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IMGALTTAG Volume II: Interdisciplinary View of Pittsburgh


Pittsburgh’s Immigrants and Migrants
Elizabeth Claytor

Pittsburghers as a collective group have very low self-esteem. For years, we have battled the image of being a dirty, ugly city with an uneducated, uncultured populace. We have heard the mythology about Pittsburgh and Pittsburgers so long that I think many of us believe it. Therefore, one of my primary objectives is to guide my students to discover some of the richness of the city’s past and begin to appreciate their own place in Pittsburgh’s present and future. Simply, I want to instill a sense of pride in Pittsburgh. An additional objective is to design a teaching unit that will serve the various populations in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. It will augment the contemporary literature unit in the eleventh grade gifted and scholar’s curriculum, and it will create a new unit of study for the career and academic program. My final objective will be to introduce students to contemporary historical fiction and the newer, controversial genre, the nonfiction novel.

To achieve these objectives, this unit contains the following components: background information on the growth of Pittsburgh’s industrial base in Pittsburgh, Braddock, Munhall, Donora and Homestead, the influence of immigrant labor, the contributions of African-Americans during what is called the Great Migration from the rural South, and the emergence of a middle class. The literary focus of this unit is Thomas Bell’s Out of This Furnace. This unit contains annotated character listings, chapter summaries, questions for discussion and writing, authentic assessments, research and enrichment activities and field trip suggestions for the teacher.


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IMGALTAG Pittsburgh Government through the Renaissance
Jeremiah J. Dugan

Physically, Pittsburgh is situated in the Eastern United States, at the base of the Allegheny Mountains and at the conflux of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and the Ohio rivers. Physically, the city is home to approximately 350,000 residents. Physically the land surrounding the city has historically been blessed with resources enough to power the planet many times over. Volumes of books have been written about the physical environment of Pittsburgh, which I do not intend to reproduce here. I intend to describe the political environment of my city, which is just as impressive as the physical environment, through the guise of the Pittsburgh urban renewal project of the 1940’s and 50’s, known as the Renaissance.

The Renaissance still offers itself to the gods of academia to interpret its level of success or failure, but lends itself very well to the students of the Pittsburgh Public Schools and Langley High School to learn about their city and its government. It serves as a point of pride for Pittsburghers. It demonstrates the benefits of cooperation and collaboration. It covers all levels of government, from city to county to state to federal. It offers heroes in the forms of David Lawrence and Richard King Mellon and villains in the form of the smoke and the floods that will culminate in allowing the students to identify and assign meaning.

Overall the unit will work to confirm Tip O’Neil’s notion that, "All politics are local." Students will see how local public officials not only had to work with each other but with other branches and levels of government. It will show that deliberations and debates that take place in Washington, Harrisburg, and on Grant Street have influence and effect in the neighborhoods around the students.


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Pittsburgh: The French Accent
David C. Ghogomu

The first objective of the curriculum is to expose students in the French classroom to the French-related aspect of Pennsylvania history about which they may know very little or nothing at all. For every student including those who might have had some information in middle school, the curriculum will be more in depth.

Through the introduction of PA French history, I also hope to improve the proficiency level of the students involved, which is a rubric in the foreign language standards. Though most of the material is available in English, classes will be conducted in French, especially if the class is at least level three, or level two with students graduating from Frick or Sterett. Reading, discussing and writing in French will help in all aspects of language proficiency.

Whether in French or English, official and formal documents are not easily understood by today’s students. A lot of information on PA French history is in document form (letters, etc.). This would be a good time to introduce students to the reading of formal and official documents, especially in French.

The presentation of the French aspect of PA history in French is an integrated approach to learning which can only help the student feel more confident and accomplished, and make him or her more likely to look at other problems in an integrated manner.

The curriculum is designed to be used in a high school in classes which have students with at least two years of French (for classes in which discussion will be carried out in French). At Taylor Allderdice High School, French 2 students in the gifted program and any level and category above this will be included. Teachers can modify it to use in other situations including elementary and middle schools. Teaching and learning can be done in English if French language becomes a retarding factor.


