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The Swarm

In Creative Writing on April 26, 2010 at 13:02

Creative Writing assignments in West Civ class?


This is a little horror story written as a reflection to a class discussion about the Black Death during the Middle Ages.

The Swarm

by Bryan Doherty

The year is 1968 on a small island off the coast of Argentina. This island, Parasio, is small and isn’t even marked on most maps but is inhabited by over 100 people. These people are from all over the world and have come to this island to get away from modern society. One man leads them all. This man was loved by all and hated by none, but he was cruel and violent. He promised a better life for those people but really only controlled them. He had complete control over them and the people on the island had no way to live by themselves or to even escape if they wanted to.

One day a strange man came ashore the island in hopes for a better life. He was immediately engrossed in this new “perfect society” and had made a new life for himself. But when he went to meet with the leader of the island, the leader knew the man was trouble. The leader instantly told his spies that he had placed throughout the island to watch the man. The spies did not help because that night the leader of Parasio died mysteriously in his sleep. Doctors later found that his lungs had imploded while he slept leaving no marks on the body.

Instantly everyone appointed the new man the leader. All on the island accepted him as the leader, even the old leader’s spies and body guards. Each man, woman, and child swore allegiance to him. Soon though things began to go awry. People on the island started to die. Each of the dead had had their lungs imploded while they were sleeping leaving no marks on the body. Within thirty six hours of coming into contact the new leader, that person was dead. Every one panicked and tried to get off the island, but there was no way to get off. They were trapped.

Within a month there was no one left on the island except the new man who had joined the island society and become the leader. He was trapped on the island with no way to get off and only the dead for company. He went mad and as soon as he was dead the white swarm of parasites left his body to find new victims.


Annotated Links: Recycling in the ‘Old’ World

In History, Internet Resources on April 22, 2010 at 16:25

by Staff of West Civ Sec 2

For Earth Day, our class took a look at the history of recycling.

Here is a short annotated collection of what we found online. It’s pretty interesting because even though most people believe that recycling is a modern idea, research has shown that even the Ancient Romans recycled!

Ancient Greece

The people of crete creating an urban garbage dump about 3,000 B.C. The Athenians were some of the first to dump their waste outside the city.

Ancient Rome

The Ancient Romans took old metal after conquering a new place and melted it down to make statues.  This reused the metal and made it into something useful. The Romans would recycle the swords and jewelry of the places and regions they defeated. They would melt the metal down to make statues of gods and war heroes.

Stones used in the walls of Roman cities were recycled and used to make other people’s houses and other things when part of the wall was damaged. Much later, museums in Britian used glass from the Roman times to turn into gems and decorate their displays.

The Numberlands took the old bronze Roman coins and they recycled them into trinkets for the Roman Army and sold them for more money than the older coins were worth.

Ancient Romans also recycled and reused their broken pottery.


This site is about how the Vikings recycled old metal weapons by melting them down and using them for other things. It is maybe unusual to hear that the Vikings recycled, but they would always reuse weapons from obtained from battles.
The Vikings recycled their old weapons by taking them to smithies after battles and having them reprocessed.  This allowed broken weapons to be reused over and over again.

Further reading…

This site from the Waste Watch Project’s WasteOnline has a “Chronology of Waste” that has information dating back to 3000 BC . This site tells how different civilizations recycled waste and used their waste products.

We Are Vikings!

In History on March 22, 2010 at 21:57

by Elliott Weinberg, Bryan Fidler, Becky Hottle, and Mackenzie Rayburn

In gearing up for a Viking raid, the Norsemen would have first gathered their weapons. A sword with a blade about 90 cm long that was sharp on both sides would be needed.

They would also take a short ax and a round shield. Many of the Vikings also wore helmets made of iron with eye, ear, and nose coverings.

Bows and arrows would also have been taken to shoot at the enemy from boats, or on land when approaching. Some Viking warriors had mail tunics, and these would have been brought to battle as well. Once this gear and weapons was gathered, it would be loaded into shallow draught longships that were used for “hit-and-run” surprise attacks by the Viking raiders.

