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Monday October 30, 2017 at 3:01pm Age: 20 days
Category: High School, District

NEW HIGH SCHOOL COURSE CROSSES THE SEAS, AND FIELDS OF KNOWLEDGE


When MVHS students looked up new course offerings this fall, they were in for one unlikely choice: The History of Piracy. “That was an unexpected subject, something new and different,” said senior Kaziah who couldn’t be happier she signed up for the course.

Blackbeard docks his ship...

Last week, as Blackbeard took center stage in Mr. Hindley’s history of piracy class, he painted a picture for his captivated audience: “He braided his beard and tied it with black ribbons, and he stuck pieces of burnt rope to his hair.” 

But the British pirate’s legendary “reign of fear” lasted two years (1716-18), ending with his decapitation, and the gruesome hanging of his head from the bow of his captor’s ship. According to Mr. Hindley, that was the normal "life-expectancy" for famed pirates.

Course content and instructional approach...

Along with spirited storytelling, Mr. Hindley seizes every opportunity to engage students in making connections to historic context, and to expose them to peripheral knowledge. References to geography, astronomy, the history of navigation, cartography, oceanography, the Revolutionary War, the Spanish War, trade practices and treaties—all made their way into the lesson, often prompted by student questions and participation.   

“So, why did they sail?” “What did they steal?” “Why did they succeed?” Mr. Hindley asked, and the answers might or not mirror the average pirate movie and other pirate lore. They sailed to seek new worlds; they sailed to fight wars, too. They stole more than just treasure. They stole goods to trade; they stole medicine and demanded it as ransom. They succeeded because some coastal populations benefited from the commerce of pirated goods; they were cheaper than English goods--and so the lesson went. 

The course will progress through history into today’s forms of piracy in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.  

Students enthusiastic about the class...

“I was surprised to learn that piracy started in ancient times, 14th century BC,” said Christian VanBuren, a junior. “And it’s amazing how piracy affected and interacted with other aspects of history. How do we go from a famous pirate to the Greek Trojan Horse?” Mediterranean towns like Troy first built walls around them to ward off pirates—and that’s how they got to the Trojan War.

Keyshawn, a senior, was attracted to the course because of his love of pirate movies. He was shocked to learn pirates lived such short lives, but he is impressed with their knowledge of maps, the weather, navigation instruments, and how much they were able to accomplish with such primitive technology.
“I decided to take this course because I wanted to know what was real and what wasn’t,” said Michelle Rodriguez. She too has been amazed at how much pirates knew, and how far they traveled.

All four students profess to love the course and recommend it wholeheartedly. “Mr. Hindley is a great teacher, and he makes it really interesting and fun. We even get to make our own pirate flag!”