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Artifact & Analysis: A Teachers Guide to Interpreting Objects and Writing History

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Teacher's guide that presents a strategy for incorporating historical artifacts and documents into the teaching of U.S. history. Designed as a companion to the Advanced Placement Program U.S. History course, it includes artifacts and related documents from the National Museum of American history, writing assignments, and essay questions.

Resources for Teaching American History: Civil Rights

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Multimedia site includes teacher-selected primary sources, a video on Medgar Evers, elementary-school lessons on Rosa Parks and desegregation, and Advanced Placement DBQs on Brown v. Board of Education.

Resources for Teaching American History: Westward Expansion

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
The multimedia site includes teacher-selected primary sources, Advanced Placement DBQs, a video on the painting Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, and a lesson plan on Lewis and Clark.

Smithsonian Source: Resources for Teaching American History

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Teacher-selected primary sources are arranged by six topics: Civil Rights, Colonial America, Invention, Native American History, Transportation, and Westward Expansion. Includes videos, lesson plans, and Advanced Placement DBQs.

Resources for Teaching American History: Transportation

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
The multimedia site includes teacher-selected primary sources, a video on Amelia Earhart, and an Advanced Placement DBQ on the development of the Interstate Highway System.

Resources for Teaching American History: Native American History

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
The multimedia site includes teacher-selected primary sources, a video on Lakota winter counts, and six Advanced Placement DBQs on encounters between Native Americans and European Americans.

Resources for Teaching American History: Invention

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
The multimedia site includes teacher-selected primary sources, a video on the electric guitar, lesson plans on the American office and the history of photography, and an Advanced Placement DBQ on technological changes between 1870 and 1920.

Resources for Teaching American History: Colonial America

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
The multimedia site includes teacher-selected primary sources, Advanced Placement DBQs on the causes of the American Revolution, lesson plans on the Boston Massacre and the Stamp Act, and a video on forensic anthropology.

Smithsonian Source: Colonial America

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Section of intended to supplement the materials you currently use for lessons on Colonial America. Includes a video of Forensic Anthropologist Doug Owsley describing his discoveries at Jamestown, Document Based Questions (DBQs) and lesson plans organized by grade level, and primary source documents from the Smithsonian collections.

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Website with teacher-selected resources and primary sources that allow you to peer over the historian's shoulder and share in the excitement of discovery. Includes videos, lesson plans, Document Based Questions (DBQs), and primary resources on many different topics in American history. Includes a searchable database of all resources.

Live blog: Answering our favorite #AskACurator questions

National Museum of American History

Today, museum staff members are answering questions sent in to us through social media, particularly Twitter. Here are a few of our favorite questions and answers. We'll update this blog throughout the day on September 16, 2015. Have a questions? Check the schedule to find out who is answering questions at what time and send us a tweet

Christy Wallover, Project Assistant in the Division of Armed Forces History: Before I worked in a museum or went to school for museum studies, I was a cultural resources management archaeologist for four years. I excavated sites ranging in time from the archaic period to the turn of the 20th century and anywhere from the Northeast Corridor to the Mid-West. During an excavation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I was able to participate in a public program that connected the present community to artifacts that we recovered from excavations from around that area. We made exhibitions and were able to talk directly to the public. The experience changed the direction of my career—I was hooked on museum work. 

Group answer from staff members on the 10-11 a.m. EDT shift: I haven't read the book but appreciate the recommendation, as someone who values things, joy, and a tidy life. Encouraging people to "discard" could encourage people to contact a museum or archive earlier than they would have, when more information is available. Also, knowledgeable collectors would definitely hold onto objects/papers of significance (or would ask a specialist, like a museum, to help them determine what is significant). And I think some people are collectors and will collect no matter what popular organizing trend is happening. Perhaps this trend toward minimalism means people will go out and see things vs. keep them? That might mean an attendnce boost for museums! 

Hillery York, Collections Manager for the National Numismatic Collection: We have a selection of feathers from Quetzal birds that were once used as currency in Mayan Culture. This is how Fred ended up in our numismatics collection!

Photo of green bird


Patri O'Gan, Project Assistant in the Division of Armed Forces History: We have a fairly large collection of World War I sheet music. Patriotic music was very popular before and during the war. Our "Women in World War I" object group has a section on music that contains a lot of great info and links to collection objects. Music was also important during the Civil War. Our Archives Center has a collection of illustrated sheet music from both the Confederate and Union sides of the Civil War. 

Hillery York, Collections Manager for the National Numismatic Collection: When Parks and Recreation filmed a scene here in our America on the Move exhibition. The episode and related photos are hilarious.

