American Thanksgiving


Educators, seeking enriching anecdotes to help their students understand the historical context of the American Thanksgiving traditions, will enjoy the excerpt from Melanie Kirkpatrick’s speech, “Thanksgiving and America”, published in Hillsdale College’s, Imprimis. 

While the holiday itself has passed for this year and you are likely far beyond the Pilgrims in the semester of American History, this speech would be a great read-aloud or supplemental literacy enrichment text. It is intelligent and insightful, yet quite readable and accessible.

I especially enjoyed the acknowledgement of Sarah Hale’s singular dedication to this cause as well as the uproar caused by FDR when he moved the date!

Questions for Discussion

  1. What was Benjamin Franklin’s description of Thanksgiving?
  2. What were three of the major controversies surrounding Thanksgiving?
  3. What role did Sarah Hale have in establishing the Thanksgiving tradition?
  4. What were the early Thanksgiving celebrations about?
  5. Which colony established the first specific date for the holiday?
  6. What were two of the main objections voiced regarding the holiday in 1789?
  7. What were two of Washington’s key solutions to establish this as an inclusive holiday?
  8. What does Ms. Kirkpatrick mean by, “Shades of the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians sit at every American’s Thanksgiving table…?”
  9.  What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”


Who Was Norman Borlaug?

According to the University of Minnesota, their graduate, Norman Borlaug, was “the man who saved a  billion lives.” Not bad for a boy growing up in 12 miles from the nearest town in rural Iowa in the early 1900’s, and whose education began in a one room school house.

Borlaug, went on to study Forestry at the University of Minnesota (after initially flunking the entrance exams!) Then he earned a Masters, followed by a  PhD studying plant disease. He received a big break in 1944 when he was invited to work on a project in Mexico to help the farmers grow their own wheat.

His research and work in educating farmers left a long legacy of helping develop self-sufficiency and feeding the world. His work is acknowledged as being at the leading edge of the “Green Revolution” and his work and teachings live on.


The University of Minnesota have an excellent Norman Borlaug website devoted to his work. Anyone who is interested in ecology, biology, agriculture, history, or anyone seeking inspiration about how a dedicated, passionate researcher can truly make a positive impact on humanity should learn more about him and check out the website. Be sure also to check out his 2001 Nobel Centennial Symposia speech at  as well as the video Rusts Never Sleep available under the resources link at the website.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What were some of the formative experiences of Norman’s early years?
  2. What were his early educational experiences?
  3. What were significant world events that shaped his research?
  4. How did Norman persevere through significant adversity? Give examples.
  5. What were the topics of his master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation?
  6. While in Mexico, what was his group’s unspoken motto?
  7. Describe how the “shuttle breeding”program worked?
  8. What threat did the stem rust fungus cause and how did his work prevent worse destruction of crops?
  9. What were three significant contributions Borlaug made to the benefit of humanity?
  10. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn,do?”

Life Minus Oxygen?



Congratulations to University of Cincinnati assistant professor of geology, Andrew Czaga and his team for finding fossils that reportedly existed prior to the existence of oxygen on this planet. For more information, you definitely want to check out Melanie Shefft’s piece in the new issue of UC Magazine.

Professor Czaga is quoted  in this piece, “These are the oldest reported sulfur bacteria to date.” At approximately 2.5 billion years old, these specimens taken from South Africa are large and spherically shaped.

This excellent, detailed article and brief video of a 3-d image of the bacteria would be of great interest to teachers of Geology and Biology.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What geologic era is this discovery from?
  2. How are these organisms described? What current organisms are similar to them?
  3. What was the name of the major supercontinent comprised of South Africa and Western Australia?
  4. When did the Great Oxidation Event occur?
  5. What was the Great Oxidation Event?
  6. Describe the process of “recycling”  as explained in the article.
  7. Looking at the graph, what do you think the “photic limit” means?
  8. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”

Students Travel the World to Build Kiln

For a great post on a fully immersive educational experience, check out the Northern Michigan University School of Art and Design blog post on their recent internship experience-creating a kiln in Indonesia.

For three years, Professor Kakas researched the design of these kilns-this trip was the culmination of that intense research.

This post will be of interest to art teachers of course, but also World History or Geography teachers who want to explore cultural practices of Bali, Indonesia.