Sometimes, however, things just didn’t work out for the Viking Warrior.

“Combat Equipment and Fighting Techniques of the Vikings.” The Vikings., 1999-2008. Web. 18 Mar 2010. (

Koeller , David. “Vikings Raid European Mainland.” The Web Chronology Project. WebChron Project, 1996-1999. Web. 18 Mar 2010. (

Teaching History in the Classroom: a view from 9th grade

In Opinion on March 18, 2010 at 12:08

by Emily Etkins and Jen Kreis

History can be taught in many different ways, and different learners adapt to different methods of teaching. The ways that history is taught have differed and changed throughout the years. Some ways work best in a classroom, while others do not; teaching methods and available resources can make learning history a great experience… or not.

When I walk into Western Civilization class, I know it will never be boring. We are always doing different activities like watching gory war videos on YouTube or playing cool Egyptian games. Last year, my eighth grade year, was all text book work. It was so boring that I could barely keep myself awake. No one wants to go to class, open the history book, and listen to the teacher lecture.

I believe that teachers are often taught a way to teach children, but then don’t develop their own way of teaching; which leads to either forgetting the more effective way of teaching, or not caring about teaching methods.

Instead of lecturing for an hour, the teacher should try to make it fun by sharing different resources about the topic. Here’s an example: Maybe you are learning about Julius Caesar, the conspiracy, and the assassination. There are many wonderful sites and videos online. For example, the BBC Ancient History site and their various video series like Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar which is an animated tale of Caesar’s assassination and the events that occurred after as well as the exciting Rise and Fall of an Empire series. Instead of the boring old text book, these resources are a great way to show students what happened to Julius Caesar.

BBC History also has many free online interactive games about many different topics. One of the topics is Egyptian pyramid making. It explains the right places and tools to use to build a pyramid. Even if you just have a small game of Jeopardy, a lot more information will be absorbed than you think. They might even remember certain moment in class that makes them recall the answer later. And what kid doesn’t love a little competitive game that involves a treat for the winner?

Fifteen percent of the population are kinesthetic learners (“Kinesthetic”). This means they don’t learn well from listening or reading; but rather learn from doing stuff, using their hands, and moving around. Reading the text book in class isn’t going to help these learners. It is very hard to concentrate on a text book for about an hour without taking a break. To help these kinesthetic learners, you should try hands-on activities, such as group projects and interactive activities like acting out parts of history, such as wars. The teacher could set up the students in battle formation and ask them questions about what the general might do next.

The main focus for a teacher in teaching students should be to get them involved in what they are learning about.

History is one of the best subjects to teach students interactively to help them see what they are learning about in a better way. But teachers need to remember not to just lecture out of a book.

When talking to adults about what it was like to be taught history when they were growing up in the 1960s to 1970s, I received a few different answers. Mary Anne said that when she was in high school, the teacher would lecture to the class, and she would take notes and make an outline. She stated, “I felt like I never really learned the history, I memorized my notes and was able to answer essay questions on tests by regurgitating my memorized notes on to the test paper.”

Today, there are still teachers who share information with the class in this way, but there are others who use the advancement in technology that we have by showing historically accurate videos or taking the class on the path of an historical campaign using Google Earth. In my opinion, what we are being taught is absorbed better if we are interactively learning it.

When talking to Phil, a man who always loved history class, he shared a story about a teacher he remembered well from 3rd grade. He recalled, “One of my favorite history teachers was a teacher by the name of Mrs. Burnell in 3rd grade.” He went on to explain a memorable experience he had in her class. “She actually took us on a trip to the Appalachian Mountains. We took food and different supplies and toys to the poor people there. We gave them a party, we had a party. She made learning very interesting with the way she taught. She was an African-American teacher in an all white school in Baltimore City. She really had a way with the students and made learning really fun.”

