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The Leonid Meteor Shower, 2017

Have you ever seen a shooting star? If not, it is a pretty cool thing to see, and you might have your chance this week. The annual Leonid meteor shower is getting underway, providing skywatchers a week or more of increased meteor activity. Luckily, the peak of this year’s shower will be on a Friday night (November 17) into Saturday morning, so you can catch up on your sleep the next day. If you want the best chance to see something, you’ll have to stay up very late; the show will not really get going until after midnight. And, since the frequency of sightings increases through the early morning hours and peak before sunrise, it might be a better idea to go to bed early and get up before dawn. Conditions for the this year’s Leonids should be good (unless your local weather is bad) because the moon will not be very bright, unlike 2016, when a gibbous moon ruined the viewing.

meteor showers RT

Meteor Showers RT via ProQuest eLibrary

The showers happen because Earth travels near trails left by Tempel-Tuttle, a comet that orbits the sun every 33 years. Bits of the comet are pulled by Earth’s gravity into the atmosphere at tens of thousands of miles per hour, and the resulting friction causes them to burn as they fall. When our planet travels directly through one of these trails, we get what is known as a meteor storm or meteor outburst. Such storms usually occur in the years following Tempel-Tuttle’s pass, but they can occur in years in between. But, this is not one of those years, and the number of shooting stars is expected to be low. (Too bad it is not 1833 or 1996, years when the Leonid storms were especially spectacular, with thousands of meteors per hour.)

If you have never seen a meteor, it is well worth your time and lack of sleep to get out and take a look. You could even get lucky enough to see a fireball, which is a larger chunk that leaves a colorful streak that can persist for a second or two.

So, where should you look? Meteor showers are named after the place in the sky from which they appear to radiate, in this case, the constellation Leo. In reality, they can appear across the sky and go in many directions. So, the best strategy is just to lie back and take in as much of the sky as possible. Of course, to increase your odds, try to watch from a spot as far away from the glow of the city and other light sources as you can.

eLibrary can help science teachers and students instruct and learn more about the stuff in the sky. Check out the links in the text above, see the Research Topics pages below or do your own searches. RTs can provide lots of articles and other resources, from the basics to more advanced content, to expand your understanding of the cosmos.

As they say in astronomy circles, clear skies to you!

Astronomy

Astrophysics

Constellations and Star Systems

Galaxies

Meteor Showers

Near-Earth Objects

Solar System

Stars

Telescope

Cultures Meet in Canada

The first Syrian refugee family to land in Toronto (9 Dec 2015). Photo by Domnic Santiago, via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The U.S. government recently decided to end temporary protected status of 2,500 Nicaraguans living in the United States and is deciding whether it will do the same for tens of thousands of refugees from Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras. As a result, Canada is receiving a new wave of immigrants from those communities and expects these numbers to grow.

In contrast to its southern neighbor, Canada’s government is planning to increase its already generous immigrant acceptance policies and the majority of Canadians are on board. One went so far as to sponsor 50 Syrian refugee families, and others have participated in family-to-family sponsoring programs.  Such programs have largely been successful, but the struggles they do face often point to the importance of cultural education and understanding. And the more diverse Canadian society becomes, the larger the need becomes for refugees and Canadian citizens alike to learn about the other.

CultureGrams can provide a starting place for groups encountering each other for the first time, including a framework for exploring questions such as the following:

  • What ethnic groups are present in a country?
  • What languages do people speak?
  • What are the most prominent religions? And how might someone’s religious belief affect their daily behavior?
  • What common attitudes and values are shared by people in the country?
  • What do people in the country commonly wear?
  • How do people greet each other?
  • What gestures are potentially offensive?
  • What foods are typically eaten in the country? What customs are there that accompany eating?
  • What games and sports are popular?
  • What family structures and gender roles are common?

Explore these questions in relation to countries like HaitiSyria, and Canada today, in addition to delving into the history, culture, and society of specific Canadian provinces.

Let’s Debate…Libraries vs. the Internet

Libraries have long been considered the premier houses of information; librarians, the keepers, and distributors of knowledge. The advent of technology–and with it, the Internet–has slightly shifted this perspective, particularly over the last two decades. Students and researchers now have a choice: “Do I research in the library? Or on the Internet?”