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Pittsburgh -- A Place Of Many Faces
Patricia Y. Gordon

The students for whom this is written are the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students of Rogers Performing Arts School. Nevertheless I feel it can easily be altered to fit into the curriculum of any school and any grade level. Students at either end of the intellectual spectrum can be accommodated, as the work is adaptable. This also fits the varieties of learning styles we must cater to as teachers.

Teachers of History, Social Studies, Drama, and Creative Writing might find this a useful tool in teaching their subjects from a different perspective. The project will be finalized during the second semester as part of their portfolio presentations. This will give each department involved the time necessary to teach prerequisites needed to complete the final piece.

The interdisciplinary piece of this project will necessitate researching history to complete the final production. Producing a skit or monologue will require the students to exercise their creativity in more than one direction. The one unchangeable fact that I insist my students learn in costume is that "We must know how people lived in order to understand the clothing choices available to them" They need to understand that many factors dictate what will be worn and by whom.


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Native American Agriculture in Pennsylvania
Rhonda Graham

I think that it is important for students to see the pro and cons of modern farming and food storage, and compare the old way of conducting farming. I think that as Americans we tend to take things for granted. When we are hungry we run to the grocery store and buy the fixing of a wonderful meal. However convenient, I am concerned that many young people are ignorant of where their food comes from or the history of agriculture or the hard work and centuries that it took to develop the art and science of agricultural.

I am equally concerned that many students to not realize the impact that the Native Americans have had on the development of our Nation. I think that it is important to learn from the past so that we as a society do not repeat the same mistakes. I want my students to see the Natives as a people who had a great deal of knowledge about their environment. I want them to understand that the Natives used the land and that their action did have a measurable effect of the environment, but these effects were not disastrous to the entire environment. An underlining goal of mine is that I communicate that people need to be good stewards to the nature around them. I want my student to have a better appreciation of the beauty in the world around us. I want my students to develop an understanding of the past that can enrich their life.

This unit could easily be used to teach ecology. I am planning of using this in my general science class as part of the life science section and the ecology section. It could easily be adapted to be used in a biology or history class.

I am hopeful that an emphasis of the local history and the various field trips along with several dates in the library the students will see the continuity in the unit, and enjoy the many experiences in the unit by participating in variety of activities. When the unit is implemented we will need to spend several days outside preparing and planting the garden. Because the weather does not always following the weatherman's directions daily "back-up" or just in case activities will be used in the classroom. These will be centered around gardening in general or Native American readings.


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Learning About Pittsburgh in Algebra Class
Maura Moran

This unit plan is written for ninth grade students in a linear model mathematics course, Algebra I. This curriculum unit plan will present problems examining Pittsburgh as a geologic, historic and social city. The mathematical topics will include probability problems when looking at the ethnic breakdown of the population and its neighborhoods, regarding the Underground Railroad and industrial Pittsburgh, as well as other challenges. By using this curriculum plan, I hope to make mathematics and history real to my students through a fresh approach. This unit of study will integrate mathematics and history, give students some insight into Pittsburgh past and present, and enable students to solve problem situations in non-traditional scenarios.


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Pittsburgh Memories
Michele R. McClendon

The culminating activity for students is for them to produce a play based on a person or event that was part of the history of Pittsburgh. The unit provides a variety of activities and many opportunities to integrate reading, writing and speaking. Many of the activities will be conducted in cooperative groups. The series of activities that will lead to the culminating activity could be adapted to many grade levels. Sections of the unit could be separated and be adapted to provide students an opportunity to reach different standards. Students will write a report based on research that they must complete in the library and the Heinz History Center. Each student will give a presentation based on the report. The students will form groups and use their information from their report to write a play. The play may require more research and will require research into geography in order for the students to create more accurate settings. The play will be produced and presented before the class.

The first objective is to arouse the students’ curiosity about the geography and history of Pittsburgh through reading literature about Pittsburgh. Through this unit, I hope that they can experience the thrill of learning and the effect of experiencing a different point of view after learning more about their home. The second objective is to create a need for the students to learn how to research and then, use the information gleaned from their research in a meaningful manner. The students will conduct this research in the Langley High School Library, on the Internet, and at the Heinz History Museum. The purpose of the research will be to gather information so that the students can write a report and then use the information to write and produce a play. The third objective is to provide students with an opportunity to work cooperatively in groups and to collaborate with each other to learn and to solve problems. The fourth objective is to create activities that will help students meet the criteria of the standards as required by the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Board of Education.


