Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cotton Mills in the Classroom

A few days ago my Honors History 10 class had the pleasure of taking a trip to England, all while sitting in our classroom. What we did was have a live video chat with Jamie, a museum curator at Manchester, England’s Museum of Science and Industry. Since our class is studying the industrial revolution, Jamie focused on machinery invented and used in textile and cotton mills during that era. But before we got to have this talk, we had to get prepared. For the few days leading up to our discussion, we spent our class time searching around on the MOSI textiles gallery site, learning vocab that is used in the textile industry (ie. slubbing: to twist wool in preparation for spinning), and coming up with questions for our chat.
Jamie showing us some machinery!

When Jamie just popped up onto our class smart board, it was so cool. We could see all the machinery he pointed out, and ask him all kinds of questions- it was just like he was right there in the room with us. First we got a run down of the evolution of textile making. It all started with the handloom, a machine people used in their homes to create cloth. We got to see one up close from the 1830s! Next came the water loom, and later the steam powered loom. With these inventions, cloth making shifted from in-home work to factory work that took over England's economy. When a question about working and living conditions arose, Jamie laughed at the  thought, exclaiming, “Health and safety didn’t exist in the factory system!” He then proceeded to give us detailed description of the brutal and unhealthy factory conditions, where arthritis and scoliosis were minor ailments compared to the limbs that women and kids lost in machinery.
An old drawing of factory workers that Jamie showed the class.

When the class signed out of our chat with Jamie, I felt like I had just visited a real museum where I’d gotten to view the looms up close, and ask all the questions I wanted. It seemed that whatever question we had, Jamie had the answer and was ready to tell it to us. I only wish that we had actually been in the museum with him so I could get a closer, more detailed look at the machines. But, hey, for $1000 and a plane ride less, our video chat worked pretty well. I hope that we get to do more of these chats throughout the year with all kinds of experts around the world, because it was great to learn from someone who specializes in our current curriculum… and hear the British accent!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Industrial Revolution: A Blessing or A Curse?

This past week Honors History 10 turned a section of RMHS into a museum, as we built exhibits featuring different aspects of the Industrial Revolution, and displayed them down the hallway. Each group of 5 took on a topic relating to the Industrial Revolution, so my group dove into learning about the pollution created by factories and machinery. We began with 6 sources, and analyzed them to find the author, their motivation to create the source, date, and location. From this we were able to draw main points, which made it easier later when we had to write blurbs about each source. When we were done, our exhibit consisted of a poster connecting a map of 19th century England, a depiction of a Victorian slum, a drawing of run-down Manchester, observations on the dirty River Thymes, and differing views about the Industrial Revolution. The main argument of our poster was that although the Industrial Revolution was beneficial in the sense that new inventions and innovations took place, it also caused a massive amount of pollution which brought down the quality of living for inhabitants to England. We titled our exhibit “Pollution of the Revolution” not only because it’s a clever rhyme, but because it follows how the Industrial Revolution caused so much pollution, and how that pollution affected everyone.
A close up from my group's exhibit, Pollution of the Revolution.
   When museum goers stop in at our exhibit, the major point that they should take away is that although the Industrial Revolution was the source of many technological advances, it also caused excess pollution that made every day English life filthy, unsanitary, and depressing.

Other exhibits and aspects of the Industrial Revolution:

Group A:Spinning A City

During the Industrial Revolution the spinning jenny and British handloom were invented, which increased the amount of wool that could be made. Textile mills became popular and offered lots of jobs in London, so people moved there and the population rapidly grew.

Group B: Steam Powered Transportation:
Now We're Getting Somewhere

With the invention of the steam engine, power boats and trains came along and provided more efficient transportation. Although a select few disliked the steam engine because it disrupted nature, a large percent of the population liked it because it connected people.

Group D: Condemning the Innocent

Children and women worked in mines, in factories, and as bobbin girls. They had to work overtime, barefoot, and did strenuous labor, all in order to support their families.
The amount of slaves in the US skyrocketed after the start of the Industrial Revolution. This is because as more textile mills were built, the number of slaves had to increase to meet the demands of the cotton industry.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

From Iron, to Engines, to Travelling the World

Defined as “radically new or innovative; outside or beyond established procedure, principles, etc.” in Webster’s dictionary, the word ‘revolutionary’ sums up the Industrial Revolution which took place during the 18th and 19th centuries. In history class we recently studied some of these advancements. Broken up into groups, the class worked on analyzing some of the most important improvements and inventions made during this period of time. After class presentations and group discussions, two areas that stuck out as especially important are innovations in transportation and technology.

In the field of technology, one of the most revolutionary advancements was that of improved iron. Iron was starting to become a vital material, as it was used to help build many 18th and 19th century inventions, but there were a few problems with it. Darby discovered that coal had been giving off impurities damaging the iron that it was used to heat. To improve the quality of iron, he found a way to remove these impurities from coal. This advancement led to less expensive iron, which was vital, as so much of it was needed for the construction of other inventions, such as machines and steam engines.