When I asked what exactly she did that made learning so fun, he said, “I just remember that she made class very interesting and maybe that it was because for the first time I was being taught by a black person. I didn’t know what to expect, but as it turned out I really enjoyed being in her class. I remember her being very friendly, approachable, and she welcomed questions.”

Phil also had another story that he vividly remembered about acting out a play about the American Revolution in the 7th grade. Remembering the play, he said, “I was George Washington. One of my classmates had a coat from his mother that was blue that looked like a colonial coat, and I wore that. To make the learning interesting, we played the parts of different people. We had lines and acted them out.”

Learning had become interesting, just by making it interactive. Instead of sitting in a chair and copying down notes being said, you could actually learn in a more productive way.

History can be taught in a variety of different ways, but some ways are more effective than others. In Phil’s years of being taught history, he found them enjoyable, because he always had an interest in learning about the past. Even without technology available, he was able to really learn and enjoy learning through interesting teachers and real experiences. Mary Anne, on the other hand, did not experience those methods of teaching and did not feel like she really knew or learned the information.

History is a wonderful and interesting topic to study, but lecturing is the wrong way to go when teaching kids because they will not stay attentive and alert. Interactive games and technology are great ways to teach students any topic that you would like them to learn because they are having fun, but at the same time they are learning. But even without those resources, history can be a fun topic to study — if time is put in to how to teach it.

Works Cited

“BBC – History – Ancient History in Depth: Pyramid Challenge.” BBC – Homepage. Web. 11 Mar. 2010. <>.

“Kinesthetic Learning . “Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 11 Mar. 2010. <>.

“History Class.” Flickr. Web. 12 Mar. 2010. <>.

Were the Early Roman Emperors Really Fit to Lead?

In History on March 17, 2010 at 19:22

by David Knaide

The first Julio-Claudian dynasty consisted of the very first emperors of Rome, and although they started the Roman Empire, some of them were crazy tyrants who greatly abused their power. Following the death of Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire started, and instead of having a Republic, individual emperors held the sole power. Aside from Augustus, the first emperor, probably the only reason they became emperors was because each had to be of family relation to the previous one. The emperors were not able to choose their heirs, and as a result, unfit men became all-powerful rulers of Rome. Some of the earliest emperors of Rome were quite unfit to hold this position.

Julius Caesar’s heir and the very first emperor of Rome, Augustus Caesar, did a good job of restoring order after the death of Caesar. However, the other emperors in the dynasty either did not want to rule the empire or were abusive of the power they had. The second Roman emperor was Tiberius. In the beginning of his reign, he did not seem to be ready for such power. In fact, he did not seem to want to be emperor at all, and he tried to use as little power as possible. (“Tiberius.” Wikipedia. Web. 12 Mar. 2010. It did not take long, however, for this to change. Tacitus, an ancient historian who lived very shortly after Tiberius, wrote, “Suddenly fortune deranged everything; the emperor became a cruel tyrant, as well as an abettor of cruelty in others.” (“The Annals by Tacitus.” The Internet Classics Archive: 441 Searchable Works of Classical Literature. Web. 13 Mar. 2010. This became clear when Tiberius had a man called Sejanus killed because he was supposedly trying to become emperor himself. Tiberius did not stop there; he had anyone associated with Sejanus in any way assassinated. (“Tiberius.” Wikipedia. Web. 12 Mar. 2010. Tiberius was definitely unfit for a position of such great power.

