Spotlight on Historical Context – Creating A Transcendentalist Utopia

If it weren’t for the Transcendentalist, the summer of 1969 and the Hippie Communes of the 1970’s may have never happened – the idea of communal living and finding a ‘heaven on earth’ didn’t start in the 20th century, but way back in the 1840’s.

In the 1840s, Boston’s West Roxbury suburb — which was completely rural at the time — was home to an experiment in transcendentalist utopian living: the Brook Farm community. The idea was to create an environment of balance and equality. But as is often the case when a group of people unprepared for the realities of living off the land try to live off the land, the Brook Farm Community wasn’t a completely successful endeavor. Many famous Transcendentalist are connected to Brook Farm – Nathaniel Hawthorne lived there, and Emerson was invited on multiple occasions. Additionally, many of the women at Brookfarm were able to experience more personal freedoms than they had at any other point in their lives, contributing to the first wave of Feminism and the Women’s Suffrage Movement that was taking off in America.

Click here to listen to the podcast about the Brook Farm Community – A Transcendental Heaven on Earth

0520417cc1f0f804f082843ee3a6dacdIn addition to Brookfarm, there was also Fruitland, the community start by educational reformer and Transcendentalist Bronson Alcott. That name may be familiar as his daughter, Louisa May Alcott, is a famous Transcendentalist herself and author of the novel Little Women. The Alcott family lived in Concord, Massachusetts and was connected to many of the most famous Transcendentalist of the day – Hawthorne was good friends with Bronson, and bailed him out of debt on many occasions; Louisa was neighbors with Emerson, and would visit Thoreau at his cabin on Walden Pond, bringing him fresh wildflowers. The Alcott’s serve as a reminder that the Transcendental movements brought new ideas not just about scholarship and philosophy, but also education, slavery and women’s rights.

Click here to listen to the podcast on Bronson Alcott

And click here to listen to the podcast on Louisa May Alcott

Mrs Pierce Recommends

Setting SMART Goals for Success


Each unit this semester I will be asking you to reflect on your progress and create two goals for yourself – I will be setting two goals for all of you, but I’d like you to brainstorm the rest.

These goals should be relevant to your experience in this class – please don’t set goals for Math (I won’t be able to guide and help you achieve those)…these goals should focus on your use of language, communication, writing, analysis skills, or even general academic goals such as improving your time management, finding a more effective way to study, avoiding procrastination, ect.

You’ll be keeping track of these goals, setting a plan of action, and revisiting to reflect on your progress in each unit.

Please click here to access your goal setting sheet if you lost yours, and review the notes below about how to set SMART goals! 




Specific: – A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific goal you must answer the six “W” questions:

*Who:  *What:  *Where:  *When:  *Which:  *Why

Specific means reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.

EXAMPLE: A general goal would be, “I want to lose some weight.” A specific goal would be, “I want to lose 10 pounds in 2 months and I will eat properly and exercise at least 3 days a week to accomplish my goal.”


Measurable: – Establish criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set.

Describes how each goal will be measured (numeric or descriptive).

When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued the effort required to reach your goal.

Ask yourself:

  • How will I know when the result has been achieved?
  • How will I verify the achievement/performance of this goal?


Attainable: – When you identify a goal, write it out and make a plan, you are making an attainable goal. You will see opportunities arise that will help you in accomplishing this goal. You will develop a positive attitude working towards an attainable goal and you will develop traits that will give you the strength to see it through.

Realistic: – To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both high and realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how high your goal should be. But be sure that every goal represents substantial progress.

In my book there are no Dreams or Goals too grand, but you do have to be realistic. Make sure the goal you have set is something you are willing and capable of doing. When you set a lofty goal and challenge yourself you will find the reward that much better

Timely: – Creates a sense of urgency. Knowing you have to accomplish a task at a certain time makes you accountable. Know what those time lines are. What needs to be done by when. How much needs to be saved by when and take the steps necessary to meet those timelines.


Mrs Pierce Recommends

Mrs. Pierce Recommends: Learning about Cannibalism at Jamestown and the Lost Roanoke Colony!

