Little Cities of Black Diamonds Day 2015

Last October I had the pleasure of volunteering at Little Cities of Black Diamonds Day. This year the theme was on historic opera houses. Before this experience, I had very little understanding of how integral opera houses were to the life of small towns throughout America. But before the internet, tv, and radio the opera house was the mass media of the day. People would see theatrical performances, hear speeches by scholars and orators, and then hold the town dance in the same space. Many opera houses were converted into movie theaters, or into office buildings and now hide in plain sight. For example, the city hall building in Athens used to be the opera house! I had no idea. Today there is an effort to preserve some of the existing opera houses in the state. For example, Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville was restored and operating again as a theater until a fire last year. And in Shawnee, Ohio a dedicated group of local volunteers is working to restore the Tecumseh Theater, which is where I volunteered.

I got to spend time alone in the empty theater dusting off artifacts from the past. It was hard work, but I also really enjoyed having that time to examine all of the artifacts up close and just absorb the atmosphere of the old theater (and I mean absorb literally – I breathed in a lot of old dust and grime that day!)

There were of course many other great historical artifacts in the main exhibit. The old sign is so cool, and recently they’ve restored its functionality so now it lights up again!

The best part of the day was attending a revue show in the old theater space. The curtain may be tattered, but there’s still a lot of life left in the old place. Unfortunately all of my pictures of the show came out blurry.

I was so inspired by this experience that when it came time to develop a unit plan on the Industrial Revolution for my social studies methods class, I decided that the final assignment would be to write a skit based on the lives of coal miners in the Little Cities Region at the turn of the 20th century, and ideally perform it in the theater itself.

For more information about the Little Cities Region visit their online archive. For more information about the Tecumseh Theater, see here.


Free template for a President’s Facebook profile

I’m currently teaching Civics to 9th graders, and we have just about gotten to Article II of the Constitution AND Presidents’ Day is right around the corner. So I thought a fun activity would be to have my students create a fake Facebook-inspired profile for all of the presidents, which I will then tape to our walls. I wasn’t really happy with the free templates I found online, so I decided to create my own. And then I decided it would be nice to share. All I ask is that you let me know if you use it!

preview of PresidentBook profile worksheet


Download PresidentBook profile!

Rendville Service Learning Photos

I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in two local community-based service learning projects this semester for my social studies methods class.

The first one was at a town called Rendville. You can read more about its fascinating history here.

Classmates giving out membership information about the preservation society.

Classmates giving out membership information about the preservation society.

From the Rendville Artworks

From the Rendville Artworks

There was so much great food

There was so much great food

Dr. Doppen giving a speech.

Dr. Doppen giving a speech.

The local cemetery

The local cemetery

Resting place of Richard L. Davis, an African-American labor rights pioneer

Resting place of Richard L. Davis, an African-American labor rights pioneer

The gravestone of a member of the United Mine Workers of America

The gravestone of a member of the United Mine Workers of America

Resting place of Sophia Mitchell, one the first black women to hold the mayor's office

Resting place of Sophia Mitchell, one the first black women to hold the mayor’s office

Speeches about the history of Rendville

Speeches about the history of Rendville

Our service at Rendville was in conjunction with their Emancipation Day celebration. I really enjoyed the speeches from the President of the Rendville Historic Preservation Society, when he talked about how he and his friends used to “run these hills” and play Batman and Robin and baseball in the street where they kept their own statistics. There was also a speech from a representative from the Communications Workers’ Union that was very powerful, especially the way she connected her work as a woman of color in the labor movement to Richard L. Davis. His example of the power of unity helped him recruit over 20,000 to the mine workers’ union, which is still an incredible number. The great-great-grandson (I might be missing a great) of Richard L. Davis who gave a speech from his writings was also incredible. It was such a powerful connection of the past to the present in that place.

Articles on racism in America

The Case for Reparations

A 15,000 word tour-de-force article that conveys how Black Americans’ wealth was systematically stolen from them by the government through slavery, Jim Crow, separate-but-equal, and until as late as the 1960s through discriminatory housing policies, how it affects Black communities today, and why we as a country need to come to terms with this past.

Related articles:

Why Do Millennials Not Understand Racism?

The Summer 2014 issue of Independent School magazine has 2 articles on this topic, which are sadly not yet online. One is about how to teach white students to engage in constructive conversations about race and racism. The other is a case study of a high school class that examined contemporary racism in America.

Further thoughts to consider:

-How the current climate of unequal wealth distribution greater than any in our country’s history possibly creates resistance to the idea that racism is still an ongoing systemic problem.

-Mass incarceration of Black Americans via the War on Drugs is the current leading cause of the destruction of Black communities.

Practical, Tried and True Tips and Tricks to the District of Columbia and Surrounding Area, with Guide to Restaurants, Sights, and Attractions!

I originally wrote this up for my friend, but I figure it is officially tourist season now that Memorial Day is upon us, so why not polish this up and let people get some guidance from a local.

Suggested itinerary for Washington, DC from Wednesday-Sunday

Wednesday: arrival

Thursday: you spend downtown (Green/Red line Gallery Place/Chinatown). Walk from the metro station to the National Building Museum (make sure you check out the gift shop, it is fantastic), have lunch at Merzi, which is set up like the Chipotle of Indian food. It is a local place though, not a chain. I frequently stop here on the way home for dinner because it is fairly inexpensive. If you are up for more museums, the National Portrait Gallery is right there (where Gallery Place comes from), and is really interesting. You can also hit up one of the other Smithsonians, if portraits don’t interest you. Natural History is awesome of course. Air and Space is a must see, if you’ve never been, just for the lunar lander if nothing else.

