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Archive for 2008

Happy Historical Holidays!

Written on Thursday, December 25th, 2008 [permanent link]

Here you go: historical comic book artist, costumed son and DRAGON!!! This is right after one of this month’s holiday puppet shows that my youngest, Truman, did at Colonial Williamsburg’s Geddy House, just off the green that runs up to the Governor’s Palace.

It’s a great way to grow up, walking in the footsteps of kids from across hundreds of years. Truman got to be the dragon in a holiday production of the St. George and the Dragon folk tale. This was his first year as a costumed junior interpreter at the Geddy, and I could not be more proud of him! I’ve learned a lot about the Colonial era from the time both my sons have spent as junior interpreters.

When I started drawing the daily Chester the Crab history strips for the Daily Press in 1999, my oldest son, Samuel, was as old as the target school audience. (And he was attending the elementary school next to Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area about the same time that a Geddy descendant did!) So Samuel got to be a character moving through time and learning with Chester. But now, a decade later, Truman’s patience has paid off – all the new stuff I’m drawing features HIM! I’m working on a Colonial Williamsburg comic right now that features Truman and his personality in this garb! It’s great to have your historical character so close . . .

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Posted in Colonial Williamsburg | No Comments »

One student's trouble with History education

Written on Sunday, December 14th, 2008 [permanent link]

I got these great messages this week from a high school friend whose daughter is really struggling with the NAME-DATE-PLACE style of history education:

“I think my daughter needs to have an extended conversation with you regarding social studies and social studies education. She has complained lately that the way it is taught is boring. I told her that I actually find history more fascinating now and that the key to history being interesting is in large part good storytelling and being able to weave in interesting tidbits. She hates the read it, recite it type of teaching. Yet, I think she likes history some because she comes home with questions like “How do they keep track of history?” “Does someone write it down?” “If some of it is passed down orally, couldn’t it get messed up or inaccurate?” So I know she is pondering things. I told her to get on your Chester site as I know you had talked up social studies education on there. She has like the things they have done that have been simulations – i.e. forming their own colonies, etc. but has been in a social studies funk lately. . .

We just conversed over breakfast this morning again about how history is recorded and whether it is accurate. [My husband] talked about the physical evidence that substantiates what is reported so that you know it is not made up but we did talk about how anything reported, including today’s news, can be subject to the reporter’s point of view. I also explained how when I practiced law, our opening statements were to be only facts. Yet, the two sides could report the same facts and color them in such a way as to be more favorable to their side. It is interesting how she is so obsessed with accuracy in history suddenly. On the way home from play practice I suggested maybe she should do historical theater as a way to enliven how history is presented.”

What a fantastic discussion! My quick reactions:

1. This is the kind of talks parents need to be having with their kids about their schooling, no matter the subject. Half of the job is to LISTEN to your kid — but then look how my friend answered using her own professional experience. That’s great. Don’t leave education just to your kids’ teachers.

2. NAME-DATE-PLACE IS BORING! It’s the way history was taught in 1950 and 1850. Why are we still stuck in that?! Certain things must be known — the War of 1812 didn’t happen in 1912, after all — but the most important question in history education is WHY. When you answer WHY something happened, the names and dates will fall into the story.

3. We should use as many disciplines as possible to teach history. Historical theater is a great idea. So is making historical episodes using a digital videocamera. Reenacting of biographies is popular in Virginia classrooms. Turn historical stories into rap songs. WHATEVER — anything but flashcards!! When I see all the possibilities of consumer technology I feel a bit sheepish — Chester Comix seem downright stuffy, being a holdout of the printed word on paper!

4. So that’s why I put in lots of DETAILS. My friend’s daughter seems right in line with most other kids I’ve met — they want to know how the sailors on the ships to Jamestown went to the bathroom. They like the extra stuff I put into Chester Comix. I’ve had a few teachers complain that there’s a lot of material in there that they don’t have to teach — info about Clara Barton’s childhood is not on the standardized test, for example, but I believe that understanding her childhood does a lot to explain WHY she went onto the Civil War battlefields to help the wounded. Which IS on the test. Details humanize these people of history and make it easier to remember the big Name, Date and Place that the tests demand.

What do YOU think??

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Posted in Author's Purpose, History Teacher | No Comments »

A fantastic review!

Written on Monday, December 1st, 2008 [permanent link]

Chester Comix just got a fantastic review on this web page devoted to helping educators find useful comic books for their reluctant readers! This is a great site for you to bookmark after reading this fun review. (At one point they note all the social studies concepts I’m packing in, and they add, “yet Boyd does it so effectively and with such good humor (using Star Trek analogies along the way, even) that I barely realized that I was learning new things as I was reading.” That’s the idea!!!

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Posted in Graphic Novel Review | 2 Comments »

Chester crab comics