American History Comes Alive in Ohio

Article excerpt

Junior High Unit Spans Five Disciplines

A time of upheaval and innovation, the American Colonial Period (1600-1775) was marked by New World settlers' struggles to adapt to a life that lacked anything familiar or prefabricated. Despite the fact that many colonists left their homelands to escape economic, political, or religious conditions, they nevertheless brought with them their native traditions and attitudes. The art, literature, government, agriculture, and religion of the Colonial Period grew from a unique hybrid of the difficult conditions of the New World and the established thinking of the Old World. The period provides a rich opportunity to study the contributions of the colonists across multiple disciplines.

In the fall of 2003, a team of eighth-grade teachers at Washington Junior High School in Toledo, Ohio, constructed a unit on Colonial life that spanned five disciplines: family and consumer sciences, history, language arts, science, and math. Special education support classes also participated. At the end of the unit, the entire team took a field trip to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, where aspects of Colonial life are recreated by actors in historically accurate workshops and farms.

Prior to the field trip, students in family and consumer sciences (FCS) class learned how Colonial women and children reused and borrowed fabric to make patchwork quilts that kept them warm and preserved their family's history and memories. In doing so they created unique, functional art. To put this technique into practice, students sewed their own patchwork pillows using fabric borrowed and saved from previous sewing projects.

In history class, students compared and contrasted lifestyles in the New England, Middle, and Southern Colonies. Reviewing the commerce, religion, and geography of the areas, they examined the Early American culture as it led to the American Revolution. The culminating class activity was the creation of a newspaper composed of studentwritten articles describing events of the time. …