In an effort to provide you guys with additional historical context outside of class that DOESN’T require even more reading, I thought you would enjoy listening to these short episodes from the podcast ‘Stuff You Missed In History Class’. Remember, the best way to achieve a higher score on the AP Exam, to become a better writer and a more skilled analyzer of literature is to BUILD MORE KNOWLEDGE. The ‘Mrs. Pierce Recommends’ posts throughout the semester will point you in the direction of interactive, entertaining ways of learning more about American History and Literature, note and study techniques, and ways to de-stress and be happy! While you will not be directly quizzed on these podcasts, they will add a certain amount of depth to the analysis you are able to conduct on the assigned readings, and therefore could involuntarily improve your writing and grade! Enjoy!


Click here to listen to the podcast of “What Happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke?”

  • In 1587, English colonists in Roanoke mysteriously disappeared, leaving only a few cryptic clues behind. For centuries since, researchers have wondered what became of the lost colonists.


Click here to listen to the podcast of “Cannibalism at Jamestown”

  • As winter fell at the end of 1609, the settlers in Jamestown, Virginia, found themselves in dire straits. A powerful hurricane had all but destroyed a fleet of ships carrying provisions from England, leaving the colonial fort with a depleted food supply. Outside the walls, the Powhatan Indians had declared war and were laying siege to the fort, trapping the 300 settlers inside. Out of food and unable to forage, the desperate settlers ate horses, dogs, rats, and snakes. As winter dragged on, they turned to an even more unorthodox source of food: Today, scientists revealed the first physical evidence that the starving colonists at Jamestown ate their dead.
Mrs Pierce Recommends

Mrs. Pierce Recommends – Finding a Quiet Place

I know that MANY of you, especially my AP students, are VERY stressed out this week! It has officially been a month back at school since Christmas break, progress reports go out Friday, and the ease and relaxation of the holiday season is officially gone. gone. gone.

I know. Teachers get stressed too! But I have been worried by just HOW stressed you all seem to be this week – so my recommendation is for you to take at least 5 minutes a day to just sit. in. silence. Relax. Meditate. Pray. Get into your ‘zone’ and leave everything else behind for 5 minutes. Turn off your cell phone (gasp!), get in a comfy place, and disconnect for five minutes. You’ll feel better, and whatever homework or Twitter notification you are stepping away from for those five minutes will be there when you return, I promise.

There are a lot of great website and apps you guys can use to help you de-stress and disconnect, if you just can’t seem to do it without your cellphone in your hand…

  1. The Quiet Place Project – it takes 2 minutes! Try it!
  2. The Headspace App – a great app for your phone that leads you through guided meditation.

It’s only January, and we still have a whole semester ahead of us kids – so be proactive and begin de-stressing regularly so you can get through the semester more easily! 🙂



Mrs Pierce Recommends

Mrs. Pierce Recommends: Look up and Appreciate!

As we make our way steadily into December, the holiday season and the end of the 1st semester, be sure to stop and take a moment to step away from the hustle, bustle and stress to appreciate the small, beautiful things around you!

Luckily for you guys, this is a very simple activity to do – simple look up before you come into the building or leave to go home each day. Our campus is beautiful, and the views that cap the beginning and end of our school day are quiet spectacular! Please be sure to pause for a moment this week and enjoy the simple, beautiful things all around you! 🙂








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Mrs Pierce Recommends

Mrs. Pierce Recommends… Getting Plenty of Sleep.

With EOC State Testing taking place this week, the hustle and bustle of the last week of school approaching, and final exams next week, please be sure that you are getting enough sleep! Remember, we will still be learning lots of new information over the next few days and without quality sleep you guys will more than likely miss something or have difficultly studying and remember this new content! 7 hours is key – 8 is even better – so get to bed early and get some ZZzzzZzzzs!!


Mrs Pierce Recommends

Mrs. Pierce Recommends: NPR’s ”Best Books of 2016”

As we bring the semester to a close and prepare for three weeks of holiday vacation, I’d like to recommend that you guys check out NPR’s recommendations for this year’s best books. I enjoy looking through this list each year – to see how many of these ‘year’s best’ I’ve already read, and to see what I need to put on my list for the next few months.

Click here to access the list. 

