What Happens at a Social Studies Conference?

Large or small, I like social studies conferences.   Teachers starve for social studies professional development because it differs from other subject area conferences.

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The social studies include four core subject areas:  geography, economics, history and civics.

  • Geography:  Now I ask you who isn’t interested in traveling? One of our CCSS exhibitors offers teachers expenses paid trip for two weeks to Germany.  Do they have offers like that in math conferences?

The activity we did at the N. CA conference this weekend had us identifying where and when pictures had been taken.  Each group of 4 had two different pictures. This particular activity showed change over time in Germany.

  • Economics:  Do you run out of month or paycheck first?What would happen if we quit shipping the 40% of California’s agricultural products overseas, could we save water in drought-ridden California?  Studying economics helps students grapple with historic and current issues, trace the consequences and predict future results from actions we take today.  Conferences bring you face to face with people in the know like Dr. Jim Charkins of the California Council for Economics Education.
  • History:  Scholars from near and far engaged us in conversations about WWI, the trenches, the music, the need to enlist before the selective service started, and the propaganda to get people to enlist.
Lora Vogt from the WWI Museum in Kansas City, MO
Lora Vogt from the WWI Museum in Kansas City, MO

Now I understand a little piece of my grandfather’s life a little better.

scholar Jennifer Keene
Dr. Jennifer Keene from Chapman University compared Ernest Hemingway’s life to the average WWI soldier. Sponsored by Gilder Lehrman Institute

At the other conference we Skyped author/scholar, Allyson Hobbs from Stanford, also sponsored by Glider Lehrman Institute who studied the effects of African-Americans who passed for white, and what they missed from their black culture by giving up their identities.  Can you imagine giving up/turning your back on who you are?  She made it personal.

Dr. Allyson Hobbs, sponsored by Gilder Lehrman Institute
Dr. Allyson Hobbs, sponsored by Gilder Lehrman Institute
  • Civics:  We met three speakers involved in landmark Supreme Court cases.  Sylvia Mendez’s younger sister never knew the court case happened until  she studied the effect on the Civil Rights movement in high school.  Karen Korematsu spoke about her father, Fred Korematsu’s opposition to the federal government, prison, Supreme Court Case.  We met Mary Beth Tinker, Tinker V Des Moines, who wore a black armband to school, to express her views.  She didn’t think it was any big deal at the time.  Now she talks to children around the country.  She told us stories of amazing children, and what they can do that adults couldn’t.
Michelle_MaryBethTinker
NCSS President-Elect, Michelle Herczog and Mary Beth Tinker of Tinker v Des Moines

We heard Major General Patrick Brady tell us that people may not have equal opportunities, but we all have access to as much courage as they want.  The more we use, the more we have.

Major General Patrick Brady, Vietnam War hero, Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient
Major General Patrick Brady, Vietnam War hero, Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient

We met political cartoonist, Lalo Alcaraz who has one of his paintings hanging from the wall of Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor

Lalo Alcarez at the CCSS Conference in Los Angeles
Lalo Alcarez at the CCSS Conference in Los Angeles

Where else but a social studies conference can you rub elbows with people who played a part in exciting events you read about in the news?

Power of Democracy2Intensity sparked like electricity during a Power of Democracy Task Force meeting. Where can you get direct contact with legislators, Department of Justice, and Department of Education at the same time?

Power of Democracy/Civic Education
Student speaker at Power of Democracy/Civic Education meeting

We honored our best and finest social studies teachers at the awards program – AKA Emmys. Twitterers tweeted during the conference.

DBQ session

Brent won a bicycle at the membership booth. Exhibitors gave free stuff to everyone.  Best of all teachers connected with other teachers and shared ideas.

Next March we go to Oakland.  The National Conference will be in Boston in November.  California Council Needs YOU!  If you teach history-social studies in CA, please join us.

13 thoughts on “What Happens at a Social Studies Conference?”

  1. My only concern is about overloading the curriculum. There is much debate here at the moment about what actually needs to be taught at school, when the biggest issue is that some of our children aren’t coping with the basics yet. Just how much world history and geography does an eight year old need to know?

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    1. In CA, they are supposed to learn about their home area first. What about learning how to navigate with a map of the classroom, or budgeting their allowance. A lot of social studies can be covered by asking the right questions when they read their reading books. Then with Common Core Standards here, there is an emphasis on reading more non-fiction texts, including primary source documents. They can look at pictures, discuss and write about them. OK, now you got me started! This is what I do/did in real life! :)

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      1. We have a national curriculum and then at state level the education department has developed a set of units of work for every year level for the whole year, for every learning area. Some people don’t like it because they would rather do their own thing, but my philosophy is why reinvent the wheel. The units are good and they are amazingly well supported with resources, both hard copy and digital.

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  2. There’s nothing like good professional development for teachers- and a little travel, chance to meet others in the field, is all terrific ways to expand horizons. Glad you still go and contribute to the new generation of educators.

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  3. It sounds fascinating! So much going on in the world. There are other cool conferences, like the one for investigative journalism held in Berkeley that also let you rub elbows with people who’ve covered some pretty “flammable” topics. Cheers to information!

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    1. That sounds really interesting, too. My journalism experience ended in high school. I was so shy back then, I could hardly interview anyone! Not so much now! :) I remember I had the library beat, and every time I asked the librarian what new things happened in the library she had nothing to say. Needless to say, I wasn’t very creative – or interested, and certainly not investigative! Missed opportunity. :)

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