Re-Blog: Are Zombies Real?

Suitably spooky post covering history, science, and culture from Gringa of the Barrio. Happy Halloween from WorldView Software!

Gringa of the Barrio

(Originally posted 10/3/2017 on Read With The Gringa)

Lovers of horror and science-fiction are most likely big fans of the Walking Dead series as well as any movie or book that is zombie-related. A visit to New Orleans will result in any number of Voodoo and zombie trinkets being purchased and brought back home. 

The first famous literary mention of zombies occurred in 1810. Robert Southey wrote of brain-eating monsters in his book History of Brazil. As the word morphed throughout the English reading world, zombies became known as once-dead humans that re-animate without intelligence or self-awareness. Their only purpose was to serve a master and survive upon human brains.

Are zombies real? Should a person have an after-death back-up plan? Should the dead be buried with emergency beacons to activate in case they inadvertently awaken? Should a trusted loved one be appointed to deliver a coup-de-grace if…

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The Top 5 Missed Opportunities

Want to get your class thinking critically about history and politics in hurry? Try this question from the wonderful, unscientific poll of readers of The Neighborhood, conducted by Kendall F. Person:

What is the greatest missed opportunity, that could have altered the reality of race, as our foremost identity, before the idea of identifying ourselves and seeing others as Americans first?

Click the link to see their answers.

Resource Highlight: Global Voices and Watching America

Ever wonder what the rest of the world is thinking? Global Voices is a collection of news articles and opinion pieces from around the world.

We curate, verify and translate trending news and stories you might be missing on the Internet, from blogs, independent press and social media in 167 countries.

If you’re wondering what the rest of the world is thinking about America specifically, look no further than Watching America.  This is a collection of translations by volunteers, with quick links to more content translated by machine.

WatchingAmerica makes available in English articles written about the U.S. by foreigners, often for foreign audiences, and often in other languages. Since WatchingAmerica offers its own translations, regular users of our site will enjoy articles not available in English anywhere else. We are a unique window into world opinion.

Particularly in an era dominated by fake news (and charges of fake news), news from diverse sources is extremely important. Break out of the bubble!

Resource Highlight: Internet History Sourcebooks

Need primary sources? You can find a really diverse set of texts at the Internet History Sourcebooks Project at Fordham University, edited by Paul Halsall.

The collection is organized by time period: ancient, medieval, and modern; and by thematic unit: African history, East Asian history, global history, Indian history, Islamic history, Jewish history, history of science, women’s history, and LGBTQ history.  (Note that some of the material on this site is under copyright and used by permission, so check before using it in your own materials.)

You can find everything from translations from the world’s first known author, Enheduana, daughter of Sargon, ruler of Akkadia to Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech to baseball.

UNESCO Cultural Heritage List

We’ve written before about the UNESCO World Heritage sites, but did you know that UNESCO also maintains Cultural Heritage lists? This is to protect intangible cultural processes — like the traditional process by which really great beer is made.  According to Smithsonian Magazine:

Life in Belgium is soaked in beer, from cheese washed with suds to town festivals to a pipeline that pumps over 1,000 gallons of beer every hour on a two-mile journey through Bruges. So it’s no surprise that beer is part of the world’s vision of Belgium, too…Belgium has more than earned the designation—the tiny country is serious about its beer. According to the Brewers of Europe, a trade organization, Belgium had 168 active breweries in 2014 and Belgians consumed an average of 72 liters per capita that year. Much of that beer is hopped on tradition: Indeed, some of the best beer in the country is made by Trappist monks who have been perfecting and passing down their craft for centuries.

Beer bottle and full glass with Westvleteren logo
Made at at the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus in Vleteren, Belgium. By DirkVE – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Belgian beer is just one thing on the Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage maintained by UNESCO.  Cultural heritage extends beyond the physical location or object:

It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.

There are actually two lists: the “List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding,” and the “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.”  (Belgian beer is on the representative list.)  The traditions on the urgent safeguarding list include the Cambodian Chapei Dang Veng and the Ugandan Ma’di bowl lyre music and dance.

The Chapei Dang Veng is a Cambodian

Kong Nay playing the chapei dong veng, Phnom Penh. By n ole - Guitar Master, CC BY 2.0,
Kong Nay playing the chapei dong veng, Phnom Penh. By n ole – Guitar Master, CC BY 2.0,

musical tradition featuring the chapei (a type of lute often played at cultural festivals) accompanied by singing. “Song lyrics range from the educational and a type of social commentary, to satire while incorporating traditional poems, folk tales or Buddhist stories. The tradition is considered to have multiple functions within Cambodian communities…”

image by Idro Williams Jean, 2014 from
image by Idro Williams Jean, 2014 from

The making of a Ma’di bowl lyre has several rituals associated with it, while the instrument itself is played on special occasions with specific songs and dances. “The traditional practice is a tool for strengthening family ties and clan unity, as well as educating younger generations about their community’s history, values and culture.”

