Posts Tagged ‘alaska’

When the U.S. and Russia Played Let’s Make a Deal

Alaska Purchase Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

The discussion of recent U.S.-Russia relations is a good opportunity to share the history of relations between the two countries with your students.  A significant event in this history is the Alaska Purchase which occurred 150 years ago when the relationship between the two countries was perhaps more allied than it is now.  Considered a “folly” by some at the time, the acquisition of Alaska added over 586,000 square miles of new land to the growing United States.

Russia had been a player in the Alaskan territory since the mid-1700s.  By the mid-1800s, Russia was having financial difficulties after its defeat in the Crimean War, and the territory had become a burden.  Russia decided to put the unprofitable and indefensible territory on the market.  The United States seemed the only potential buyer.  In March 1867, armed with instructions to accept no less than $5 million for Alaska, the Russian minister to America, Edouard de Stoeckl, was surprised when Secretary of State William Seward came in with just that for a first offer.  By the time negotiations were over, the U.S. offer was up to $7.2 million.  On March 30, 1867, the United States became the proud owner of a seemingly barren land.

U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

Tsar’s Ratification of the Alaska Purchase [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]











Not everyone was as enthusiastic about the deal as William Seward was.  He was a proponent of territorial expansion and could see the potential in Alaska’s natural resources that skeptics who referred to the deal as Seward’s Folly or Seward’s Icebox could not.  The deal, though, was a good one for the U.S. averaging to less than two cents per acre.  It remains the second-largest land deal ever.  In 1880, Seward’s vision would be vindicated when gold was discovered paving the way for population growth, new towns, and statehood.

Your students can learn more about the Alaska Purchase and the major players by starting with eLibrary.  One excellent resource is the book, The Alaska Purchase.  It covers everything from Alaska’s “discovery” by the Russians to its statehood in 1959.  Consider this lesson from the Library of Congress for your students to dig deeper into using primary sources.

Fun Fact:  While you cannot see Russia from Sarah Palin’s home in Wasilla, you can see it from Little Diomede in the Bering Strait.  The island is 2.5 miles from its Russian counterpart Big Diomede.  You can also see Russian mainland from the top of St. Lawrence Island about 37 miles away as well as some Siberian mountains from Cape Prince of Wales, the westernmost point of the American mainland.

eLibrary’s editor‐created Research Topics give content, context and pathways beginning users need to start researching U.S.-Russia relations and other topics.

Don’t have eLibrary? Free trials are available.

Summer Vacation Lessons from Alaska

As summer begins to wind down, it won’t be long until teachers and students are counting the days before they’re headed back to school. But before you return, consider the role that everybody’s favorite part of summer break—the quintessential vacation—can play in the classroom this coming fall.

The Alaska Range’s Peaks and Glaciers

The thought struck me soon after returning from my trip to the Alaskan Interior for the Summer Solstice Festival. Concealed in the recreational activities of kayaking, fishing, mountain biking and more, I realized just how many classroom-worthy lessons came back with me upon returning from the 15-hour series of flights. (Note to self: If you plan on traveling 5,500 miles across the world next summer, make it more than a week-long stay!)

Here are the top vacation educational lessons I learned while in Alaska:

• Considering how much geothermal power could be harnessed in this country while I was soaking in the 165° F water of the Chena Hot Springs.

• Pondering the geological history of the Alaska Range and Mt. McKinley as it towered over the vista of our cabin’s wrap-around deck.

• Lessons I had learned in sustainability: Chinook salmon fishery management while visiting a Native American village, and the benefits of permaculture on soil and habitat at the organic Calypso Farm and Ecology Center.

• Reflecting on experiencing the solstice, and its nearly 24 hours of sunlight at the top of the world.

How about you? Were you able to enjoy a summer vacation this year? Do you think it can be molded into a classroom lesson? If so, ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher has tons of resources that can help!