Jennifer Gloede, Project Specialist, National Numismatic Collection: Obivously, "This belongs in a museum!!!" - Indiana Jones

Christy Wallover, Project Assistant in the Division of Armed Forces History: We have an extensive collection of Civil War Navy objects. For example, we have uniform articles that include a flat hat from a man stationed aboard the U.S.S. Kearsarge as well as a jumper that belonged to Charles Gillette Pratt, who enlisted on August, 29, 1864, and served aboard the U.S.S. Rhode Island. (Both of those objects will be in an online object group coming soon!). The collection also holds numerous objects from Admiral David G. Farragut. We have models of the U.S.S. Monitor and the C.S.S. Virginia

Hillery York, Collections Manager for the National Numismatic Collection: These objects give us a detailed look at the intended designs for much of our nation's currency history. The value lies in comparing changes in design and spellings from the approved proof to what was actually circulated and printed!

Sage Xaxua Morgan-Hubbard, Youth Programs Coordinator: Museum professionals can support school teachers with professional development trainings such as our free Let's Do History and Teach it Forward workshops for educators on how best to use objects in their classrooms. We also have a twitter feed @explorehistory where we send daily tweets with resources from our vast collections and an incredible amount of lesson plans and activities listed on our website where teachers can find specific exercises, books, and links to specific topics/subject areas and search by resource type, grade level, historical era, and cross-curricular connections. For more information on commonly asked questions from educators please see our FAQ

Patri O'Gan, Project Assistant in the Division of Armed Forces History: Yes! Women have been serving with the Armed Forces for a long time! Army Nurse Corps was established in 1901. Navy Nurse Corps was established in 1908. June 1948 marked the passage of Women's Armed Services Integration Act, which helped establish women as permanent part of U.S. Armed Forces. Here are a few links you might enjoy from World War I and World War II. 

World War I: 

World War II:

Katherine Ott, Curator in the Division of Medicine and Science: It depends on how something relates to projects in the works, other objects in the collection, and  can we respectfully care for it (size, materials, condition)

John Hasse, Curator of American Music: We seek to take the long view—500 years from now, what objects will endure and help tell the story of the American musical experience?

Patri O'Gan, Project Assistant in the Division of Armed Forces History: I would say it's definitely a very powerful way! Especially before photography became more widespread. See World War I American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) Art collection. My favorite is below. It's called "On the Wire." 


Sage Xaxua Morgan-Hubbard, Youth Programs Coordinator: This is a great question. There are many ways to engage teens. Many of our exhibits are interactive by design so that teens can use touch screens or games to better understand the narrative of the exhibit. It also is helpful to use our self-guides and prepare the teens before they arrive here for the shows they are going to see. Teens like to be in charge of their own learning as much as possible, so challenge them to do research beforehand or a scavenger hunt competition that makes them dig deeper. You will be surprised by what the teens might enjoy and pay attention to. Each teen is different but our museum is so large, we have something for everyone!


Sage Xaxua Morgan-Hubbard, Youth Programs Coordinator: This depends, but our teens in our summer program this summer especially loved the DJ turntables in Places of Invention. They loved Muhammad Ali's boxing gloves in American Stories, interactive elements in American Enterprise and Object Project. Teens also say that they are "wowed" by the large objects such as the "El" train in America on the Move and Julia Child's Kitchen. There is also always a teen that is blown away by some of our military history objects because "they were really at war." But don't take my word for it. Come in yourself or browse our online collections and see what your teens are wowed by. I bet you will be surprised by what might catch their attention and impress them. I am always surprised by what objects particular teens are impressed by daily. 

Katherine Ott, Curator in the Division of Medicine and Science: I try to keep on top of current practice and events, for sure. But it is very tricky to weigh the significance of an event for the long term and documentation. I wish knowledge of history was a better predictor. 

John Hasse, Curator of American Music: We take the long view, and it usually takes some years to achieve the psychic and temporal distance to put developments into perspective. We use lots of judgment and discussions with our colleagues to determine what ought to be added to the National Collections.


Katherine Ott, Curator in the Division of Medicine and Science: Joseph Lister got that going in the 1860s. He noticed that dressing wounds with bandages soaked in carbolic acid dramatically reduced infections. Sterilizing instruments followed quickly after that.

Shannon Perich, Curator of Photographic History: The Morse Daguerreotype camera was made for the inventor and artist best known for his telegraph. While in Paris in 1839, visiting with Jacque Louis Mande Daguerre, he acquired a daguerreotype lens. There were no camera manufacturers yet, so the box of the camera was made by a furniture maker! The first U.S. patent issued for a camera is the Walcott camera, May 8, 1840. It was tiny and made one little daguerreotype at a time.  It's about the same size as a smart phone like this one used by John Paul Caponigro. Think about the difference in the capacity and power!

Photo of camera

Photo of iphone and camera

Roger Sherman, Curator of the Modern Physics collection: What appeals to me about physics is that it is a never-ending search to find out how the world works, in the most fundamental sense. For many centuries, what we now know as physics was treated as part of philosophy and handled in a speculative way. Then, in the 17th century, the techniques of experiment and careful observation became popular, and physics took off. From then on, we have example after example of clever thinkers, individually or as members of teams, devising and implementing ingenious ways to answer specific questions about nature.  As a museum curator, I am responsible for preserving and understanding the instruments, the gadgets, and the apparatus for asking nature these questions. The opportunity for examining, close up, these goodies can be a real thrill.

