Whats the true story?
Questioning the dominant narrative when learning history allows teachers to create an inclusive curriculum and to teach students to think critically about what they are reading. Teachers can create a safe place for students to think outside of the box and analyze information to create their own opinions. Students also have the power to make a change and insert missing information into their own history books. In California, a fifth-grade classroom went to the state legislature to explain how the 1930’s Mexican Repatriation was not included in their history textbook . This reflects the importance of teachers working with students as a team and students questioning what the textbook including and not including. The idea was sparked from a teacher who was aware of the tension Donald Trump was putting on her students while running for President. The teacher created a unit which sparked enough interest in the students that they went a step further and worked together to implement the 1930’s Mexican Repatriation in the textbooks. This is proof that when curriculum is modified for the students that you are working with, they invest more in the lesson.
The historical event that effected the environment tremendously was the recent BP oil spill which occurred on April 20th, 2010. Scientists estimate a total of 184 million gallons were leaked into the Gulf of Mexico due to an oil rig that exploded. The leak lasted about 3 months and was devastating foe ocean life, BP the gas company, and the fishing industry. A study shows that over 1 billion people in the world rely on fish as their only animal protein source, making it so important that the earths waters are clean and treated well. The dominant narrative of this disaster was focused on the economic impact the Deepwater Horizon oil spill created. We must ask our student who did this effect? What is the long-term effect of all the spilt oil going to have on the impacted waters? How many people rely on fishing as an income and source of food in that region? The money spent needed to effectively clean the spill is something else that should be considered. When focusing on a such a recent event like the BP oil spill a lot of the long-term ramifications are unclear, but that is a great opportunity for students to create predications. They could be assigned to complete research that would back up the potential long term impacts of the BP oil spill.
A great perspective to first examine would be the people who make up the directly affected communities. How did the BP oil spill change their day to day routines? What changes did the communities must undergo? Most people talk about the enormous economic impact that the BP oil spill had on the country, the BP oil company, and the fishing industry when people and families that were directly affected were only after thoughts. I wonder how many people had to move because they needed to provide for their family, but the BP oil spill prevented them from being able to catch fresh fish, thus providing for their family. An article that was looking at the effects of the BP oil spill 5 years later said “It’s not going back to normal no time soon”. The narrative from BP and from scientist are very different when considering the overall long term damages. Some are deeply concerned about the future of the Gulf of Mexico whereas BP has pushed back hard on those claims saying that the effects of its disasters are not much to worry about. They have affected the dominant narrative by the large amount of money they have spent to clean the disaster and commercials that discuss how “clean” the water is currently.
If I had to curate a curriculum about this disaster I would choose my resources based on how informative, thought provoking, and relatable the content is to my students. I think I would start with a video that is a little more recent. This video talks about the BP spill five years after the disaster. This will help give context to how severe the disaster was by seeing first hand examples of the spill still affecting the water today. I then could pose questions about who could possibly be affected by the oil spill even five years after the it occurred. We could brainstorm as a class all the different things or people that would still be affected today and go into detail about what exactly the conflict would be. We then could have groups of students further investigate conflicts or problems from the list we created as a class.
A specific trade that was impacted tremendously was catching oysters. A lifelong oysterman discussed the massive drop in oysters that were caught where he always had gone to catch oysters in the past (45 minutes south of New Orleans) . He then had to go to the West Bank of the Mississippi where there were occasional fees for fishing in private areas. This is devastating for local and small business. First, changing from the normal routine would be extremely inconvenient and then losing profits on top of that creates major problems for this company. By having the class look at a first-hand example of changes that one oysterman had to overcome to provide for his family, it will better allow them to relate to what a big loss this is for that and other families. A simple lesson of giving everyone a specific income, while continuously collected some form of taxes. Then, cut their entire income in half like the oysterman and have them experience the repercussions.
If this was a high school course I would assign them to watch a BBC documentary on the BP oil spill. Its accessible on YouTube, very engaging and clearly explains the severity of the situation I would have each student write a reflection based on their initial responses from watching the documentary. I would encourage them to write as they watched, or take notes while watching to engage fully in the documentary. Everyone enjoy watching movies and this documentary is perfect for high schoolers because of the knowledge presented is age appropriate. From the responses, I would gather some of the ones that are best suited for discussion based learning and have a Socratic seminar. Everyone has only experienced what we have learned in class and what they took from the film on the topic of the BP oil spill, so a lot of the discussion will be of predictions backed up with evidence.
I would end the lesson by giving the class a bunch of links related to the BP cover up, where they are accused of covering up just how bad the disaster was indeed (Like this one). Having the students look at how people attempted to lie to public by spreading misinformation is an important reality to expose to students. Its and unfortunate reality in today’s world especially with the popularity of fake news. Not everything that you read in life is true, and sometimes the initial story is wrong just because people rush to be the first to post a news story. It is a race for the headline and not a race to get the story and all the facts correct.
At the end of the day, whats important is correclty informing your students of the what happened during historical events, but it’s also critical to use the events in the world as teachable moments. There are so many lessons to be learned from the BP oil spill. Why being extra safe is always a good idea. What kind of long term damages occur when reputation is hurt. How to clean up a mess…a big one. It is also important to not just tell a story from one perspective. When we teach about Christopher Columbus its crucial that you find sources that depict exactly how the Native Americans were feeling when they were getting their land taken from them. Not just focus on the water downed version that fits well in a children’s book.