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Teacher Gives Students Awesome Uni-Themed Assignment

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Over the past couple of years, I’ve periodically featured contributions from Uni Watch reader Tom Roddy, who teaches history to 11th graders in Henderson, Nevada. When his students do a unit each year on the New Deal, Roddy has each of them design a uniform for a fictitious basketball team based on a New Deal government program — an ingenious way to merge American history and uniforms.

The design shown above, for example, was inspired by the Glass-Steagall Banking Act of 1933, which was established to create a firewall between commercial banking and investment banking. I love how Tom’s student interpreted this!

Here’s another really good one, inspired by the New Deal’s shelterbelt project, which fought the Dust Bowl’s wind erosion by planting over 200 million trees:

Although the top of the sheet got cut off in Tom’s photo for this next one, it’s for the Electric Home and Farm Authority:

And I really love this one for the Soil Conservation Service:

You can see more of the designs Tom sent me in this slideshow:


Isn’t that great? I can’t get enough of these. Please join me in thanking Tom for sharing these with us, and for the important work he does as a teacher.

Meanwhile, if you’re a teacher yourself, here’s Tom’s guide to this assignment. Feel free to draw upon it if you’d like to pursue something similar with your students!



Substack Reminder

In case you missed it yesterday, my Substack article this week is about how NHL teams would look if they changed their white road helmets to colored (as several teams have already done).

You can read the first part of the article here. In order to read the entire thing, you’ll need to become a paid subscriber to my Substack (which will also get you full access to my Substack archives). My thanks, as always, for your consideration.




’Tis the Season

I’m not religious and E isn’t even Jewish, but we decided to make latkes last night to mark the start of Hanukkah.

They turned out great. And naturally, I dressed for the occasion:

That’s the only time other than May 17 that you’ll catch me wearing purple!




Your Daily(ish) Dose of Kitten

After dinner, E and I sat down to watch a movie. While we were watching, Uni Watch boy mascot Waffles snuggled into the crook of my arm and fell asleep. Li’l ainjil.



Can of the Day

Okay, so this is really a pitcher, not a can, but I still love it. Something about that spout is really appealing! Also: “Lubricants.”

Lots of other brands also had these. If they were less expensive, I’d definitely get one to use for watering my houseplants.

Comments (31)

    Thanks for all of your kind words, Paul. This is one of my favorite assignments of the year, and I’m glad you enjoy too!

    Thank you for what you do for our young people! This makes me want to submit the assignment to you :-)

    Well done as always, Tom! Perhaps a member of the comm-uni-ty can nominate you for History Teacher of the Year for these always creative assignments: link

    I am sure the students will remember this assignment for the rest of their lives. And the historic events that inspired these, I know I would. Very good stuff, teacher Tom!

    This is amazing, Tom. What an excellent idea, and I love that your students seem to really embrace the concept. Is it too obvious to say they’ve come up with better ideas than a team of designers at Nike could ever produce?

    Great assignment. Especially like the firewall design.
    Paul, random question as a follow up to the Dallas all white fauxback uniform post the other day. For some reason it sparked something in my mind about when they first wore those uniforms during the 75th season celebration in 1994. I had thought they always wore the fauxback version of the shoulder star design. But I checked the GUD and in ’94 they actually wore a legit throwback first that season, then later that season swapped over to the design they have as an alternate today. And that design (as well as a navy version of it) reappeared the following year, post 75th season throwback fest.
    Have you done a story on this before? I’m curious as to how all that went down, was the throwback popular so they commissioned the alternate mid season? Why not just stick with the legit throwback? Why did it carry over to just 1995 and then disappear for 5 years only to be brought back, and then replaced with the legit throwback until the one shell rule knocked it out again, and then replaced it with the fauxback yet again?

    Truly exceptional teachers are able to introduce their personal interests into the classroom in a way that is educational and fun for their students, while still sticking to the curriculum and not being too in-your-face.

    Bravo Tom!

    I teach a couple different high school science courses, but I might try and adapt this assignment to something for my kiddos! This is awesome, Mr. Roddy!

    Not to be the Grinch, but has education in the United States gotten to the point where we have to do art class in 11th-grade American history? I graduated from a fairly strict Catholic school over 15 years ago and have no children of my own, so I’m not that up to date on public education in 2023. But I can’t even imagine an assignment like this one back in high school. Fourth grade? Sure. Eleventh grade? Maybe I’m just out of touch. Not criticizing the teacher. It’s possible you need to do fun assignments like this one to get the attention of today’s kids. I have no idea.

    Hi “Just Wondering!”