Both hold value, thus the debate. And the decision may not be an either/or answer.

What are your feelings about this topic? Is one more worthwhile than the other? Can one be replaced with the other? To explore the pros and cons, check out the Let’s Debate infographic below.

Libraries v. the Internet infographic

 

Daylight Saving Time

Photo of watch via Flickr (Public Domain)

Have you ever wondered why you have to change the clocks one hour ahead in the spring and one hour back in the fall? Daylight Saving Time is a popular practice in many countries. Each spring, we begin Daylight Saving Time by moving the clocks ahead one hour. In the fall, we move the clock back one hour to return to Standard Time. Many countries practice Daylight Saving Time as a way to conserve energy. Because the length of the day is longer, less electricity is used.

Here are some fun facts about Daylight Saving Time:

  • More than 70 countries use Daylight Saving Time in at least part of their country.
  • Beginning in 2007, Daylight Saving Time was extended. It starts each year in March and ends in November.
  • In the U.S., Hawaii and some parts of Arizona do not use Daylight Saving Time.
  • Daylight Saving Time was first used in the U.S. in 1918. It was used in parts of Canada beginning in 1908.
  • A popular expression to remember how to move your clock is “Spring forward, fall back.”

Find student resources about Daylight Saving Time in SIRS Discoverer. Also, here are some helpful websites:

Daylight Saving Time

The Origins of Daylight Saving Time

History of Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time

Augustine and the First “Modern” Autobiography

St. Augustine of Hippo

St. Augustine of Hippo Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Mihi quaestio factus sum. This is a Latin phrase which means, roughly translated, “I have become a problem to myself.” This was written by Aurelius Augustinus, aka St. Augustine of Hippo. Historians know a lot about Augustine, like when he was born (November 13, 354); when he died (August 28, 430); and just about everything else in-between. The reason we know so much about him is due to his autobiography, The Confessions, written sometime between 397 and 400 AD. While not the first autobiography ever written, it is considered to be the first modern Western autobiography. For 1,600 years, this book has influenced how Christians (and many non-Christians) have penned their life stories.

Hundreds of medieval manuscripts of Augustine’s Confessions survive, the earliest dating from the late sixth century. There are nine surviving manuscripts dating from the ninth and tenth centuries. The first printed edition was made in Strasbourg, France, around 1470, and the book has never gone out of print since then.

Latin Research Topic

Latin Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Roman Catholicism Research Topic

Roman Catholicism Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

 

 

 

 

 

 

The work, originally titled Confessions in Thirteen Books, is more of a spiritual autobiography than a straightforward telling of a life story, although there is plenty of that in the book as well. Born of a Christian mother (Monica) and a Pagan father (Patricius), Augustine was very early on a deep thinker. He was sent away to the University of Carthage at the age of 16. Augustine doesn’t shy away from dishing the dirt on himself during his early life. He became a teacher of rhetoric and moved to Rome with his mistress and his son. His religion at the time was Manichaeism, a combination of elements of Christianity and Zoroastrian themes. It was in Milan that his life began to change when he came under the influence of Ambrose, the city’s bishop. Augustine was baptized, ordained a priest and in 396 was himself made a bishop in Hippo (Annaba, Algeria).

African Literature

African Literature Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Algeria Research Topic

Algeria Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Confessions is both an autobiography and a theological work. It presents a detailed account of his philosophical and religious development and is the most complete record of any single individual from the fourth and fifth centuries. According to Oxford and Cambridge professor Henry Chadwick, Confessions will “always rank among the great masterpieces of Western literature.”

Augustine also found time to write The City of God, one of the most influential religious/philosophical books ever written. This was penned sometime later than 410 AD, after Rome fell to the barbarians. Augustine died in Hippo as the Vandals were besieging the city.

Literature teachers and librarians can help students learn more about Augustine of Hippo and his works by pointing them toward the many resources in eLibrary, such as our list of religious and theological publications.

Don’t have eLibrary at your school or library? Request a free trial.

How to Support Inclusion When Teaching Controversial Political Issues

This is the latest in a series of posts on teaching controversial political issues to students. The previous post in this series examined U.S. teens, politics, and information literacy.


Today’s top political issues are controversial for a reason: they affect our lives. Students are no exception, which is why classroom discussions about controversial political issues risk offending or alienating students, especially those who are marginalized by society. Shielding students from discomfort is tempting, but avoidance goes against the aims of learning about controversial political issues, one of which is political literacy.

