The WSJ, the shower, and global trade

I am more convinced than ever that I need to make time to step away from work. I used to get up at 5:00 am to be able to get work done – planning, grading, etc. This year, I have been using the hour between 5:00 and 6:00 (when I need to start getting myself and my family ready for school) to have a cup of coffee and read the Wall Street Journal.

With my PBL/Inquiry-based Modern World class, I have completed my planning for the first unit, and have begun to think about the second unit, which will begin in about two weeks. The subject matter is the development of global trade, beginning in the 16th century. I knew that I wanted to start with the Indian Ocean trade interactive map ( but beyond that I have not been able to think of the project that would come from this. The first unit, which has focused on empires and power, ends with a model for tracking power throughout the year, as empires and states rise and fall.

This morning while reading the paper, I came across a review of a book called A Thirst for Empire: How Tea Shaped the Modern World. I made a note to ask Renee to order it for the library and moved on with my morning. While I was in the shower, I had the eureka moment. The project for the second unit should be an updated version of a project we used to do (but found it took too much time in the regular curriculum) – the commodity project. Students would trace a commodity and its impact through the global economy.

Now I am excited to plan the unit, beginning with an NPR piece that shows the many steps that go into the making of a t-shirt. Then, students will identify commodities to research from the interactive map. After researching, they will put together a presentation (still thinking through the details and will probably consult with the class about what the final product should be) about their commodity. I am also thinking I will have them write something about global trade based on their own research and what they learn from the research of others.

I am so grateful for the time I have given myself to step away from work and the space that my curriculum allows.


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