    I often ask myself a lot of the same questions. I have been teaching for 17 years and the way I do things now is substantially different from when I started,

    A little context for this assignment: I teach Dual Enrollment US History. This is a program where the class is co-taught by myself and a professor from the University of Nevada and students earn college credit by taking the course.

    This assignment is a fun respite from reading and analyzing primary sources, writing essays and having a debate. It actually serves partly as a review for the unit because when students complete their designs, they have to explain their agency/program to the class, so by the end of that period students are familiarized with over 40 New Deal Programs.

    Is the amount of “work” for this assignment all that difficult? No, but student engagement and interaction is very high, which is something that’s becoming even more significant in today’s K-12 education, much more so than when we were in school.

    Cheers, my friend, and Happy Uni-Watching!

    Great thought question. I teach 11th grade math. As Tom states (great work BTW), if students are not engaged, they are not going to complete assignments and are going to learn less. Engagement is like an on-off switch…their switch has to be on. Today’s kids have smart phones that allow them to look up almost any fact known to man through recorded history, making it less of an imperative to learn and remember facts. It is also hard to compete with a phone for a student’s attention. I find they are more engaged with real-world type projects. For example, to learn radical math, I use radicals to reconstruct car accidents. At the same time, they learn about safe driving. I try to also create assignments where they discover things on their own, which is more fun that me just lecturing. So while education has evolved, and teachers now make lessons more interesting and relevant, we still have to acknowledge that nationwide math scores are at historic low levels.

    I appreciate both of your respectful responses. I received a very traditional education. It wasn’t perfect, but I firmly believe that it served me well (you both teach subjects that I’m extremely interested in—I majored in math, but I used almost all my electives on history). It bothers me how little some kids seem to know nowadays. Even something as simple as not teaching cursive upsets me. I don’t know what the right answer is, but I do worry about the decline in education nationwide that’s indisputable at this point and I’d probably vote to revert back to a more traditional model. However, I admit that I’m unfamiliar with what makes today’s kids tick.

    Aside from this topic, it seems like you have some very creative students. Maybe one of them will design the next generation of uniforms that we can all enjoy. Have a nice holiday season.

    As a former teacher, I can tell you that, yes, this kind of teaching is very, very good.

    If it helps, think of it as INTEGRATING art class with history class. When you bring disparate disciplines together, you build on areas where students have developed expertise, and give students more ways to process information. It’s much easier to learn new things when you have a context you already understand.

    Honestly, I didn’t understand this myself, even after taking Master’s degree courses in it, until I did my student teaching and saw how great teachers make it work in their classrooms. Tom is definitely doing it right!

    Paul – I ended up making a few latkes last week for a relative who is allergic to onions and had never had one. We ended up sauteing some carrots with garlic first and then used it as a substitute.

    They sure as heck weren’t traditional, but very tasty. Making some tried and true one’s tonight.


    Fine work, students – and keep up the good work, Mr. Roddy!

    Paul, what type of oil did you use to fry the latkes…assuming you didn’t use schmaltz?

    Lots of fun stuff in this entry, Paul.
    -My father worked for Shell Oil for nearly 50 years. His home office had a bunch of Shell knickknacks and memorabilia. He’d have loved that Shell Oil ‘pitcher/can’.
    -Seeing those student assignments reminded me again of how much I regret not saving my students’ artwork. I always had a board displaying my teams in season and I was frequently gifted hand drawn logos and player portraits. They ranged from terrible to amazing but I loved every one of them.
    -Those adorable kitties are tempting me. Our dog is cat-tolerant but I just can’t bring myself to add another four-legged friend just now.

    Earlier this week there was a ticker item about a Japanese soccer team, and I noticed that they had a jersey ad for a soil treatment center. Big week for soil here at Uni Watch.

    Paul, I love your cats so much. I have wanted to add at least one kitty into my life for a few years now, but my dog is almost 15 years old and not cat tolerant. So it just wouldn’t be fair to her. My life is also very much in limbo right now, but I am looking forward to being able to bring some cats home.

    Paul, what recipe do you use for your latkes? Anything special?

    Hypothetically speaking, it would be really awesome if those shirts were every available somewhere again.

    No more food/sports tees, sorry.

    Recipe: 2 potatoes (grated), 1 onion (grated), 1/2 cup flour, wring out the water in a dishtowel, mix resulting mash with 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon baking powder, some salt/pepper, fry for 5 mins per side.

    Great assignment going to try to incorporate something similar into my fourth grade class. Also the teacher in me wants me to bang my head on a wall that “electric” is spelled incorrectly on the jersey.

    That assignment reminds me of a “Sports Illustrated for Kids” contest that happened when I think the Panthers and Jaguars came into the league. They gave you a helmet template and the contest was to design a team. I can’t remember if there was a full uniform involved, I just remember making a helmet.

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