“Why Does this Matter?”

Joanna Fisher
I decided to look to the things I saw my students using everyday to answer this question.
By Joanna Fisher, WMS faculty member

How do you make history applicable to the present day? This is the question that led me to a somewhat unorthodox answer: bananas. Well, not just bananas, also cell phones, oil, and coffee. As a history teacher I sometimes hear our students complain, “Why does this matter?” I decided to look to the things I saw my students using everyday to answer this question.

Our world history curriculum is spread over four semesters typically taken in the freshman and sophomore years. Each semester focuses on a different topic or theme. These topics range from religion to technology, globalization to power. This specific section of World History II focuses on the legacies of colonialism, examining the world from around the time of the industrial revolution to the present day.
The idea of exploring all of post-World War II history in six weeks is a daunting one. To make the time period more approachable I separated the world into four geographical areas on which to focus: Latin America, East Asia, Southern Africa, and the Middle-East. For each geographical area we will examine a certain commodity and see how history has influenced the trade of said commodity, and vice versa.
We began by exploring post-war Latin America from which many of agricultural goods come, namely bananas. Students studied the history behind banana production, the effects of bananas on Latin America, and the lives of workers on banana plantations. Students then created public service announcements to educate their classmates about the bananas they consume. By making complex political and economic concepts tangible students were able to understand the concepts more easily and deeply.

Next we will look at Chinese history and how it relates to our cell phones, then Southern Africa and coffee, and lastly oil from the Middle East.  So whether they are having a snack, talking on the phone, or riding in the car WMS World Historystudents will understand why history matters.

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