Shannon Perich, Curator of Photographic History: I'm not a conservator, but the most pungent identifier of nitrate is the smell. It often has vinegar syndrome. Nitratre film, ironically, usually has the word "safety" on it. If you think you have nitrate film, call a conservator!

Shannon Perich, Curator of Photographic History: There isn't a single moment, but the most noted, and perhaps most deliberate was Kodak's 1888, "You push the button, we do the rest" moment when they separated the processing from the picture taking. But each new innovation seems to open the possibilities for more participation. Photography is patented in 1839, but it took until 1842 until there were good mass manufactured daguerreotype plates. That opened the doors for photographers because it was one less step they had to do. The Brownie camera in 1900 at $1, made cameras accessible because they were cheap! So there a lot of moments where entry into photography is made easier depending on your skill level, ambition and economics.

Roger Sherman, Curator of the Modern Physics collection: Not only are many everyday things radioactive, but to greater extent scientific artifacts embody radioactive materials. Modern Physics has its fair share of artifacts that embody radioactive materials, ranging from some samples representing the refining of radium, prepared early in the 20th century when that novel energy-emitting element was all the rage, up to a trowel with a uranium blade, made for President Eisenhower to lay the cornerstone for the Atomic Energy Commission's headquarters. (In what ought to take some prize for irony, the White House staff, worried about radiation danger, would not allow the President to use it!)

So, radioactivity in the collections is a real concern, and we take it seriously. I have been designated the museum's Radiation Safety Officer, and provided with a Geiger counter. From time to time colleagues call me in to check things, either new acquisitions, or artifacts they find in the collections. It is quite remarkable how many old watches, compasses, and gun sights turn out to have glow-in-the-dark radium paint on them. In almost every case, the radiation itself is not hazardous; what is important is to make sure the material cannot flake off and contaminate things or get on skin. I keep careful records of what is radioactive and to what degree and this is true acros the Smithsonian Institution. 

Shannon Perich, Curator of Photographic History: There are so many great photographs out in the world! I look for a photograph or group of photographs that make about how individual lives or stories are connected to larger historical narrative. For example, I recently collected a group of snapshots from about 1910-1960. One photo might not tell me much, but the group of them say something larger about this particular tradition in the U.S. One of my favorites is one in which there is a Christmas tree, a Buddah, and a Menorah.  Fine art is one aspect of the collection, as most people would expect, but we collect for the technology, art and history of photography. So, I've even collected a giant IRIS printer to document the history of digital photography. 

Black and white photo


Shannon Perich, Curator of Photographic History: First let me say, the flash is bad for a lot of paper based art and especially textiles, so that's often where the no photography policy comes from and we all want to preserve museum objects. But, today, to take a picture of something is usually do it out of enthusiasm, appreciation, and desire to remember. Often, we use this kind of act of photography as memory making. But if you take a photograph, give credit to the artist and don't do anything with it that takes away from the artist's integrity and rights!

Roger Sherman, Curator of the Modern Physics collection: As most people know, only a small fraction of a museum's collection is on display at any one time, something like 5%. In the past, Modern Physics has had a number of exhibitions, the two most ambitious being Atom Smashers: 50 Years and Atomic Clocks. Both came down many years ago, and at present there is only one single small Modern Physics artifact on display here. It can be a little frustrating to be in charge of a collection filled with remarkable objects, and not be able to put them out for people to enjoy and learn from.

One practical consideration is that many Modern Physics objects are big and heavy. The liquid hydrogen bubble chamber from the Brookhaven National Laboratory is a huge mass of stainless steel and optical glass that weighs many tons and looks like a modern abstract sculpture. It was barely able to fit under the museum's high ceiling in Atom Smashers, and no doubt will not go on exhibit again for a long time. 

Another piece from that exhibition appeals to me more, though: the Van de Graaff accelerator from the Carnegie Institution of Washington. It consists of a big aluminum ball on three legs, with a glass tube going up into it, looking very much like a prop from a 1930s science fiction movie. (Could the movie makers of those days have been inspired by it?  I wouldn't be surprised.) It was constructed in the early 1930s and, despite its outlandish appearance, it was used for some very serious and important research that shed light on the forces between protons in atomic nuclei. It is so tall that it had to be installed in a special pit in the museum floor, with a staircase going down into it. When the time came to dismantle it, I had to identify, number, and tag every one of the hundreds of pieces that we dismantled it into. That was a huge project, but I like to think that some curator way in the future will be able to put the machine back together thanks to my efforts.

Shannon Perich, Curator of Photographic History: At the Smithsonian, there are over seven hundred (no, that's not a typo!) photography collections. Each will have a specific collecting plan, scope, and use. No doubt one of photography's chief attributes is its reproducibility, so there are photographs that exist in multiple collections. This museum has over twenty photography collections alone! The Photographic History Collection is the largest collection, though, with almost 250,000 images and pieces of apparatus. 

