Billy Joel released the song “We Didn’t Start The Fire” in 1989, where he was inspired to write about events that he deemed significant to his generation in America. When I first heard the song, I recognized many of the events said in the lyrics, although there were lots that I had also never heard of before. For this project, we had to choose one of those significant events and make a case for why we feel that it’s significant and worth remembering. This project focused on the driving question “How do we make choices about what is worth remembering?”. After digging deeper and researching our topic, we created an interactive website with each of our topics.
I chose the topic of The Mafia. I chose this because it was something that I had a basic understanding of, but wanted to go deeper into understanding its significance at the time. I’d already seen many movies about The Mafia such as Goodfellas, the Godfather, and Casino, but I was wondering what specific event that Billy Joel was referring to. When Billy Joel mentions the Mafia, what he’s referring to is the Apalachian Meeting. The Apalachin Meeting was a historic gathering of organized crime bosses across the United States. It took place in 1957 and the meeting was held in the small town of Apalachin, New York. The was intended to discuss the future of the Maifa, but the meeting was raided by law enforcement after a tip from a local police officer. The reason that it was so significant was that it exposed the extent of the mob’s power and influence on the public as well as law enforcement officials. It also contributed to the downfall of the American Mafia, as many major mob bosses were convicted and the mafia started to die down. After putting together all this research, I put together a lesson plan and presented this information to my peers.
Creating a lesson plan required me to do a lot of brainstorming. I realized that putting together a solid lesson plan doesn’t mean just creating a solid presentation. You need not only a solid presentation, but also an activity, videos, and discussion questions, and most importantly all of these different sections have to fit with each other and flow well to keep the audience captivated. In my lesson plan, I have a keynote, a video that explains prohibition and its relation to the mafia, an activity to check prior understanding, a question to check the listener’s understanding, and a homework assignment. With this, you also need a setting clear learning objectives. You have to ask yourself what you want your audience to take away from the lesson. For my lesson plan, my goal was to teach students about the history and impact of the American Mafia, as well as the long-lasting effects of the Apalachin Meeting. If you’d like to check out my lesson plan, click here.
Another part of this project was finding an authentic quote that supported the research that we conducted. Connecting with someone who experienced the event or was considered an expert on the event helped to elevate my current understanding of the topic. I went to the internet and searched online to try and find someone who knew a lot about the American Mafia and the Apalachian Meeting. I came across a museum called “The Mob Museum” located in Downtown Las Vegas. The goal of the museum was to advance the public understanding of organized crime’s history and the impacts it had on American Society. After reaching out to them, I was able to get into contact with Zach Jensen, who is an educational coordinator at The Mob Museum. After the interview was over, I was amazed by how much I took out of it. I thought that I had a pretty good grasp of the history of the American Mafia, but talking to Zach Jensen opened my eyes to the scale of the American Mafia and the operation that was going on at the time. He educated me on the American mafia’s connections to other mob groups, its connections outside of New York, and so much more. If you’d like to hear the whole interview, click here to listen to it.
The final product of this project was our class webpage. Accompanying this webpage was a paragraph about our event, a timeline, our authentic quote, a lesson plan, and a video that explained the topic we chose as well as our lesson plan. I felt that the content and look of my video were great, but I should have spent more time preparing before recording. There were audio problems in my audio which I tried to fix with editing, but it still doesn’t sound perfect. On my webpage, I have a paragraph at the start that discusses the historically significant importance of the Apalachin Meeting and the American Mafia, a timeline, a lesson plan, an interview, and my video. Below is the video I created to help the reader gain a better understanding of the American Mafia.
In conclusion, researching and creating a presentation on a significant event in American history has helped me to gain a deeper understanding of how we make choices about what is worth remembering. By choosing to focus on the Apalachin Meeting and its impact on the American Mafia, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the topic of organized crime and its impact on American society. Creating a lesson plan required me to think creatively and critically about how to present information in an engaging and informative way. Interviewing an expert from The Mob Museum helped to add an extra layer of authenticity to my research and grow from what I already knew on the topic. Overall, this project has shown me that there is always more to learn about the events that have shaped our world and that understanding their significance is important to our understanding of history.