Cultural Standard D and the Williamsport Millionaires

Cultural Standard D is among my favorite of the cultural standards. Basically, it encourages teachers to try to synthesize knowledge that is being passed down orally in a culture with book knowledge that comes from “experts” of one sort or another.

To apply this standard to my own home region and the discipline of Social Studies, I might begin a lesson on the Pennsylvania Lumber Boom and the lumber barons by asking kids how old the trees in our region are. Maybe they know that, maybe they don’t. But then I could proceed to ask them, “were most of the trees around here standing in 1776?” Well, maybe they don’t know that. So I might ask them, “is our forest here considered old growth or new growth?” By this point, I am quite sure I’d be jogging some memories and answers like “new growth” would be coming out.

From there, I would ask, “why is it called ‘new growth?'” And I am quite sure that some of the students would know that it is because it was all cut down at some point.

I would then shift gears and ask the students, “why are the city’s high school sports teams called ‘the Millionaires?'” I think some would be able to connect this to the lumber barons, because having their team called the Millionaires keeps that particular element of local history somewhat alive.

I would then ask them if they knew what old section of town was called “Millionaires Row” and if they knew why it had this name. (It’s now kind of slummy, but the construction of the houses there is fantastic. It has the name because it’s where all the lumber barons lived. They were incredibly wealthy, “millionaires” in the late 1800s.)

Having gone this route and (I believe) piqued their interest, I would bring out an article on the lumber boom and its effects. Beginning from what they already know could make the lesson actually relevant to the students, and could attach the book knowledge to mental pegs that already exist in their heads.

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