Roger Sherman, Curator of the Modern Physics collection: Before World War I, physics in this country was a minor discipline that lacked prestige and did not attract much attention from the general public. At schools and universities, it was generally treated as an academic discipline whose chief value was to train minds in careful thinking and teach that the world is fundamentally an orderly place. Little emphasis was placed on research, and what research there was came from universities. 

Industries at that time were far more interested in supporting research in chemistry, and the government provided little support. Nevertheless, the field was growing slowly. 

Albert Michelson won the first American Nobel Prize in physics for his optical researches. Experiments by him and others to measure the speed of light attracted attention, and right around the turn of the century Nichols and Hull carried out an elaborate, carefully performed experiment that detected the pressure of light and confirmed James Clerk Maxwell's prediction of this extremely delicate effect. More and more, students with a serious interest in physics went to Germany for graduate work, and came back, building up a corps of young physicists whose accumulated expertise before long began training the next generation here. The result was that by the time of World War II, the nation had built up a highly competent, motivated generation of physicists whose exploits transformed the discipline and brought it to world prominence.


Dan Gifford, Manager, Museum Advisory Committees, and Project Historian: I guess my favorite is actually a whole bunch of stories—women's stories. One of things I find fascinating about the history of charities and giving in American history is the role of women. Women in the 1800s were incredibly active and successful fundraisers, running charitable organizations that often were basically large, complex businesses. And this gave women access to financial worlds, contracts, investments, bookkeeping, etc. –realms that supposedly were reserved just for men. So the history of charities is in part the history of women gaining access to that kind of power… and of course, ultimately demanding more. 

Jon Grinspan, Jefferson Fellow, Division of Political History: Alcohol is inherently political, and has been from the start of the country. Some campaigners have used it to rile up voters, or as a cheap give-away to win friends, while others opposed alcohol, preached Temperance and Prohibition, and saw it as the root of all evils, from poverty to prostitution to domestic violence.

Most important, alcohol blurs the line between politics and culture, which is really what I'm most interested in. It makes it impossible to distinguish what parts of a campaign are about ideologies and personalities, and what parts are about getting drunk and hollering in the street.

Harold Wallace, Curator in the Division of Work and Industry: That depends on who's doing the consideration. Building buyers began demanding electricity in the 1890s in urban areas. But building codes are set at the local and state level and they vary widely. Most codes began including electrical sections in the early 20th century and not all require a building to be electrified. Even today, people can build a recreational cabin, for example, and if they don't want electricity, they don't have to install it. Some interesting history here.

Jon Grinspan, Jefferson Fellow, Division of Political History: There's a long history of drinking before, during, and after debates, not just in taverns but in the public square and even in Congress. Before amplification, when debates were held by two shouting men in a town square, the drinking often got out of hand and many spectators couldn't hear the candidates. We have records of all these debates, including the Lincoln-Douglas debates, but very often the audience just heard the drinking going on around them.

And in the Capitol, especially before the Civil War, congressmen often drank openly while their colleagues were speaking. Rachel Shelden wrote about it in her book on the social lives of congressmen before the Civil War.

As for me, I'm not much of a drinking-game guy. I don't like to have to wait for an excuse to pour myself another drink, especially when the debates get dull.

Monica Smith, Exhibition Program Manager, Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation: From an invention perspective, I'd say the construction is extremely interesting because it provides insights on the inventive process of the inventor making it. What problem were they trying to solve and why? Then how did they design the solution? Did they do sketches? Build prototypes? What materials did they test and end up selecting? How did they tinker and tweak their design? The 3D product is just the tip of the iceberg of a fascinating creative process!


Jon Grinspan, Jefferson Fellow, Division of Political History: P.T. Barnum's American Museum, in lower Manhattan, in the 1830s through 1860s. He put up something like 10,000 exhibits a year, and always kept his visitors guessing. He often went too far, but no one ever did more to define American museums, or popular culture. I'd like to get to watch a flimflam-artist like Barnum at work.





Erin Blasco is an education specialist in the New Media Department. She's facilitating the Q&A today and appreciates your questions. 


Posted Date: 
Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 09:00
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What Was the Protest Group Students for a Democratic Society? Five Questions Answered

Smithsonian Magazine

Editor’s note: The 2016 election brought student activism back into the spotlight. No student activist organization in U.S. history has matched the scope and influence of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the national movement of the 1960s. We asked Todd Gitlin, former president of SDS (1963-1964), professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, and author of The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage for his perspective on this renowned organization and the state of student protest today.

1. What were the goals of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) when it started?

SDS wanted participatory democracy – a public committed to making the decisions that affect their own lives, with institutions to make this possible. Its members saw an American citizenry with no influence over the nuclear arms race or, closer to home, authoritarian university administrations.

The organization favored direct action to oppose “white supremacy” and “imperial war,” and to achieve civil rights and the radical reconstruction of economic life (i.e., the redistribution of money into the hands of African-Americans in order to fight racism). SDS was increasingly suspicious of established authorities and looked askance at corporate power. But there was no single political doctrine; for most of its existence (1962-69), SDS was an amalgam of left-liberal, socialist, anarchist and increasingly Marxist currents and tendencies.