Remember, the only way you can truly improve at literary and rhetorical analysis, at identify allusions and text connections, and at understanding the larger significance of literature is to read more. And then read some more again. I’ve taken to liberty of pulling a few of the books from the NPR list for 2016 that I have read and personally enjoy, and a few I’ll be adding to my own ‘to do’ list – so feel free to talk to me about these books if you do (or have) read them!

Mrs. Pierce’s Recommendations

“I read and loved each of these books – and since I’m obviously an authority on books, you should take my advice and read these books too! 😉 No, but really – read these books ya’ll.”


Fiction – Alternate History

Thomas Jefferson Dreams Of Sally Hemings: A Novel By Stephen O’Connor

“Everyone knows the story — or thinks they do — of Thomas Jefferson and his enslaved paramour, Sally Hemings. Stephen O’Connor gives us a vision of how that relationship began and, given the obvious inequities in the relationship, grew into something approaching a meeting of minds.”




american-cake-from-colonial-gingerbread-to-classic-layer-the-stories-and-recipes-behind-more-than-125-of-our-bestloved-cakesNon-Fiction: Recipes/Food History

American Cake: From Colonial Gingerbread To Classic Layer, The Stories And Recipes Behind More Than 125 Of Our Best-Loved Cakes
By Anne Byrn

“If you like cakes, you’re not alone. For 250 years, Americans have been making whatever cake they could with whatever they could find. Anne Byrn’s impressive, big-hearted, historical tribute to the genre is a must-have for its dizzying diversity. (You surely haven’t heard of Oregon prune cake, Texas sheath cake or Scripture Cake, have you?) You can trace America’s gastronomic evolution and geographic expansion from cornmeal and molasses to Hershey bars and pineapples. Both the cakes and their stories are obscure, unexpected, delightful and worth getting to know, one sweet slice of history at a time.”


white-trash-the-400year-untold-history-of-class-in-americaNon-Fiction: Cultural/American History

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History Of Class In America
By Nancy Isenberg

“As a British-born American citizen, I bought wholeheartedly into one of America’s founding myths: That Americans, through some rare good fortune, escaped the burdens of class that plagued mother England. In her brilliant new book White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, Nancy Isenberg shatters the illusion that, at least if you were white and male, you could achieve whatever you wanted in this vast new land of opportunity. Instead, Isenberg introduces us to the “lubbers,” the “clay-eaters,” the “crackers” — all the marginalized people who were shipped off to the Colonies, “simply to throw down manure and die in a vacuous muck.” Isenberg tells a fascinating story of the troubling pervasiveness of class throughout American history, and it’s a must read for anyone who wants to understand the role classism still plays in today’s politics.”


highly-illogical-behaviorFiction: Young Adult Novels

Highly Illogical Behavior
By John Corey Whaley

“An ambitious high school junior decides to befriend a former classmate and “cure” him of his agoraphobia as a way to secure the scholarship she needs to the college of her choice; emotionally fraught high jinks ensue. That’s the kind of plot summary that makes you raise both eyebrows, and not necessarily in a good way. But in the hands of John Corey Whaley, it becomes a book that will make you laugh out loud, full of characters that, while highly comic, never lack nuance or feel less than real — a book just heightened enough to crackle with fun, but grounded enough to keep you fully invested in its oddballs.”


march-book-threeGraphic Novel:

March: Book Three
By John Lewis, with Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell

“The third and final installment of Congressman John Lewis’ retelling of the civil rights movement is genius. Even if you already know the story well, March: Book Three is well worth the reminder of the African-American struggle to register to vote. Nate Powell’s masterful brushwork swirls and carries you through the years of struggle, loss and pain all the way from 1963 Birmingham, Ala., to 2009 Washington, D.C. Once you’ve read it, you will want to pass it on.”



Mrs. Pierce’s Reading To-Do List

“I desperately want to read these books…. if you read them before me, please don’t spoil them!”