*If you drive instead of metro you could also head over to the Arboretum, which has an amazing bonsai collection. Some of them are over 400 years old! If you drive, I cannot stress enough the importance of missing rush hour and leaving after 9:30. Parking will be expensive and I recommend going to a garage because street parking is limited and the meter maids are vultures who can smell an expired meter a block away.

Thursday night dinner: The best 3 course evening (dinner, bar, late night snack, obviously for swanky people like me) can be found around U Street. Options are Dukem Ethiopian Market (did you know DC is full to bursting with Ethiopian restaurants?) or Izakaya Seki (really adorable and delicious Japanese restaurant) and then grab drinks at The Saloon, which is actually a specialty Belgian beer bar. Finish up the night at Ben’s Chili Bowl, where I usually grab a milkshake, but those with heartier appetites can chow down on the famous half smoke.

Friday: Go to Capitol Hill (Blue/Orange Capitol South) and take the Capitol tour (more fun then you think), or head to the Library of Congress, Jefferson building (the pretty one). You have to go inside. LC is probably the prettiest building in all of DC, I’m not just saying it because it’s a library. If you need more nature instead of buildings, go to the Botanical Garden. Afterwards, walk or metro to Eastern Market (Blue/Orange Eastern Market). Dining choices: Ted’s Bulletin (must have homemade pop tarts), Matchbox pizza, Good Stuff Eatery (burgers and shakes), Banana Café (Cuban and Mexican), Cava (Mediterrean). If you have a pressing need to see the monuments, I suggest going to the National Mall (Orange/Blue line Smithsonian or Foggy Bottom) at night, because they are beautiful when they are lit up. *Summer 2013 note: the Washington Monument is covered in scaffolding right now and is not pretty*

Saturday: Devoted to exploring Virginia’s outer burbs by car, with trip to the awesome Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum (the huge one), home to the space shuttle Discovery. You need to have cash for both the toll road (it’s about $2 I think) and parking, which is $15. Totally worth it. Then head to Annandale for Korean food. Annandale is the Koreatown of DC as you will see. You can’t really go wrong at any restaurant here, but good ones are Ga Bo Ja Restaurant and To Sok Jip. There’s also Super H Mart, which is the giant Asian grocery store.

Sunday: Departure


Life in and around DC. All taken from my phone, great photography this is not.

Delaware Water Gap

I went on vacation with my family to the Poconos. I’d never been there before and was shocked at how big the mountains were. We lucked out on weather, so I was able get in some great hiking and to snap some nice photos, even when hobbled by using just my phone.

Digital Literacy Corps aka Librarians

I got this in my library school listserv, and I want to amplify the message:

It’s been a heated 24 hours since Matt Richtel’s loaded New York Times article “Wasting Time is New Divide in the Digital Era” ( and public and school librarians have answered back in a big way. The FCC’s proposed $200 million initiative to develop a digital literacy corps- “hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers.”

There are a great number of issues with this statement, and in the presentation of evidence in this article. Namely, the digital literacy corps already exists (they’re called librarians), and moreover they’ve been doing the job amid record high numbers of information needs that coincide with record lows in budget cuts and imploded programs. These funds could easily be reallocated to offset the deficit in promised funds in LSTA and IALA (for more information please visit, but the more chilling issue is an old problem: people clearly don’t know what librarians do.

Emphasis mine. Friends, if you don’t know how to use the internet, your computer, smartphone, e-reader, or even your tv, I can guarantee you that someone at your public library can help you learn. We love to help. Let me repeat that: WE LOVE TO HELP. And despite the stereotype of starchy old ladies with horn-rim glasses, we are usually some of the most tech-savvy people out there. We’re like IT guys, except we aren’t snobby about our mastery of technology.

Do consider sending an email to the FCC asking them to support funding libraries instead of creating an entirely new program to foster digital literacy. Public and school libraries already have the knowledge, talent, and infrastructure needed to get this off the ground.

Fran Bullington, a school librarian who writes at Informania has already put together a sample letter:
To: Julius Genachowski, FCC Chairman (

I just read the NY Times May 30, 2012 article entitled “Wasting Time is New Digital Divide in Digital Era.”  As an educator, I realize the importance of information and digital literacy.  As a school librarian, I have been trained to teach information literacy skills.  I collaborate with classroom teachers to teach lessons in which I incorporate these skills.

However, the recession has had an enormous impact on school libraries.  Many programs have been completely cut; others are being run by volunteers rather than a certified school librarian; and other programs have lost their assistants, whose job of handling routine procedures freed the school librarian to plan with teachers.

I noticed that the FCC is considering “a proposal to spend $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. This group of hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers.”

Although I applaud the intent of teaching digital literacy skills to our students, I question the expenditure of these funds.  Why not instead funnel these funds into school library programs to allow trained, certified professionals to teach the skills?

I look forward to hearing from you on this vital issue.


Thanks to Rebecca Oxley (@LibrariansFTW) for sending the email that started it all.