Though Tiberius was a bad emperor, his successor, Caligula, was far worse. Caligula was certifiably insane, and he abused his power greatly. Aside from this, he is said to have had a scandalous relationship with his own sister. His insanity is proven in the fact that he tried to make his horse a consul. (“Roman Emperors – DIR Caligula.” Roman Emperors – DIR. Web. 13 Mar. 2010. Caligula not only insane, but he was also extremely cruel. He had many people killed, even those who were very close with him. For example, he had his own father-in-law murder himself on account of treason. He did the same thing to his right-hand man, Macro. Just a year or two after he became emperor, Caligula had almost driven the Roman Empire to become bankrupt. (“Caligula.” VROMA :: Home. Web. 13 Mar. 2010. This is probably because he was wasting so much money on an unnecessary floating bridge made of ships. Without much money and ships for transport, Caligula caused the people to experience a famine. Despite the problems he caused, Caligula was very self-absorbed, and he thought of himself as a divine being. This cruel emperor was clearly not very popular among the people, so it is not surprise that after only four years of rule, he was assassinated. (“Caligula.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 13 Mar. 2010. It is obvious by looking at Caligula’s actions that he did not deserve the title of Emperor.

The next emperor in the Julio-Claudian Dynasty was Claudius, who was forced into the position after Caligula’s death. He had almost no experience, and when he was called to the Capitol, he returned word that he would not come. (“Ancient History Sourcebook: Suetonius: Life of Claudius.” FORDHAM.EDU. Web. 13 Mar. 2010. In fact, he was found hiding behind a curtain, and it is clear that he did not want to become emperor. He was a bit of a pushover; the first thing he did when he became emperor was pay the military a large sum of money so they would be loyal to him. (“Claudius.” The Roman Empire. Web. 13 Mar. 2010. The Senate did not like him throughout his reign, and there were several attempts to kill him. Claudius was definitely not good at choosing a wife; he married four times, his third wife attempted to kill him, and his fourth succeeded. Because he did not want to become emperor in the first place, Claudius was not fit to have so much power.

Though he was the last emperor of the first dynasty, Nero was one of the worst. He had his own mother, who had helped him rise to the top, murdered after he came to power. Nero was another egotistical emperor, and one of his most infamous acts is the fire of Rome. He is said to have started a great fire at the Circus Maximus that spread and burned everything in its path for over five days. He supposedly did this in order to make space for the building of a new complex in his honor. In order to shift the blame away from himself, he targeted the Christians and had many of the killed and persecuted. (“Emperor Nero: 54-68.” Then Again. . . Web. 13 Mar. 2010. Aside from this, Nero spent more time in Greece than he did in Rome. It seems that his own pleasures were more important to him than ruling the Roman Empire. The people eventually grew tired of him and actually forced him to commit suicide. Even on the verge of death, Nero remained egotistical and kept saying, “What an artist the world is losing!” (“Ancient History Sourcebook: Suetonius: De Vita Caesarum–Nero, C. 110 C.E.”FORDHAM.EDU. Web. 13 Mar. 2010. Because he was so self-absorbed and interested in his own happiness, he was quite an unfit emperor of Rome.

The emperors of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty – Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero – were the first of the Roman Empire. Some of them were too selfish while others did not even want to be emperor. Aside from Augustus, the men of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty caused Rome a lot of trouble, and they were certainly unfit to be emperors.

Works Cited

“Ancient History Sourcebook: Suetonius: De Vita Caesarum–Nero, C. 110 C.E.” FORDHAM.EDU. Web. 13 Mar. 2010.

“Ancient History Sourcebook: Suetonius: Life of Claudius.” FORDHAM.EDU. Web. 13 Mar. 2010.

“The Annals by Tacitus.” The Internet Classics Archive: 441 Searchable Works of Classical Literature. Web. 13 Mar. 2010.

“Caligula.” VROMA :: Home. Web. 13 Mar. 2010.

“Caligula.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 13 Mar. 2010.

“Claudius.” The Roman Empire. Web. 13 Mar. 2010.

“Emperor Nero: 54-68.” Then Again. . . Web. 13 Mar. 2010.

“Nero.” NNDB: Tracking the Entire World. Web. 13 Mar. 2010.

“Roman Emperors – DIR Caligula.” Roman Emperors – DIR–De Imperatoribus Romanis Roman History Roman Roman Empire Imperator Basileus De Imperatoribus Romanis Encyclopedia Byzantine. Web. 13 Mar. 2010.

“Tiberius.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 12 Mar. 2010.