Fiction – Alternate Histories



Underground Airlines
By Ben H. Winters

“Ben Winters’ work of alternate history imagines the Civil War never happened. Instead, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated before he took office and, in an act of compromise, four states were allowed to maintain slavery. The other states all agreed that any escaped “Persons Bound to Labor” must be returned to their corporate plantation. That’s where Victor comes in: He’s a bounty hunter who’s adept at his job because he’s black. ”



the-underground-railroad-a-novelThe Underground Railroad: A Novel
By Colson Whitehead

“What if the Underground Railroad, rather than being a metaphor, had been a sooty, clanking reality running through a network of tunnels dug by enslaved people? That’s the premise of Colson Whitehead’s brilliant Underground Railroad, surely the novel of the year. As he did in his singular 1999 debut, The Intuitionist, Whitehead imagines an alternative past that hews close to historical facts, but also ingeniously riffs on them. The plot focuses on Cora, an escaped slave who takes a series of harrowing rides on the Underground Railroad, only to find herself traveling further away from freedom and deeper into the mystery of American racism.”



Non-Fiction: Recipes/Food History

the-indian-cooking-courseThe Indian Cooking Course
By Monisha Bharadwaj

“Here we have the best — and maybe the only — book currently aiming to teach Indian cooking in a systematic way. (Author Monisha Bharadwaj runs an Indian cooking school in London.) Just as you’d expect, The Indian Cooking Course has recipes for rice, dals, vegetables, meats, chutneys, flatbreads, vindaloos, kormas and samosas. But it’s not just recipes; the reference material goes wide and deep, from colorful street shots and essays on regional foodways to step-by-step demo photos and instructions. The package is equally lyrical and technical, and a pleasure to use.”


Non-Fiction: Cultural/American Histories

all-the-single-ladies-unmarried-women-and-the-rise-of-an-independent-nationAll The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women And The Rise Of An Independent Nation
By Rebecca Traister

“All the Single Ladies begins with a milestone statistic: For the first time in the U.S., single adult women now outnumber married adult women. From there, the book takes a celebratory look at women’s hard-fought independence and the realities (both good and bad) of being a woman on your own. Author Rebecca Traister effortlessly bridges the gap between Susan B. Anthony (who predicted an “epoch of single women” back in the 1870s) and Carrie Bradshaw, highlighting the lives and choices of single women past and present. As Traister writes, “The story of single women is the story of the country.” Now put your hands up!”


imbeciles-the-supreme-court-american-eugenics-and-the-sterilization-of-carrie-buckImbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, And The Sterilization Of Carrie Buck
By Adam Cohen

“Though most Americans are familiar with Nazi Germany’s horrific eugenics program, it’s less well known that, in 1927, Oliver Wendell Holmes, a polymath and justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, championed forced sterilization as a way to “protect” the U.S. gene pool. In Imbeciles, author Adam Cohen details the landmark high court decision that led to the state mandated sterilization of up to 70,000 Americans. Connecting the dots from Charles Darwin, to faux science, to misguided immigration anxiety, Cohen recounts the compelling tale of Carrie Buck, the plaintiff in the court case, who was sterilized after the state of Virginia deemed her “feebleminded.” The Nazis borrowed from the U.S. eugenics program, Cohen warns, and, to this day, Buck v. Bell has never been officially overturned.”


Graphic Novels:

monstress-volume-1-awakeningMonstress Volume 1: Awakening
By Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda

“This epic fantasy graphic novel tells the story of Maika, a teenage heroine who struggles with a hungry monster living inside her, set in a magical world torn apart by war. The book isn’t an easy read, especially if you don’t like gore, but it’s a worthwhile one. With the help of Sana Takeda’s lushly detailed art, Marjorie Liu has created a story full of gods and monsters that’s ultimately about the violence of dehumanization, the brutality of racism and what it means to be human.”



the-white-donkey-terminal-lanceThe White Donkey: Terminal Lance
By Maximilian Uriarte

“Over the past few years, American veterans of the war in Iraq have published quite a few works of fiction that focus on the moral quandaries of soldiers and their struggles for redemption. Maximillian Uriarte’s graphic novel, The White Donkey, stands out from the rest in that it is told from the perspective of a simple infantryman, explores the psychological costs of combat, and confronts the discomfort that comes from encounters with civilians in an occupied country. The artwork is clean and sober, with a distinct color palette for different places and times. A fresh and affecting book.”

Mrs Pierce Recommends