Both of these traditions are at risk of being lost, for a host of reasons: the perception of being old-fashioned by young people, materials required that come from endangered plants and animals,  and the lingering effects of genocide.

Interested in incorporating intangible cultural heritage into your classes?  You might want to check out the video of a roundtable that included presentations from educators from Belize, Uganda, and Pakistan.  The roundtable was one of the sessions at the eleventh session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

BulbgraphOnOffInternet Projects can be a great in-class exercise — ask students if they can figure out the principles by which the links were curated.

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Bucket List

Lots of people make a “bucket list” — a list of things to do and places to see before they die. And lots of the places people choose are well-known natural wonders and historical monuments; often places they studied about in school, like Stonehenge in WorldView Software’s World History A:

Screen capture of Art image, introduction, and questions from WorldView Software's World History A.
Screen capture of Art image, introduction, and questions from WorldView Software’s World History A.

But you don’t have to stick to just the most well-known places. No matter what area of the world your class is studying in history or geography, challenge them to find some off-the-beaten-track places that they would also like to see!

There are some excellent resources on the web for this.  And just like reality, you don’t have to stick to the well-known sites like National Geographic and Discovery.  You can also use social media (try the #travel and #nature hashtags on Instagram), and check out some of these other sites we’ve found.

My Modern Met

My Modern Met is where the featured image on this post can be found.  By Omid Jafarnezhad, this image of the Nasir al-Mulk “Pink” Mosque in Shiraz, Iran offers a burst of color to the visitor.  Keeping with the “colorful” theme, but venturing to a different continent, check out the town of Guatapé in Colombia, also found on the site:

View of a street lined with colorful buildings.
View of a street lined with colorful buildings, by Jessica Devnani (

Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura is where you can find a map of the 10,000 places they’ve documented as of October 2016.  That includes places like Thor’s Well in Oregon, where the Pacific looks like it’s draining into an alternate dimension (Asgard, possibly?):

Photo of sea water draining down a massive hole in rock.
Thor’s Well, by Thomas Shahan on Flickr, cc by 2.0

Or the tranquil beauty of the Kuang Si Waterfalls in Laos:

Kuang Si Waterfalls, by Basil Strahm on Flickr, cc by 2.0
Kuang Si Waterfalls, by Basil Strahm on Flickr, cc by 2.0

Once you’ve picked some places or things your students want to see, try the following activity for building connections to learning by investigating its history:

  • If it’s a man-made place, investigate how it is different from other buildings in the same area.  What were the building techniques and how the costs of construction were covered?  Who were the architects and builders, and what did their work day look like? What was the purpose of the building, and why was it important enough to justify that expense?
  • If it’s a natural place, ask how and why it has been preserved.  Is it a sacred place, and if so, what is its meaning? Finally, ask if there are forces such as economic development pressures that enhance its standing or endanger its presence.

Use these answers to make connections to what had to be happening in the wider society that would make the building or preservation possible, and what that context looks like now and in the near future.

BulbgraphOnOffPrint out materials such as a document or image, including introduction and short-answer questions, to read at leisure. (For now, some may require a little copy-and-paste.)

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Using Pokémon Go to Teach Local History

Pokémon Go is everywhere.  Maybe the craze hasn’t hit you yet, or maybe you haven’t seen a stampede like this one:

But if you’re a social studies teacher and you’re not playing yet, maybe you should — not only is it a great reason to get outside and interact with other people, but it’s a great way to interact with local history.

This is because the “Pokéstops” where you can find the little pocket monsters are designated by GPS, and are quite often historical markers.  Niantic Labs, the maker of the game, is a spinoff of Google’s, and the game uses data from a similar earlier game, called Ingress using The Historical Marker Database.  This database records “historical information viewed through the filter of roadside and other permanent outdoor markers, monuments, and plaques.”  According to the Associated Press:

How such markers became the backbone of the wildly popular video game that launched this month is a story that goes back at least five years, when tech giant Google signed a licensing agreement to use The Historical Marker Database , a volunteer-run website that has tracked the geographic coordinates of more than 80,000 historical markers around the world, most of them in the United States.

And when you’ve finished catching Pokémons and discussing the local markers of historical places and events, you can discuss the game’s inherent bias in inputs: as Jack Thompson, Pokémon Go player notes, “Crowdsourcing is only as representative as the crowd doing the sourcing.” Because the database was created by a certain subgroup of people, but is now being used for a more universal game, there are distinct biases built-in that make the playing field uneven.

And stay out of minefields while playing.

BulbgraphOnOffClick on the Progress icon to track completion status of assignments.

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