Ideas for a Colonial Fair at School Part Two

Are you looking for ideas for a colonial fair at your school? Great Colonial America Projects (by Kris Bordessa, ISBN 09771294-0-3), is a book I recommend for you to purchase. I’ve seen links on line that you can download it as an e-book for free (???), but when I saw that it’s a .zip file and I don’t know the sites’ validity, I steered away. There are many activities, such as:
The First Americans
–Make Your Own Wampum
–Make Your Own Ball and Triangle Game
Life in a Colonial Home
–Build Your Own Bricks
–Make Your Own Silhouette
–Make Your Own Broom
Colonial Clothes
–Make Your Own Marigold Dye
–Make Your Own Oatmeal Box Loom

…and much more than I can list here.

As an extra bonus, here’s a .pdf for making your own Mob Cap mob cap

Have a Colonial Fair at Your School always thought my Social Studies teachers were boring. Very, very, VERY boring. In fact, just the word history made me cringe. To me, I always thought that to be a history teacher, one had to be a coach. I can remember when I applied for a 6th grade Social Studies position in Ohio, the principal’s first question at the interview was, “Can you coach football?” Obviously, he proved my hypothesis correct!

What turned my distaste of history into a passion? I live near Colonial Williamsburg, and one Labor Day weekend, when the girls were little, and we had little funds for fun, we decided to check out the encampment on Labor Day (press release). We were enthralled! As we strolled on to Market Square, the area was full of pup tents, reenactors, artisians, actors, musicians, story tellers, tradesmen, and much more. My particular fascination was with the cooking demonstration in one area, and the smell of the food cooking was intriguing. “Why,” I wondered, “couldn’t I do something like this for my students?” I was hooked.

Some ideas for you if you want to do this:
COOKING: Have some dutch ovens, iron skillets, and plenty of hardwood, and impress your students. I demonstrated how colonists prepared their daily meals, and students realized that with today’s technology, life IS easy. We made fried apples, homemade bread, pies, biscuits, chicken stew, and homemade butter. Start your fires early so as buses pull in, anticipation builds!
GAMES & TOYS: Research games of the colonial era. My students enjoyed playing with Bilbo Catchers and then making their own out of Dixie cups, string, and balled up foil (honest!).
WRITING: Have students write with quills. Find some calligraphy lessons from the era and show how nice handwriting was emphasized.
PLANT A GARDEN: I thought students would resist, but they actually enjoyed digging, hoeing, and planting seeds.
CANDLE MAKING: Have an adult demonstrate dipping candles. If supervision is excellent, maybe have students practice also
COLONIAL SCHOOL: Times were different then! Show how they had lessons on slates, etc.
BASKET MAKING: My wife made baskets and had children practice also
QUILT MAKING: Do you have someone in your community to demonstrate how to make a quilt?

There are many resources for supplies, and two examples are James Townsend and the Teacher Resource catalog from Colonial Williamsburg. Here are examples of two sites after doing some research: 1 and 2. Colonial Williamsburg’s Teacher Gazette from December 2003 is also a good resource to read: Colonial Day

Do you know of other ideas, resources, or links? If so, please share! Also, don’t hesitate to ask a fellow Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Instiute graduate, Lisa, for assistance. She’s our elementary Social Studies specialist and will be happy to share her ideas.

Previous posting: Go (also check the comments)

picture found at…/ueAbg6fkAlnOBdNZ4wqVKwOlive Branch Colonial DaysJohn Tyler Colonial Fair

Can Technology be Integrated with a Colonial Fair?

In my previous life as a classroom teacher, I was a Social Studies teacher (Virginia History, or you could also call it colonial history). When I was told by the principal that this would be my assignment, I conjured visions of my high school History teachers. Do you remember yours? You know—they were always the football coaches or baseball coaches! While we read the chapter and answered the questions at the end of the chapter, the teacher (or coach) would watch football films and prepare his plays for the Friday night game. I despised history and thought it as exciting as watching water boil.

After graduating from college, I subbed for three years in Ohio. At the end of the third year, I was called in for an interview (finally) for a sixth grade history position. Teachers were a dime-a-dozen then, so even GETTING an interview was in itself a major accomplishment! Imagine my shock as I sat down for the interview and the principal’s FIRST question was, “What can you coach?” No mention was made of classroom management, pedagogy, or philosophy. My wife and I left for Virginia knowing that teaching in Ohio was now basically impossible.

However, I digress.

This drove me to recreate how I would present history to my students. I wanted it to come ALIVE and be PURPOSEFUL. I wanted my students to see that history is FUN! One way that I enjoyed doing this was an end-of-the year Colonial Fair. For example, one year, we “lived” in the 1700’s out in the school yard (nine acres). Students had to make their own butter, dig their own garden and plant seeds, make their own candles, make their own bread (yeast, even!), cook their meals as the colonists did [with adult supervision, of course], write with feather quills—all on a day that was quite warm! Parents told me that although their children were EXHAUSTED, they learned exactly what it meant to live in the 1700’s.

The principal of the school where I am on Wednesdays and Thursdays has come up with a brilliant idea for a colonial fair for her school for after testing:
• Each grade level is responsible for a different station (i.e. quill pen writing/colonial cooking/etc.)
• Pull in the Social Studies specialists to assist.
• Many other ideas that I’m not putting here because this is getting long, but here’s the clincher where technology comes in: The upper grade is responsible for documenting the fair through media (podcasting even, maybe?). Maybe it could be done as a “You Were There” approach, maybe Ken Burns style, or maybe a slant on how the fair was put together?

Colonial Fairs seem to not be a major interest in schools. I posted on Classroom 2.0 recently asking for others to share ideas, and apparently not many have tried Colonial Fairs, or don’t associate them with technology.

Has anybody done one with great technology ideas? Have you been to one? Please share ideas! How can I encourage my teachers to get excited about this?