Recently, my daughter’s Global Studies Class was asked to write a biography about a famous woman from Asia, Africa or South America. The teacher said that in the prior school year, 90 percent of the students chose Mother Teresa. The teacher promised bonus points for anyone who chose an unfamiliar woman. While Maggie feels I am a detriment when it comes to her writing a paper, she held out some hope that I could suggest a suitable woman for her to profile.
Together we reviewed our “Happy Birthday” feature for the past three months and found 11 women from these three continents. A week later, Maggie claimed her bonus points, and indeed knocked the teacher’s socks off, by turning in a well-sourced paper on Wangari Muta Maathai, the first woman from Africa to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The experience gave rise to SweetSearch Biographies.
Once we had launched findingDulcinea, we realized we had a giant archive of terrific content that was not accessible enough. So we developed SweetSearch, a Search Engine for Students, which searches only our content and the tens of thousands of Web sites that our staff has evaluated and approved as credible resources. We then created SweetSearch Web Links to put the very best links from our dozens of Web Guides to Education on a single page.
Maggie's assignment reminded me that students are often asked to write a biography about a significant person from a particular profession, gender or race/national origin. We knew we had hundreds of biographical profiles in our Happy Birthday, On This Day and features sections, and that to make them easily accessible, we had to put them all in one place and allow students to sort them. SweetSearch Biographies launched last week, and offers well-sourced profiles, or the SweetSearch results page, for more than 1,000 significant people, and can be filtered by profession, gender and race/national origin. One elated school librarian cheered the timing, at the beginning of Black History Month, as she was "a little weary of Jackie and Rosa who are of course important but sometimes you need to stretch a bit to someone unfamiliar." Given the 80+ profiles of African-Americans, students should be able to knock their teachers’ socks off by finding someone unfamiliar.
[Edit: October 2010: One state's student assessment division recently asked to license our biographies for the state's elementary school ELA exams. They gushed that our bios were so well written - organized, concise and full of information. So not only do our biographies served as examples of good Web research and writing, but reading them also prepares students for assessment exams!]
Here are links to five people whose life stories amazed me when I first read about them on our Web site:
Thank you for reading,