Several hundred people affiliated with the SDS race through the Los Angeles Civic Center in a 1968 demonstration against the Vietnam war. (AP Photo/Harold Filan)

From 1965 on, it was focused chiefly on opposing the Vietnam war. After 1967, SDS became partial to confrontational tactics and increasingly sympathetic to one or another idea of a Marxist-Leninist revolution.

2. How did SDS grow so quickly, from fewer than 1,000 members in 1962 to as many as 100,000 in 1969?

The organization was launched with a stirring manifesto, the Port Huron Statement, and a leadership that was passionate, visionary, energetic, stylish and thoughtful.

Unlike most left-wing radicals and manifestos of the time, the Port Huron Statement was forthright and not riddled with jargon, thus its opening sentence:

“We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.”

SDS, in language and spirit, spoke to a widely felt need for a New Left that was free of the dogmas about “class struggle” and a “vanguard party” that prevailed in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

Tom Hayden, president of SDS from 1962 to 1963 (AP Photo)

Its growth was helped along by a structure that, for many years, was flexible enough to encompass diverse orientations and styles of activism. Its volcanic growth after the 1965 escalation of the Vietnam War was made possible by its combination of zealous idealism and pragmatic activity that made sense to students – protests, demonstrations, sit-ins and marches.

3. Why did the SDS effectively dissolve in 1969? Were the Weathermen (the militant radical faction of SDS) to blame?

Under the pressure of the Vietnam War and black militancy in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.‘s assassination, SDS’ leadership factions adopted fantastical ideas, believing they were living in a revolutionary moment. The Weathermen were the most ferocious, dogmatic and reckless of the factions. Inspired by Latin American, Southeast Asian and Chinese revolutionaries, but heedless of American realities, they thought that by stoking up violent confrontations, they could “bring the war home” – force the U.S. government out of Vietnam to deal with a violent domestic revolt.

Poster from the 1969 Days of Rage demonstrations, organized by the Weathermen faction of SDS. (

On March 6, 1970, a dynamite bomb they were building in New York City – intended to blow up hundreds of soldiers and their dates at a dance that evening – went off in their own hands, killing three of their own number. The Weather Underground (as the faction now called itself) went on to bomb dozens of government and corporate targets over the next few years, but the group was incapable of leading a larger movement: Though there were no further casualties after the 1970 explosion, the vast majority of SDS’ members were put off by the Weatherman violence. As the Vietnam War came to an end, no student radical organization remained.

4. What is the chief legacy of SDS?

SDS tried many tactics in its effort to catalyze a national radical movement. It was multi-issue in a time when single-issue movements had proliferated: hence, the SDS slogan “the issues are interrelated.” With community organizing projects, it tried to create an interracial coalition of the poor; it launched civil disobedience against corporations like the Chase Manhattan Bank, which was seen to be supporting the South African apartheid regime; it helped launch the most effective antiwar movement in history; it incarnated a generational spirit that was both visionary and practical.

SDS also engendered second-wave feminism, though sometimes in a paradoxical fashion. Many female members felt both empowered and thwarted – they gained skills and experience in organizing, but were angered by their second-class status in the organization.

But SDS’s confrontational tendencies from 1967 onward bitterly alienated much of its potential political base. In my view, the group’s romanticism toward the Cuban, Vietnamese, and Chinese revolutions – and its infatuation with the paramilitary Black Panther party – flooded out its common sense and intellectual integrity.

5. How has campus protest changed since the days of SDS?

Many changes that SDS campaigned for came to pass. Student life loosened up and became less authoritarian. In the decades since, students have taken on issues that were not raised – or even recognized – 50 years ago: climate changesexual violence and racial subordination through the criminal justice system. On the other hand, campus protest is dominated by single issues again, as it was in the period before SDS. Much of the current issue-politics rests on an assumption that racial, gender or sexual identity automatically dictates the goals of student activism.

I also believe that student protest has become far more modest in its ambitions. It has abandoned extreme revolutionary delusions, but at some expense. It has failed to build a tradition that’s serious about winning power: Students are content to protest rather than work toward building political majorities and trying to win concrete results.

I feel that student protest today often confines itself within the campus and fails to sustain organizing outside. As the right threw itself into electoral politics, student activists largely dismissed the need to compete. As a result, students of the left face the most hostile political environment in modern times.

Editor’s note: For analysis of other issues on campus protest, see our entire series on student protest.

What Makes You Say That?: Project Zero Visible Thinking Routine

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
A "Visible Thinking" routine for interpretation with justification from Project Zero. This routine helps students describe what they see or know and asks them to build explanations. It promotes evidential reasoning (evidence-based reasoning) and because it invites students to share their interpretations, it encourages students to understand alternatives and multiple perspectives. Asks the questions, "What's going on?" and "What do you see that makes you say that?" WHAT MAKES YOU SAY THAT?

Interpretation with justification routine

1. What's going on?

2. What do you see that makes you say that?

Purpose: What kind of thinking does this routine encourage?