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Conversations With My Mother
Carol M. Petett

This curriculum unit addresses the survival of a people whoever they may be, by the people who teach and pass on those skills to future generations. These protectors and teachers we call Mom, or Mother or some other endearing term. Without the knowledge passed from one generation to the next to survive and endure hardships we lose our ability to survive and we continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. If we look at the roles of the women mentioned in the readings mentioned above we find the same theme repeated over and over again. All of these women worked hard, not thinking of sacrifice just going about their work as mothers and wives, so that their families would survive intact. This is about women’s work, never done from sun to sun, not the work of men and labor movements.

For every famous man, the saying goes, is a woman behind him supporting him at his work. I am not attempting to showcase famous people be they men or women. I am only asking that we take a closer look at our many roles as women and not dismiss the importance and value of these roles.


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Teaching Students By Using Pittsburgh Sports
By Paul Schaltenbrand

I believe that there is a great benefit in teaching and learning about concepts associated with sports. Giving students a sense of pride about where they live and ultimately about themselves is very beneficial. By studying Pittsburgh and its sports teams we can attain some of the abstract goals that are often difficult to achieve. I teach a Public Service/Leadership class and I can see a tremendous benefit in examining sports and the qualities that athletes have developed.

In addition we can use sports to help students learn some of life's important lessons. We can also use sports to assist subject areas in reaching their specific goals in education. The Board of Education of Pittsburgh has identified 62 specific standards that a student who graduates must achieve. The areas of: Citizenship, Science and Technology, Environment and Ecology, Career Education and Work, Family and Consumer Science, Mathematics, Arts and Humanities, Wellness and Fitness and lastly Foreign Language have all been addressed by these standards. As teachers we must assist the other disciplines to achieve their set of standards whenever possible. We must teach students in general and share the responsibility whenever possible. By expanding the focus of what we teach just a little bit and by using our creativity, we can teach across the disciplines instead of just one subject. This concept can fit in to this unit of Pittsburgh Sports very easily

Sports rely heavily on Math and Physics. Keeping complex statistics that help the team and coach adjust their strategy when they are less that successful requires basic computational skills. Students too can use math to explore sports. They can calculate a player's batting average, slugging percentage or on base percentage. They can examine the Physics of wind resistance and spin rate to see how to throw a curve is able to break down and away from hitters. Students can practice and develop their literacy skills by reading and writing compositions about then moral issues behind sports. Students can answer complex questions like "Did free agency ruin the home town team?" Or they can write a speech and practice communication skills by having a debate over controversial issues such as, "Should Governor Ridge have spent State tax dollars to keep the Pirates in Pittsburgh."


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Pittsburgh Stories: A Collection of Historical Fiction
By Renee C. Tolliver

Nearly all students love to hear and to tell a great story. Therefore, one way to encourage students to become curious about the facts of the city in which they live is to tell them interesting stories about the city and then ask them to create interesting stories based on facts. This unit provides an opportunity for students to increase their knowledge about the history of Pittsburgh while they sharpen their creative writing skills. This project requires that students write a short story in the historical fiction genre. Students must choose a real Pittsburgh setting that existed during the early days of Pittsburgh, from the late 1700s to the early 1900s so that students learn little-known facts about the city. Their stories must have at least two factual minor characters, and a story line that has its roots in a real event or situation. The main character will be fictional and will reflect a combination of attributes that are important to the time and situation. The selection of characters, settings and plots should be diverse since Pittsburgh’s history is rich in diversity and intriguing events. Students must include an appendix that identifies and explains or describes the factual aspects of their stories – people, places and events. They must also include a character analysis of the protagonist to demonstrate that the character is multifaceted and represents authentic values, ideas and issues of the times.


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Chatham University
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IMGALTTAG Pittsburgh Teachers Institute
Jointly sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
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