Here’s an advance look at some of the “This Day in Geographic History” (TDIGH) events coming up this week. For each date, we’ve matched it with a map or visual, background information, and a classroom activity so you can plan ahead.
Thursday, April 12
Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in outer space when he orbited the Earth in the Vostok-1 spaceship.
Activity: Discuss the Cold War’s “Space Race” between the US and the USSR. Use this lesson plan, along with articles such as “USSR Launches Sputnik” and “First American in Space.” Why do students think the Soviets and Americans engaged in the race? Do they think there was a “winner”?
Friday, April 13
When Texas pianist Van Cliburn won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, Soviet Union (now Russia), it provided a major thaw in the Cold War.
Visual: “Great classical music is universal and eternal. We are privileged to hear it, to know its value, and reward its worth,” said Van Cliburn. Today, the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition (nicknamed “The Cliburn”) is a premier piano event, hosting some of the best young pianists from around the world. Have students choose a performance and listen to the 2017 Cliburn here. How would they judge competitors?
Background: Read this article about how Soviet coverage of Cliburn “downplayed his Americanness, reminding readers and listeners that his teacher, albeit an émigré, was Russian and that his mother’s teacher had been Russian, too. To their great satisfaction, they discovered that Van was really a great Russian pianist after all.” Discuss what “Americanness” might mean.
Saturday, April 14
President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination came just one week after the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered at Appomattox.
Visual: Lincoln understood the “power of the portrait” and became one of the most photographed men of the 19th century. Take a look at these portraits of Abraham Lincoln and discuss what emotion or value he intends to convey in his appearance.
Saturday, April 14
The largest dust storm in American history hit the Great Plains region during the time period known as “The Dust Bowl.”
Activity: Explore how John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath portrays the Dust Bowl. How are changes to the physical environment depicted? How are changes to the social structure depicted?
Sunday, April 15
The “unsinkable” R.M.S. Titanic sank off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.
Activity: What went down with the ship? How were people compensated for their losses? Have students read this fun, fascinating article about the value of items that went down with the Titanic. Then they can use this inflation calculator to help put value in perspective.