This routine helps students describe what they see or know and asks them to build explanations. It promotes evidential reasoning (evidence-based reasoning) and

because it invites students to share their interpretations, it encourages students to understand alternatives and multiple perspectives.

Application: When and where can it be used?

This is a thinking routine that asks students to describe something, such as an object or concept, and then support their interpretation with evidence. Because the basic questions in this routine are flexible, it is useful when looking at objects such as works of art or historical artifacts, but it can also be used to explore a poem, make scientific observations and hypothesis, or investigate more conceptual ideas (i.e., democracy). The routine can be adapted for use with almost any subject and may also be useful for gathering information on students' general concepts when introducing a new topic.

Launch: What are some tips for starting and using this routine?

In most cases, the routine takes the shape of a whole class or group conversation around an object or topic, but can also be used in small groups or by individuals. When first introducing the routine, the teacher may scaffold students by continually asking the follow-up questions after a student gives an interpretation. Over time students may begin to automatically support their interpretations with evidence with out even being asked, and eventually students will begin to internalize the routine.

The two core questions for this routine can be varied in a number of ways depending on the context:

What do you know? What do you see or know that makes you say that? Sometimes you may want to preceded students' interpretation by using a question of description: What do you see? or What do you know?

When using this routine in a group conversation it may be necessary to think of alternative forms of documentation that do not interfere with the flow of the discussion. One option is to record class discussions using video or audio. Listening and noting students' use of language of thinking can help you see their development. Students words and language can serve as a form of documentation that helps create a rubric for what makes a good interpretation or for what constitutes good reasoning.

Another option is to make a chart or keep an ongoing list of explanations posted in the classroom. As interpretations develop, note changes and have further discussion about these new explanations. These lists can also invite further inquiry and searches for evidence. Other options for both group and individual work include students documenting their own interpretations through sketches, drawings, models and writing, all of which can be displayed and revisited in the classroom."

Global biogeographical data bases on marine fishes: caveat emptor

Smithsonian Libraries
A review of georeferenced collection-site records for Caribbean shore-fishes served by major online distributors of aggregated biodiversity data found large-scale errors in over a third of the species and genera, in nearly two-thirds of the families. To avoid compromising the value of their services to the global science community online providers must actively address the question of data quality.

documents, Court Documents for Tadayasu Abo et. al vs. William P. Rogers, San Francisco in California, 03/10/1958

National Museum of American History
Hideo Kaneshiro was a Japanese American citizen of the United States who was imprisoned in Hawai'i and Mainland Japanese American prison camps during World War II.

Kaneshiro was sent to the Topaz Relocation Center in Utah on March 14, 1923 and was then transferred to the Tule Lake Relocation Center in September of 1943 after he answered “no” to questions 27 and 28 in the loyalty questionnaire. Tule Lake segregated prisoners based on who was considered disloyal or disruptive, and Kaneshiro was considered to be disloyal. The Tule Lake records listed Kaneshiro as a renunciant of US citizenship by the United States Army.

Question 27 on the loyalty questionnaire asked if Nisei men were willing to serve on combat duty wherever ordered, and question 28 asked if individuals would swear unqualified allegiance to the United States and forswear any form of allegiance to the Emperor of Japan. These questions caused unrest because citizens resented being asked to renounce loyalty from the Emperor of Japan, especially when they had never sworn loyalty to the Emperor. Not only that, Japanese immigrants were barred from becoming U.S. Citizens on the basis of racial exclusion, so renunciation of their Japanese citizenship was problematic. Not only that, young men worried that answer “yes” to Question 27 would mean they had volunteered to join the Army. Individuals who said “no” to both questions were considered disloyal to the United States and were labeled as such; most of these people were segregated from the “loyal” and sent to the Tule Lake camp.

Kaneshiro was one of the four thousand plaintiffs in the suit Abo v. Clark in 1946, a lawsuit that overturned the forced renunciation of American citizenship by the plaintiffs. Kaneshiro’s renunciation of his American citizenship was declared null and void, and his American citizenship was fully restored.

Non-gradual variation in colour morphs of the strawberry poison frog Dendrobates pumilio: genetic and geographical isolation suggest a role for selection in maintaining polymorphism

Smithsonian Libraries
The relative roles that geographical isolation and selection play in driving population divergence remain one of the central questions in evolutionary biology. We approached this question by investigating genetic and morphological variation among populations of the strawberry poison frog, Dendrobates pumilio, in the Bocas del Toro archipelago, Panama. We found significant population genetic structure and isolation by distance based on amplified fragment length polymorphism markers. Snout vent length (SVL), coloration and the extent and size of dorsal black spots showed large variation among the studied populations. Differences in SVL correlated with genetic distance, whereas black spot patterns and other coloration parameters did not. Indeed, the latter characters were observed to be dramatically different between contiguous populations located on the same island. These results imply that neutral divergence among populations may account for the genetic patterns based on amplified fragment length polymorphism markers and SVL. However, selective pressures need to be invoked in order to explain the extraordinary variation in spot size and coverage, and coloration. We discuss the possibility that the observed variation in colour morphs is a consequence of a combination of local variation in both natural selection on an aposematic signal towards visual predators and sexual selection generated by colour morph-specific mate preferences.