But maintaining a safe, welcoming, and accepting learning environment for every student is essential. Fortunately, there are ways to ease some of the negative aspects of teaching controversial political issues. The following strategies, which have been adapted from Diana E. Hess and Paula McAvoy’s The Political Classroom, will help you support inclusion in the classroom.

Know your students. At the beginning of the semester, get to know your students’ views, political ideology, and personal circumstances by conducting an anonymous survey.

Choose wisely. Based on the survey results, pick political issues that are relevant, ethical, and most likely to facilitate learning.

Time it right. Schedule the least controversial issues first, and then build up to more controversial issues as the semester progresses. Evidence suggests that students become more respectful of one another once they know their classmates. Students also develop stronger civil-discourse skills over time.

Do your research. Before teaching an issue, research it thoroughly. Being informed gives you confidence and helps you keep class discussions relevant and free of false claims.

Ensure civility. During class discussions, enact and enforce the norms of civil discourse. Most students are unfamiliar with how to engage in civil debates, especially given today’s political climate. Your guidance is essential.

Get feedback. At the end of the semester, get feedback from students by conducting another anonymous survey. Ask students about what they learned and their overall experience, including whether they felt uncomfortable, offended, or alienated. Learn from the feedback, adjust accordingly, and repeat the process next semester.

Of course, there are no perfect solutions. No matter what you do, some students may become offended or alienated during discussions involving controversial political issues. But by following the strategies outlined above, you will help make your classroom more inclusive for all students.

Stay tuned for more posts in this series on teaching controversial political issues to students.

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SIRS Issues Researcher is a pro/con database that helps students understand today’s controversial political issues with editorially selected analysis and opinions that cover the entire spectrum of viewpoints.

Don’t have SIRS Issues Researcher? Free trials are available.

All Saints’ Day & All Souls’ Day

These teenagers in Belgium are celebrating the upcoming All Saints’ Day with improvised ghost costumes. [via CultureGrams Photo Gallery]

These teenagers in Belgium are celebrating the upcoming All Saints’ Day with improvised ghost costumes. [via CultureGrams Photo Gallery]

While most people are familiar with Halloween, not as many are familiar with the holidays that fall on the following two days: All Saints’ Day (1 November) and All Souls’ Day (2 November). All Saints’ Eve (Halloween), All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day are traditionally Christian holidays and together are known as Allhallowtide. They are celebrated in countries around the world.

All Saints’ Day, like its name implies, is a holiday that honors all Christian saints. It is a national holiday in many predominantly Catholic countries. All Souls’ Day commemorates loved ones who have passed away. The distinction between All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day tends to be fluid, since both revolve around remembering the dead, and celebrations of both holidays can include visits to cemeteries.

CultureGrams is a great resource for learning about holidays around the world. Each World and Kids edition report has a Holidays section that discusses major holidays in each country. Here are a few examples of what students can learn from CultureGrams about how different countries celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day:

Austria
“All Saints’ Day, called Allerheiligen, […] is a time for remembering the dead and visiting graves. Many families decorate the graves of their relatives. Some people attend public services for victims of the two World Wars.”

Chile
“All Saints’ Day is an important traditional holiday. On this day, people across the country make a point of visiting cemeteries, where they pay homage to their deceased loved ones and leave flowers on their graves. Families may travel long distances to spend the first and second days of November in their towns of origin, visiting relatives and going to local cemeteries in a group.”

Guatemala
“On 1 November, Guatemalans celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, or All Saints’ Day). It is believed that the spirits of the dead are allowed to visit the living on this night. Celebrations combine traditional beliefs with Catholic traditions. Families cook special meals, visit cemeteries, clean family members’ graves, and decorate the graves with flowers. In Santiago, people build and fly large kites with messages for the dead written on both the kites themselves and on the tails.”

Ecuador
“On All Souls’ Day […] people visit cemeteries, eat bread-dough dolls, and drink colada morada (a thick drink made with berries, sweet spices, and purple flour).”

Don’t have CultureGrams? Request a free trial.

United Nations Day

In 1945, the charter of the United Nations went into effect and the world entered into a new era of cooperation among countries around the world. In honor of this monumental event, every October 24 since 1948 has been celebrated as United Nations Day.

