, government programs and the dust bowl. 

These two boys were depicting children in the dust bowl.  They wrote essays about how the dust bowl occurred and it's impact on families, and migrant workers. 

The girls were working on the topic of "Hard Times."  They used a tool shed on the back playground as their backdrop and then (below) recreated one of Dorothea Lange's famous photos. 

The girls above had the topic of "Unemployment."  They were sitting on a bench with signs trying to get employment for themselves or family members. 

The boys in this picture were using what they had to play baseball.  Kids still had to have a little fun, right?

These two photos are about "The Stock Market Crash" and runs on banks.  The girls who created it, put signs up on outside doors which said bank, and then recruited other "suit wearers" to help them out.  Can't you just FEEL the anguish at losing all your money? There were issues during this photo shoot since other classes were trying to get out to recess..... and a teacher trying to photobomb! ;-)

The girls above chose "FDR" and were not very happy with their topic once they realized one of them would probably need to dress up as him.  This picture shows how he gave speeches around the country to raise the hopes of others. 

The last group of boys wanted to show the Civilian Conservation Corp and the workers who were paid through that program.  

Is it STEM? Probably not, but could be counted as STEAM, right?  The students had to design their own photos, and scenarios, and used art to convey them so I figured I would share.  I'm also super proud of their work.  The final display of these is still a work in progress. I have enlarged them on the poster machine, and lined them gallery style down our hall.  We'll add in a few more photos from the time period as evidence of what we were trying to convey, and then of course include our final essays on the topic.  


     We have an organization in our city that holds classes for teachers, among other groups, called IT-ology.  On Feb. 18th I had the opportunity to take a class for something called a Hummingbird created by Bird Brain Technologies.  It resembles an arduino, but is geared for maybe 4th - 8th grade. I've been trying to figure out how to incorporate ideas, AND I wanted to do something "arduino-ie" but I don't program with python, or anything at that level.  I'm also finding it a bit IMPOSSIBLE to find a "programming for teachers" class that is actually a class that holds me accountable for completing tutorials.  I need that..... I get distracted by other things.  This Hummingbird class was geared toward making puppet type robots that I thought would be a good place for me to start. 

When we got there we listened to a presentation of how this product came to fruition, which was rather interesting because it really is just getting on its feet. It began as a PhD thesis and then was piloted in the Pittsburgh area.  We were one of their first classes to an audience outside of the pilot area. 

     The Hummingbird looks like a little mother-board, but is labeled quite well so I knew exactly what needed to be plugged in everywhere.  It used the scratch program, which is free and online, and a program that we've been playing around with sense our Hour of Code week in December. 

     We ran through how to plug things in, and then opened the connection to scratch.  It was pretty easy to see what ports we were using, as well as how to program to turn lights on, or make a servo move.  In the morning time we spent working the program, and doing the basics. Once we got the hang of everything we were shown moving robot type puppets made from craft supplies that could move. Then we got the chance to make our own. 

I'll update soon with my finished puppet.  The card with those pictures is not at school.