Osteology and relationships of Pseudotrichonotus altivelis (Teleostei:Aulopiformes:Pseudotrichonotidae)

Smithsonian Libraries
The osteology of the rare Japanese fish Pseudotrichonotus altivelis is described based on several specimens collected off the Izu Peninsula. Relationships of Pseudotrichonotus are discussed based on osteological comparisons with other neoteleosts. The placement of Pseudotrichonotus among iniomous fishes has been questioned because of its lower numbers of caudal-fin, pelvic-fin, and branchiostegal rays. Our investigation supports an iniomous affinity for Pseudotrichonotus, specifically as a member of the Aulopiformes. Within that group, Pseudotrichonotus belongs in a new suborder diagnosed herein, the Synodontoidei, which also includes the Aulopidae (Aulopus), Synodontidae (Synodus and Trachinocephalus), and Harpadontidae (Harpadon and Saurida). A synodontoid affinity for Aulopus has never been suggested, but numerous osteological features support the monophyly of this clade. Synodontoids have a peculiar proximal segmentation of most principal caudal-fin rays, expanded neural and haemal spines on posterior vertebrae, cartilage extending along the ventral margin of the anterior ceratohyal, ventral displacement of the first one to three epineurals, supraneurals with large laminar expansions and six or more branchiostegals on the posterior ceratohyal. They lack median caudal cartilages. Among synodontoids, Pseudotrichonotus is the sister group of the Synodontidae plus Harpadontidae, with which it shares paired peritoneal pigment spots, an abrupt transition between the epipleurals in and beneath the horizontal septum, and absence of the fourth pharyngobranchial toothplate. Our study does not support a previously proposed relationship between Bathysaurus and synodontids.

British Parliament Ditches Parchment for Paper

Smithsonian Magazine

Back in the day, scribes turned to parchment paper when they had an important document or letter to write. But in the 21st century, the thought of using expensive animal skins for significant documents seems a bit quaint, and the British government recently tussled over whether to ditch it altogether and switched to paper for everything but the cover of acts. Now, reports Jenny Gross for the Wall Street Journal, debates over which is the right material have flamed up again.

If it seems like a frivolous argument, think again: It’s a matter of archaeological and ideological significance. Gross explains that vellum, a parchment made from calf skin, which costs the equivalent of $45 per sheet, is at once exponentially more expensive and more durable than paper. The cost is why the centuries-old custom of recording laws on it has come to an end in favor of archival paper, the Telegraph reports. However, those wanting to keep with tradition aren't going quietly.

Gross notes that given the UK’s plan to transfer thousands of European laws to its own books, the question is again rearing its papery head. Switching out parchment for paper circumvents centuries of practice and raises questions about the future durability of key pieces of legislature. Everything from the Magna Carta to the U.S. Constitution was written on parchment, and in the United States, parchment is still used for enrolled bills, which are then passed on to the President. However, the parchment is artificial and made of plant-based fibers.

Vellum has been used for important documents since as early as the sixth century B.C.E. The Worcester Cathedral Library notes that it is the earliest type of writing material known to be used in the British Isles.

But perhaps tradition isn’t the best argument for sticking with parchment. Though documents made with the material has managed to survive everything from caves to fires, parchment still has its downsides. As the British Library reports, it’s very vulnerable to changes in humidity and can lose its structural integrity if it gets too wet. And though archivists are always learning more about how to conserve it, there’s no such thing as a perfect archival strategy. Then again, that argument could also be used against the use of any medium, like paper or digital documents.

Parting with parchment isn’t the only way the British Parliament is bucking tradition these days. As reported earlier this year, Parliament recently abandoned its wigs as part of a years-long crawl toward modernization. Which of Britain’s traditions will go next? That’s anyone’s guess, but one thing's for sure—debates between modernists and traditionalists promise to be more eternal than whatever material they're recorded on.

Determinants and spatial modeling of tree B-diversity in a tropical forest landscape in Panama

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Questions: The objectives of this study were to clarify the extent to which environmental factors and geographical distance account for tropical floristic composition, and propose a methodology for delimiting the boundaries of floristic types based on species similarity. Location: The Panama Canal watershed. Methods: To assess which factors (climate, topography, geology and geographical distance) account for floristic composition, we performed Mantel tests on distance matrices and partitioned variation in species composition using canonical analysis. We used a permutation-based regression model computed on distance matrices and a hierarchical clustering of the tree composition to construct a predictive map of forest types of the Panama Canal Watershed. Results: We found that spatial variation alone explained 22-27% of species variation, while the fraction of species variation explained by environmental variables was smaller (10- 12%); 13-19% of the variation was accounted for by the joint effect of environmental variation and geographic distance. The similarity-based map emphasizes the principal division in tree flora between the drier Pacific side and the wetter Caribbean slopes. Conclusions: The distribution of Panamanian tree species appears to be primarily determined by dispersal limitation, then by environmental heterogeneity. ‘Environmental segregation’ processes do play an important role. Maps of broadscale vegetation patterns based on thorough tree inventories can be used in conservation planning in the tropics.

