Buried Treasure: X Marks the Spot

Before students write a story, ask them to draw an illustrated map.  Visualizing, creating, drawing, painting, coloring, and discussing a map stimulates the imagination in ways that words sometimes cannot.

It worked for Robert Louis Stevenson (1854-1894), who spent a rainy day with his son drawing this map, which inspired his masterpiece Treasure Island:

This marvelous text in Treasure Island came to Stevenson after he drew the map:

“The paper had been sealed in several places with a thimble…The doctor opened the seals with great care, and there fell out the map of an island…shaped…like a fat dragon standing up…three crosses of red ink…”Bulk of treasure here  (Stevenson,  p.47).



Stevenson, R.L., (1911). Treasure Island. Illustrations by N.C. Wyeth. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. (Original work published 1883).

Source for map:

Source for text: OpenLibrary.org: https://archive.org/stream/treasureisland00stev#page/46/mode/2up


Our Boston Marathon

Our Boston Marathon is a glorious celebration every Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts.

Four time Boston  winner and famed American runner  Bill Rodgers (K. Nollet, 2014)
Four time Boston winner and famed American runner Bill Rodgers (K. Nollet, 2014)

Although I’m not a runner, the Boston Marathon has always been a rite of spring. In childhood, my father and I watched runners on Rt. 135, across the street from Tasty Treat in Ashland. I played the national anthem at the start as a member of the Hopkinton High School marching band. My family has hosted runners. Last year my father, a 90-year-old World War II vet, was honored at the starting line.

The Boston Marathon offers a spectacular teaching and learning opportunity for every teacher. You can practically invent a unit on the spot, both high interest and Common Core compliant.

The Boston Marathon includes every runner. (K.Nollet, 2014)
The Boston Marathon includes every runner. (K.Nollet, 2014)

Length, time, world and course records are just the beginning of the mathematics embedded in it. Runners’ compelling stories make excellent writing topics; an entire section of The Boston Globe pulls a unit together with reading articles, graphs, maps, and charts.

Runners arrive from all over the world, an excellent geography lesson. The Marathon’s history is rich in tradition, both Olympic and Boston. However, when we teach history to students, the darker stories are part of an honest picture.

What makes people cheat? In 1980, Rosie Ruiz  jumped in near the finish and was initially claimed the winner.

Why were women excluded from Boston Marathon until 1972? Jock Semple tried to physically push Katherine Switzer out of the race.

Elite runners have a separate start. (K. Nollet, 2014)
Elite runners have a separate start. (K. Nollet, 2014)

Why did the Tsarnaev brothers plant two bombs that killed 3 and injured over 260? This event still feels acutely fresh to us Bostonians, who have been watching the current trial.

A moment of silence occurs at 2:49 p.m. today, “One Boston Day,” observing the second anniversary of that event.

On Globes: Get The Whole World in Their Hands

When held in the hands of a student, globes are terrific teaching tools. That’s because globes are meant to be touched, turned, examined, read, and best of all, played with.IMG_3666

If you gave a student a globe to hold for fifteen minutes and asked him to write a list of ten new things he learned about the globe while playing with it, he’d learn more than you ever dreamed.

That’s why if I were in charge of high school graduation, I’d give out diplomas in exchange for a student-made globe. Here’s why.

IMG_3667When I taught at a community college, I discovered a huge gap in my students’ knowledge. In the middle of a discussion about Jean Piaget (the Swiss developmental psychologist about whom every teacher learns) a hand went up and a student asked, “Where is Switzerland?”

“Who can find it?” I asked, pointing to a globe.  No one could. The closest anyone came was Norway.

Upon further questioning, I discovered it’s not that my students had forgotten where Switzerland was, it was that they’d never learned.

There was no way I could let my students, on my watch, go on with this scary lack of knowledge. Their final exam that semester included a world map:

Label the 7 continents, the 5 oceans, North Pole, South Pole, Arctic Circle, Antarctic Circle, Tropic of Cancer, Equator, and the Tropic of Capricorn

Try this with anyone in middle school on up.IMG_3669 Grab an orange and a black marker. Ask them to draw the continents on the orange as if it were the globe and label as much as possible from the list above.

Each of us is responsible for making sure that every student understands fundamental knowledge. Whether you’re a mechanic, a physical education teacher, or a retiree, the world is in your hands.


Bicycle Emancipation

susan b anthony

“I think bicycling has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world…Women feel freedom and self-reliance…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

Susan B. Anthony spoke these words to famed journalist Nellie Bly in 1896.  She added she was delighted whenever she saw women bicycling.

More than horses ever could, bicycles gave women the freedom to go where they wanted, when they wanted.  Changes in women’s clothing took place, too.Bloomers Out with layers of starched petticoats and confinement by laced-up corsets, which damaged women’s anatomy.  In with shorter skirts, looser undergarments, bloomers, and culottes.

How are you helping to emancipate your daughters today?  Moms and Dads have an equal responsibility to open the world to women of all ages.  Even if your corner of the world seems equal, it really won’t be until women make more than $.77 cents for every $1.00 men make.

As an interesting side note, Susan B Anthony was the first woman whose image was struck on a circulating coin:  the $1.00 coin.