The improvement of materials like iron thus led to that of new machinery used for transportation. Improved on by Watts in 1781, the steam engine was made of iron and used to power vehicles. In past years, train tracks had to be built along bodies of water so that trains could be pulled by barges. But when the steam engine became popular, it enabled transportation to take place almost anywhere. Crossing open country land became possible, allowing people to visit relatives, travel, move house, and spread news more quickly than in the past. With the invention of the steam engine, steam powered boats no longer depended on the weather. This allowed resources to be shipped more quickly between continents, and communication between countries to grow.
Watt's Steam Engine,
The Industrial Revolution wasn’t just about shiny new things or fancy machines; it helped broaden communication and transportation throughout the world. Advancements in technology, like higher quality and cheaper iron, led to the invention and improvement of the steam engine, which made transportation faster and easier.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

How to Find What Your Looking For in Under an Hour

Day 3 of history class began the way you might expect a Saturday night to start out- 6 teenagers sitting around a TV, all on their cellphones and iPads.  But instead of scrolling through our twitter feeds or checking up on the latest magcon viners, we used all this technology to learn about online research and responsibility.

First we started off with a site sponsored by google, called A Google A Day. The way it works is you get asked a question, and then you have to use a google search engine to find the answer. Easy, right? Wrong. The questions being asked were things like, “An 11-foot bird lives less than two miles from 30.891383,-102.885032. What's his name?” Simply typing that into the search engine would get you nowhere. Instead we had to think up different ways to search, like going on google maps and finding the location provided, or looking up what kind of bird is 11 feet tall. Competing with our classmates to see who could find all the answers first felt like a treasure hunt- each type of search held different clues, each one leading us closer or further from the answer. Although it could get frustrating trying from all different angles, and still being empty handed after 15 minutes, A Google A Day taught us all a lot about researching. You don’t always find things on the first try, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find the information you are looking for. Searching key ideas and words can lead you closer to information, and with enough time spent and creative ideas; you will find what you are looking for.

"Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus Site",
Once you do find a site or article that appears to house the information you want, you first need to ask a few questions- How accurate, reliable, and authentic is this site and information? For a site to be all of these it must be what it says it is, come from  a person who is trusted and has the necessary qualifications for the information they are publishing to be valid (ie. a degree in that field), and it must be recently updated to ensure that the information is up to date. Sometimes a site may appear to be all of these things, but in reality is the opposite. One example of this is the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus website. Of course a tree octopus isn’t a real animal; the name is practically an oxymoron! But the website looks so real that teachers often use it to test their students on their research skills, and ability to judge a website. Take a closer look and you’ll realize that it’s all a hoax. Just by googling the author, Lyle Zapato, information stating that the site is a joke pops up. Next look at the site url, it doesn’t end in edu, for education, or org, for organization, but instead net, which stands for network. This shows that the site is not made for educational purposes, so it’s not wise to cite it as a source of accurate information.

After an hour of class time spent scouring the internet for hidden answers to tricky questions, and coming to the realization that websites aren’t always what they seem to be, class came to a close. What started out as a group of teenagers sitting around a TV on their iPhones, had turned into a well-educated group of young adults, now possessing the knowledge to research anything online, better prepared and more efficient than an hour earlier.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Future Beyond Technology

Welcome to the blog of a 10th grade honors History student from arguably the most historic city in the United States- Boston, MA. From the Industrial Revolution to the age of the iPhone, read along as I explore the past and learn from it to create a better future.

In order to achieve this “better” future, we need educators who will provide students with the necessary knowledge, skills, and learning environment. Oftentimes I feel that when we think of the future, we think strictly of technological advances, but that’s not all that our future has potential for. What I hope for is that one day I, and my grandchildren, will live in a world with widely spread acceptance for all forms of humanity, limited fighting and tension within and external of our government, and emphasis on creativity and new ideas. For this ideal world to become our future, I think that we need educators to treat students and act in a certain manner. I think that a great teacher will emphasize togetherness and companionship within the classroom, making it a fun place for students to be and feel welcome. This great teacher should also allow students to express themselves and encourage them to try new things, as well as offer guidance if necessary. In the past I’ve enjoyed teachers who have helped me learn not only new curriculum, but new ways of expressing myself and communicating with the world. I’ve liked when we learn in new ways, like making videos instead of watching them, or creating our own paintings and then studying others. Personally, I want a teacher who will treat me as an individual with my own important ideas. After all, these ideas will lead to our future as a country and a people.

Twitter- a new form of communication between teachers and students!
(Mrs. Gallagher's Twitter,

In John Green’s recent back to school video he nods to this idea that students shape the future as he discusses our duty to the world. Green says “I pay for your schools because I want you to grow up and make my life better.” Unlike Green, I do not think that it is any student’s duty to use their education to improve the living of others. Although it would be nice if every student did do so, I do not think that we should feel obligated to repay the world. Education is a gift and those who receive it are oftentimes more fortunate than they know, but as I repeat, it is a gift. I think that wanting to improve our world should not be a duty forced upon someone, but instead a calling and a hope that one wishes to pursue from the good of their heart. This having been said I feel that whether educated or not, we should all strive to make our world a better place through our actions, personal interactions, and everyday routines.  Personally, I want to do great things, but by that I don’t necessarily mean change the world. This year I hope to do well in my studies, but more importantly make an impact on those around me. I want to make people smile and work together with my classmates to have fun exploring new ideas and learning new things. I want to enjoy my education in a good environment and have opportunities to be creative, and I want the same for my peers. Through a combination of hard work, a teacher who guides me but also gives me freedom, a classroom environment that is exciting and welcoming, and a positive outlook on the future, I hope to reach my goal of enjoying learning this year.

 Check out the video referenced earlier, John Green's, "An Open Letter to Students Returning to School", posted on his YouTube channel, vlogbrothers.