Evolutionary Relationships Among Scyphozoan Jellyfish Families Based on Complete Taxon Sampling and Phylogenetic Analyses of 18S and 28S Ribosomal DNA

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A stable phylogenetic hypothesis for families within jellyfish class Scyphozoa has been elusive. Reasons for the lack of resolution of scyphozoan familial relationships include a dearth of morphological characters that reliably distinguish taxa and incomplete taxonomic sampling in molecular studies. Here, we address the latter issue by using maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships among all 19 currently valid scyphozoan families, using sequence data from two nuclear genes: 18S and 28S rDNA. Consistent with prior morphological hypotheses, we find strong evidence for monophyly of subclass Discomedusae, order Coronatae, rhizostome suborder Kolpophorae and superfamilies Actinomyariae, Kampylomyariae, Krikomyariae, and Scapulatae. Eleven of the 19 currently recognized scyphozoan families are robustly monophyletic, and we suggest recognition of two new families pending further analyses. In contrast to long-standing morphological hypotheses, the phylogeny shows coronate family Nausithoidae, semaeostome family Cyaneidae, and rhizostome suborder Daktyliophorae to be nonmonophyletic. Our analyses neither strongly support nor strongly refute monophyly of order Rhizostomeae, superfamily Inscapulatae, and families Ulmaridae, Catostylidae, Lychnorhizidae, and Rhizostomatidae. These taxa, as well as familial relationships within Coronatae and within rhizostome superfamily Inscapulatae, remain unclear and may be resolved by additional genomic and taxonomic sampling. In addition to clarifying some historically difficult taxonomic questions and highlighting nodes in particular need of further attention, the molecular phylogeny presented here will facilitate more robust study of phenotypic evolution in the Scyphozoa, including the evolution characters associated with mass occurrences of jellyfish.

DNA barcoding as a tool for coral reef conservation

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DNA Barcoding (DBC) is a method for taxonomic identiWcation of animals that is based entirely on the 5 portion of the mitochondrial gene, cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI-5). It can be especially useful for identiWcation of larval forms or incomplete specimens lacking diagnostic morphological characters. DBC can also facilitate the discovery of species and in deWning "molecular taxonomic units" in problematic groups. However, DBC is not a panacea for coral reef taxonomy. In two of the most ecologically important groups on coral reefs, the Anthozoa and Porifera, COI-5 sequences have diverged too little to be diagnostic for all species. Other problems for DBC include paraphyly in mitochondrial gene trees and lack of diVerentiation between hybrids and their maternal ancestors. DBC also depends on the availability of databases of COI-5 sequences, which are still in early stages of development. A global eVort to barcode all Wsh species has demonstrated the importance of large-scale coordination and is yielding promising results. Whether or not COI-5 by itself is suficient for species assignments has become a contentious question; it is generally advantageous to use sequences from multiple loci.

Using plant microfossils from dental calculus to recover human diet: a case study from Tell al-Raqa'i, Syria

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Dietary reconstructions based on plant microfossils, such as starch grains and phytoliths, have been useful in increasing our understanding of past human populations. Microfossils have been recovered from sediments, stone tools, and, more recently, dental calculus. Methods for recovering microfossils from dental calculus have yet to be firmly established and there is some question about potential damage to the teeth. Using a sample of teeth from the middle Holocene site of Tell al-Raqa'i, Syria, we tested using a dental pick to sample the calculus. ESEM images taken before and after sampling show no damage to the enamel surface, and examination of the recovered microfossils show that this method provides ample material for study, even when not all of the calculus is removed from the tooth. Preliminary identification of the plant microfossils suggests that these individuals were consuming a variety of plant foods, but that domesticated cereals such as wheat and barley made up a surprisingly small portion of their diet.

Methodological concerns for analysis of phytolith assemblages: Does count size matter?

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In quantitative phytolith analysis, chance error associated with insufficient counts can affect the robustness of the interpretation, whether it is vegetation reconstruction or taxonomic differentiation. It is therefore vital to choose a count size that will ensure statistically reliable results, while minimizing the time expended. Numerical statistical methods (bootstrapping) that have become available over the past few decades have made it possible to model even complex phytolith assemblages with relative ease. This study used bootstrapping as well as analytic statistical formulas to evaluate the influence of count size on vegetation reconstruction by means of two commonly used indices, DIP (tree cover index) and I-ph, (aridity index). The analysis indicates that the count size needed to ensure statistical precision depends on the question as well as the observed assemblage composition. Importantly, it is the count of specimens relevant to a specific ratio or other index ("index-specific" count) that matters, whereas the total count is less important. Based on these results, some general guidelines for choice of count size and for the use of statistics in phytolith analysis are suggested. (C) 2007 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.
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