The UN’s roots are in the League of Nations, an organization formed after World War I and promoted by President Woodrow Wilson, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. While the League ultimately failed, the idea of an international organization to keep world order was taken up again after World War II, growing out of the establishment of the Allied Powers during the war.

While the success and effectiveness of the UN has been questioned–notably by Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign–it has been a forum for countries to air grievances, cooperate on humanitarian matters, act as a check against aggression and promote human rights, a cause that was taken up by Eleanor Roosevelt and that resulted in the UN Declaration on Human Rights.

United Nations Research Topic

United Nations Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

You can use eLibrary to supplement your Social Studies class lessons on history, civics and world affairs. Our Research Topics are a good way to provide students with background information and in-depth articles, videos and more. Possible strategies:  Assign whole RTs or specific articles from them as background for discussion; have students select topics for research, selecting from a list of RTs; have students search in eLibrary to discover RTs and other resources related to the UN.

See the following for a sample of relevant resources eLibrary has to offer:

United Nations

League of Nations

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

Woodrow Wilson

Eleanor Roosevelt

Public Libraries: Five ProQuest Resources for Family History Month

“By searching for our roots, we come close together as a human family.”—Senator Orrin Hatch

Seven Tips for Genealogy Research with Unparalleled ProQuest Resources

Since its approval in Congress in 2001, October has been designated as Family History Month. Genealogy is a popular hobby for good reason. Learning about family ancestors provides rich information that can help form identity, find new family connections, and reveal vital genetic health information. Exploration of one’s family tree is a rewarding and enlightening endeavor.

The public library is the ideal place for genealogical research because of its vast array of high-quality proprietary resources. These resources can be accessed with a library card on-site or through the library website.

To celebrate Family History Month, here are five ProQuest resources you may find at your local public library that support family history research:

1. Ancestry Library Edition: Download the ancestral chart to fill in known relatives then search about them in the vast collection of census data, vital records, directories, photos, and more from countries all over the world. Interview family members for information on relatives’ occupations, where they are buried, and stories about life events.

2. HeritageQuest Online: Powered by Ancestry.com, use this resource to dig deep into the lives of family ancestors with genealogical and historical sources such as military records, bank records, cemetery indexes, public maps, public records, death records, and more.

3. Fold3 Library Edition: For family members who served in the military, use Fold3 to access U.S. military records, including the stories, photos and documents of the men and women who served.

4. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Travel back in time to read about historical events that involve ancestors. Use the powerful search engine to locate events and names of individuals in articles, photos, advertisements, classified ads, obituaries, and more. With complete cover-to-cover editions, historical newspapers provide valuable primary source material to add context to genealogical research.

5. Newspapers.com Library Edition: Dig into local history and search regional and state titles including small local newspapers to learn about the daily life of ancestors. Spread the word about valuable findings–clip, save, and share images via social media sites.

Use October as an opportunity to start the adventure of family history research at the local public library. Learn more about ProQuest’s array of genealogy resources at http://www.proquest.com/libraries/public/genealogy/.

Recent Supreme Court Decisions Offer Primary Sources on Leading Issues

Educators, do you and your students need primary source materials on current controversial social issues? Look no further than SIRS Knowledge Source’s U.S. Supreme Court feature. SIRS editors hand-select Supreme Court decisions based on their relevance to student research and support of SIRS Leading Issues. Users can access Supreme Court cases via the Supreme Court feature in the Government Reporter product, or in the Advanced Search feature in SIRS Knowledge Source by choosing the Primary Sources tab in article results (All available primary sources will appear in the search results).

SIRS Knowledge Source Advanced Search Screenshot via SIRS Issues Researcher

The Court’s most recent term, which concluded the last week of June, saw quite a few compromise decisions since the Court operated without a ninth justice for most of the term. After the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, the Court was left with only eight justices for 14 months while the White House and Congress battled over its membership. But in April, President Donald Trump’s first nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed and joined the Court to create a conservative majority.

Current Supreme Court Justices. Front row, left to right: Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer. Back row: Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch. (Credit: Franz Jantzen, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States) [public domain]

While there were not a lot of high-profile cases, the Court nevertheless handed down some important decisions involving freedom of religion, gay rights, capital punishment, treatment of prisoners, property rights, free speech, child protection laws and election law. Below we highlight some of the decisions from this term, and their relevance to SIRS Leading Issues topics.

* Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools (Feb. 22, 2017): The Court ruled in a case involving the use of a service dog by a child with cerebral palsy that a student or their family can sue a school district over a disability issue without exhausting all administrative procedures under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

(Related Leading Issue: Education Policy)

* Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1 (March 22, 2017): The Court decided that schools can’t settle for minimal academic progress by students with disabilities.

(Related Leading Issues: Autism, Education Policy)

* Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc. (March 22, 2017): The Court determined that designs on cheerleading uniforms can be protected by copyright law.

(Related Leading Issues: Cheerleading, Copyright Infringement, Sports)

* Moore v. Texas (March 28, 2017): The Court ruled that the outdated medical standards used by the state of Texas to determine that a convicted murderer was not intellectually disabled and thus eligible for execution violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, as well as Supreme Court precedent.

(Related Leading Issues: Capital Punishment, Treatment of Prisoners, Mental Health)

* Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman (March 29, 2017) The Court decided that the New York General Business Law was not unconstitutionally vague under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

(Related Leading Issues: Freedom of Speech)

* Cooper v. Harris (May 22, 2017): The Court determined that North Carolina’s new congressional districting plan constituted an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

(Related Leading Issues: Racial Discrimination, Elections, Government Ethics)

* Sessions v. Morales-Santana (June 12, 2017): The Court determined that disparate citizenship rules for children of unwed mothers and fathers violates the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.

(Related Leading Issues: Illegal Immigration, Immigration)

* Matal v. Tam (June 19, 2017): The Court ruled that the government can’t reject trademarks that might be disparaging or offensive to some people.

(Related Leading Issues: Controversial Mascots, Ethnic Relations, Freedom of Speech)

* McWilliams v. Dunn (June 19, 2017): The Court decided that an indigent defendant whose competence is a significant issue at trial is entitled to a psychiatric expert, who is independent of the prosecution.

(Related Leading Issues: Criminal Justice, Death Penalty/Capital Punishment, Mental Health)

* Packingham v. North Carolina (June 19, 2017) The Court ruled that the North Carolina law prohibiting registered sex offenders from accessing various websites, where minors are known to be active and have accounts, regardless of whether or not the sex offender directly interacted with a minor, violates the First Amendment.

(Related Leading Issues: Freedom of Speech, Social media, Child protection laws, Convicted felons)

* Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer (June 26, 2017) The Court decided that the exclusion of churches from an otherwise neutral and secular aid program violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of free exercise of religion.

(Related Leading Issues: Freedom of Religion, Church and State) 

* Pavan v. Smith (June 26, 2017) The Court ruled that an Arkansas statute that precludes both names of a same-sex married couple from being listed as parents on a child’s birth certificate is an unconstitutional discrimination, considering the Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which legalized same-sex marriage.

(Related Leading Issues: Gay Liberation Movement, Same-sex marriage, LGBT rights, Human Reproductive Technology) 

U.S. Supreme Court Conference Room via U.S. Supreme Court [public domain]

Each case in SIRS Knowledge Source’s U.S. Supreme Court feature includes a full-text PDF version of the opinion, as well as a concise and easy-to-understand summary explaining the question before the Court and its decision. Cases can be browsed by subject heading, topic, by Constitutional Article and Amendment, or alphabetically. You can also find biographical information on current and past justices, a reference article that explains the role of the Supreme Court and its history, a full-text version of the U.S. Constitution with amendments and historical notes, a list of supplementary references for students and educators, and more.

The Supreme Court’s upcoming term for 2017-2018 began on October 2, and the justices have already agreed to hear 33 cases. These cases involve immigration (President Trump’s controversial travel ban); more gay rights issues (a showdown between religious freedom and state anti-discrimination laws); government surveillance (the use of cell phone location records by police without a warrant); election law (a state’s attempt to clean up its voter rolls, and another election redistricting case); and gambling (sports betting at casinos and racetracks); among others.

Stay tuned for decisions in these important cases, and keep SIRS Knowledge Source in mind when you need easy access to primary source material for lesson plans or student research.

Don’t have SIRS Knowledge Source at your school or library? Free trials are available.

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