Students at Calumet Middle School Study Living on Sisu
During the summer of 2009, Public Schools of Calumet Laurium Keweenaw purchased class sets of Deborah Frontiera’s book, Living on Sisu: The 1913 Union Copper Strike Tragedy
for use during the 2009/10 school year in multiple grades. Seventh grade Language Arts teacher Amy Machiela downloaded the free teaching materials developed for use by several grade levels provided in the “Articles” section of Frontiera’s web site: www.authorsden.com/deborahkfrontiera
The materials are in four separate PDF files, one with teacher materials and three with student activity pages which may be copied in class sets. These pages may be used in elementary classrooms as class work, homework or assessment. Middle school teachers will find the pages just right for “pick it up at the door and finish in five minutes” activities to settle students into learning mode.
Calumet schools are in the heart of the setting of Living on Sisu. Frontiera had made an author visit to Calumet middle school students in May of 2009 to help launch the book. Ms. Machiela had mentioned at the time that students there could look out the school windows and see the Miscowaubik Club and walk a few blocks to the memorial park where the Italian Hall once stood, so she looked forward to using the book to combine Language Arts and Social Studies. She and Frontiera have kept in touch by email since then and Frontiera promised to answer any questions by email that the students had.
In early December, 2009, Frontiera received the following email from Ms. Machiela:
“We just finished reading the second ‘chunk’ of Sisu (page 75). The kids are OUT OF CONTROL with excitement and ideas. The enthusiasm is enough to last me the rest of my life! I love this. This week, we went over to the library’s local history/mining/Calumet section. Deb Oyler [the librarian] helped the kids out with choosing a topic from Sisu: a key word that they were especially interested in (Finnish, Swedetown, copper, etc.). Then she talked about indexes. The students all found two photos, articles, or just ideas from the files and books about these topics to share with the class the following day. They didn’t want to stop! Soon, we will be going to the computer lab to do a Webquest. After that, the kids will be sending some emails to you with questions. I’ve found the unit to be VERY helpful, but when you teach up here, the book really teaches itself. Well done.”
While the book is especially relevant to grades four and seven in Michigan when State history is the focus of Social Studies classes, other states will find its message equally enticing for studying the early 20th Century, the beginnings of labor unions and workers’ rights, and to compare immigration issues over the last 100 years.
Frontiera will return to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in May of 2010 and for the summer
and hopes to be able to visit Calumet students again. She is making a special offer to all schools in the area: she will do a free author visit for any school that purchases a class set of Living on Sisu and helps pay her travel expenses. From May 15, 2010 to the end of that school year, U.P. schools within a three hour drive from Houghton will have no travel expense. U.P. schools farther than three hours should provide the cost of twenty-five gallons of gas. Frontiera is willing to extend this offer to schools in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and across the USA any time during a school year, but regular travel expenses would apply to those schools and would vary with the distance and mode of travel. Frontiera and her publisher also offer special discounts from the retail price of the book for schools buying class sets.
When doing these visits, Frontiera comes dressed in period costume and begins by telling a few stories of her own grandmother (great-great-grandmother to students today) and other direct connections between her family and the story. She discusses the research and writing process, use of primary and secondary sources, and the special challenge of writing historical fiction. She challenges students to find out about their own community’s history. Schools interested should contact the author through her web site, providing a name, phone number and email so she can contact the school to make detailed arrangements.