Questions for Discussion

  1. How does a soda fired ceramic kiln work?
  2. How is this kiln utilized by the Balian people?
  3. Based on your reading of this text and seeing the photos, what are important cultural values of the Balian people?
  4. What was significant about the kiln built by the Northern Michigan University Students?
  5. How can this type of immersive experience be essential to students, researchers and the local community?
  6. What else does this inspire you to”dream, learn, do?”

“Seed to Kitchen” at University of Wisconsin-Madison


I was excited to stumble across the “Seed to Kitchen” initiative at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which teams up agricultural scientists with local chefs and food-lovers to create and study healthy, tasty vegetables.

For me, this is a great example of applied research in which the researchers are not only educating the chefs on vegetable varieties, but the chefs are providing feedback to the researchers on what they are looking for in the vegetable. This is a great communication loop that I think truly helps bring the benefits of research directly to the community.

High school biology teachers working introducing their students to the scientific work of Gregor Mendel, Augustinian monk and leader of scientific approaches to genetics; and Punnett Squares might find this a helpful video to enrich the curriculum. Culinary Arts instructors, Food/Cooking teachers will enjoy seeing the presentation of the food and the emphasis the chefs place on high quality, healthy ingredients. Marketing/business teachers might find it useful to enrich the idea of how university research labs are instrumental in developing new product concepts.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is the “Seed to Kitchen” initiative and why was it developed?
  2. What are the characteristics the growers are researching?
  3. What characteristics are the chefs interested in?
  4. How might the researchers change their research focus based on feedback from the chefs/consumers?
  5. How do the chefs use this research information in their work?
  6. What are the variables most likely examined in the researcher’s data?
  7. What else does this video inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”

“And That’s The Way It Is”-Walter Cronkite’s Centennial.

Those of us old enough to remember Walter Cronkite anchoring the evening news cast, his gentle, wise countenance and rich, soothing voice only occasionally revealing his emotional reaction to a story or event will be pleased by the feature by  Laura Byerley  on Walter Cronkite’s centennial November 4th.

Cronkite was a graduate of University of Texas-Austin in the 1930’s where he worked for the student newspaper as well as the campus radio station. He was an anchor at CBS from 1962-1981 and was known for his truly balanced, accurate reporting and calm demeanor. For many Americans, he was the single most trusted news source.

University of Texas-Austin is the proud home of his papers and journals at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.

His signature sign off, “And that’s the way it is,” was both definitive and reassuring and served as a way to provide closure to the tumultuous events he covered during his nearly two decades at the anchor desk.

windmill-at-dusk windmill at dusk 

The post also features a video of a wonderful public art installation by Ben Rubin, titled “And That’s the Way It Is.” The work features archival and current news  text scrawled across a campus building from projectors.  It is a fascinating commentary on how news has changed in the thirty plus years since Cronkite’s retirement, from a single authoritative narrator to fragmented, disembodied text.

The life and work of Walter Cronkite is so rich and covers so many changes that a teacher in US  History, Media Lit, Journalism could develop great material using his life and legacy as a foundation.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How did Walter Cronkite get his start in journalism?
  2. How did Cronkite establish the role of “anchor” in the newscast?
  3. What were some of the important events he covered in his two decade career as an anchor?
  4. How has broadcast news and news in general evolved in the 100  year period since his birth?
  5. What is the role of news coverage in our culture?
  6. What is your reaction to Ben Rubin’s public art installation? How does he use the “text” of history in novel ways?
  7.  What other ways are you inspired to “dream, learn and do?”

Clean Water with Nanotech



For a fascinating look at how nanotechnology can help save lives through ensuring people have access to clean water, read Pam Frost Gorder’s article on research at The Ohio State University.

This article highlights the research of Associate Professor Roberto Myers’ lab in materials science and engineering.  Myers, along with doctoral candidate Brelon May, created a light emitting diode on a piece of thin foil. The thinness of the foil allows it to be easily utilized and accessible in a wide variety of locations.

Myers lab developed this as a contrast to the conventional use of mercury based lamps which of course are toxic.

Educators teaching high level science courses as well as marketing and business courses might find this article useful.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What was the innovation that Myers and May developed?
  2. What is molecular beam nanotaxy and how was it essential for this work?
  3. What niche field are they developing?
  4. Describe the importance of “scalability” in marketing/product development?
  5. How does UV light sterilize?
  6. Using this product as a case study- How would you market it?
  7. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”