I 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.
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