Last week we spent our history time reading various books from the library. I went online and found a few websites that looked promising, and I might still use them (and blog about our experience here of course) but so far my plan for Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery was to read and get a good background and then take it with us on adventures and activities. This worked really well for us.
Yesterday, as the sun was shining and nobody had any after school activities that would interfere (cubs scouts was later enough in the afternoon) I took my little Corps of Discovery out to the local river trail and we had a little expedition of our own. Before the hike/walk I had the kids make a list of things they would need (just like L&C did) and have a little military training (just like L&C did) and be prepared to collect specimens and samples to bring back to President Jefferson (their dad) (just like L&C did.)
The greatest thing about this expedition – besides the fact that the kids walked for 2 hours without any major freak outs or tantrums – is that we recounted almost everything we had learned in our books! First we went under a bridge and pretended it was Fort Mandan where we picked up Sacagawea and little Pomp (and the french husband whose name I cannot spell), then we went along side some horse stables (Shoshone), some angry dogs (Teton Souix – no offense all you Teton Souix out there), we made it through the wintry mountains (area of the trail shaded and flanked on both sides by snow still) and found grizzly bear track! (or dog tracks, who knows?) We were able to talk about why it took longer to get to the Pacific than it took to get back to St. Louis. We talked about how important the Native Americans had been to L&C’s survival. We talked about how although we only mention the captains of the Corps, there were about 30 men who risked their lives, had great adventures, and were brave and courageous who undertook the mission. Plus more, of course, because like I said, we were out for 2 hours! I love that.
We still have more to do with L&C, but in a way this could have been our “unit test.” I only do math and spelling tests with the kids. I figure if I can tell they have a solid and complete enough grasp and understanding of the topic that is good enough and I don’t need to put them through an official test. (this will change as they get older, but in elementary school testing is overrated in my opinion.) The older two were able to answer my questions, prove independent thinking, problem solving, and show they clearly knew what had happened in that great expedition.
Besides the websites which I haven’t used yet we are still going to make moccasins (out of felt) and a couple of other crafts and activities the kids found in some of the books we checked out from the library. The craft books, I have found, are actually wonderful reference books. It is almost more education to just read the craft books some time. Also, all this talk about so many Native American tribes – plus an upcoming chapter on the Trail of Tears – has got me thinking of our grand finale in history for the school year. We are lucky – and you probably are too if you just look around a bit and ask – to have an woman nearby who has lived with the Iroquois up in Canada for a time and her dad spent a lot of time with the Hopi so we are going to have a guest teacher come for an afternoon! That is lots of fun.
Here are some pics of our expedition. (Top L: our Corps of Discovery. Top Center: our first specimen. Top R: more specimens aka ripping buds off bushes. Bottom L: our “uncharted” trail :). Bottom Center: hard to see, but there are some awesome cows back there with huge horns. This is as close as we could get to seeing Bison. Bottom R: more specimens that just HAD to come home with us… because we just don’t have enough sticks in our backyard.
Here are those activity books I mentioned. Besides all the great (and some not so great, it’s ok to be selective at the library) I would encourage getting books like these are any history unit you want to take time on. Like I said, books like these are usually full to the brim with information, as well as fun crafts and activities. The only caution, if you are like me most of the activities are too complicated and involved to be practical. Still, there is usually a few things in there I am willing to do.