Wednesday, May 31

Warrior's Code (Dropkick Murphys)

If you're lucky enough to hit the travelling history exhibit on Mysteries of the Mayan, you should definitely go!  We stumbled upon it at a science museum, and learned much more than we could have imagined from this hands-on exhibit!  (Text in post; unit at bottom.)
The Meso-American Mayan civilization is known for its script, art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems.  The Ancient Mayan lived in the Yucat√°n, around 2600 B.C., in the area that is southern Mexico, Guatemala, northern Belize and western Honduras today.

The Maya had no central king ruling their huge empire. Instead, there were as many as 20 separate areas, similar to ancient Greece city-states. Each major city had its own ruler and noble class supported by smaller cities and the surrounding farms and villages. 
The Ancient Maya developed the science of astronomy, calendar systems and hieroglyphic writing. They were also known for creating elaborate ceremonial architecture, such as pyramids, temples, palaces and observatories. 
The Maya writing system was made up many glyphs, which were pictures that represented sounds. They chiseled the glyphs into stone and inside books that were folded like an accordion. The pages were made of fig bark, covered in white lime, and bound in jaguar skins. The Maya wrote hundreds of these books. They contained information on history, medicine, astronomy and their religion. 

The Mayas wove beautiful fabrics and designed musical instruments like horns, drums, and castanets. They also carved huge statues. Archaeologists can tell a great deal about the ancient Maya from their wonderful pottery and clay figures. The art they created honored their leaders, gods, and their daily life. 
About AD 300 to 900 the major centers of the Mayan civilization were mysteriously abandoned.  Many theories have been considered such as disease, invasion by another culture, natural disaster or collapse of their trade routes which would have destroyed their economy. No one knows for sure what happened.

Ancient Mayans Unit Study

Tuesday, May 30

General Douglas MacArthur

This year, we are focusing on modern American history – namely the 1900s.  So it is rather timely that we had the opportunity to check out Heroes of History : Douglas MacArthur, from YWAM Publishing’s Heroes of History series!  The book even comes with a Unit Study Curriculum Guide, with many ideas for creating a full biographical study of one of America's greatest military heroes.

We read Douglas MacArthur as a read aloud over a week-long period as a ‘rabbit trail’ through our World War II study.  For further supplement, we watched a video about Douglas MacArthur and used the People and Places of World War 2 course from SchoolhouseTeachers.  We used all of this in conjunction with our new (vintage) math textbook that was written in 1946 and heavily features WW2-themed real-world math problems....including some featuring General MacArthur himself!

Book Description
Combining history, biography, and action, Heroes of History shows the story of Douglas MacArthur and how he helped to shape history.  From his humble beginnings as a military child to the battle fronts of World War I and World War II, General MacArthur faced every challenge with courage and faith.  The book takes us from the back roads of Texas around the world to the South Pacific and Japanese islands.  We walk through fire and trials alongside MacArthur, witnessing his use of character as he meets each one head-on.

Geared to students ages ten and older, Douglas MacArthur and the accompanying Unit Study Curriculum Guide are a fun way to learn more about one of our American heroes.  The chapter book is written in a narrative style, and while there are no pictures beyond the small black-and-white line drawings at the beginning of each chapter, you’ll be so busy learning about this great hero of history that you won’t notice!  

We loved the book, but only used the study guide as a sort of foot note.  I appreciated the Chapter Questions section, because it’s always nice to review comprehension and tie everything together through further discussion, and mapping activities made for some hands-on learning, but the rest of the guide was not as useful for us.  If we were using this book in small group setting, or homeschool co-op classroom, many of the activities would be more applicable.  There are a lot of great ideas offered for groups of children working together to learn about the same thing!

There are several biographies in the Heroes of History series, from Columbus and Davy Crockett to Clara Barton and Harriet Tubman. There’s even a chronological list so you can easily add them to your existing history curriculum.  If you want to use that list to create a year-long course, the Unit Study Curriculum Guide comes with a guide for using all of the books in homeschool, co-op, and school settings. The unit study itself is broken down into eight major sections, as shown below.

Key Quotes
This section has quotes from other famous figures that are offered up as examples of what may have inspired the hero. 
Display Corner
Suggestions and examples of items to collect for display are offered. 
Chapter Questions
Each chapter is allotted four questions to help students focus on vocabulary, factual information and opinion/ interpretation of the information.  Answers are provided at the end of the book.
Student Explorations
     -  Essay Questions
     -  Creative Writing
     -  Hands-on Projects
     -  Audio/ Visual Projects
     -  Arts and Crafts
This section is divided into several sections with writing prompts, research probes, map-making projects, play and script writing, and other crafty projects.
Community Links
This is basically a ‘field trip’ section. 
Social Studies
     -  Places
     - Terms/ Vocabulary
     - Geographical Characteristics
     - Timeline
     - Conceptual Questions
This section offers more traditional and familiar study tips for understanding the geography of the area.  The Conceptual Questions section involves more short projects to help students dig a little deeper in the politics and geography of the area.
Related Themes to Explore
This chapter allows you to see other topics (specific topics in science, history, geography) that can be tackled during your unit study.
Culminating Event
These are ideas for closing out the unit study. 
See what others are saying about YWAM Publishing over at the Schoolhouse Review Crew!

Crew DisclaimerChristian & History Heroes {YWAM Publishing Reviews}

Friday, May 26

Wild Wild West (Escape Club)

Wild Bill Hickok was born on May 27, 1837.  Think of today's unit is a birthday tribute for him!  (Scroll down for the unit study.)
The town of Deadwood, South Dakota definitely thrives on its tourist industry.  Limited-wage, legalized gambling helps to bring back the feel of the past, and visitors can get involved with reenactments several times daily.
Swing over to the Franklin Hotel, on the main strip, and you'll see Wild Bill Hickok and several of his contemporaries tearing up the streets with their gunslinging and fighting!  They get the kids involved and don't worry, it's family-friendly.
You never know who might show up by the Franklin Hotel.....Calamity Jane or Buffalo Bill might stop by!
The street dramas are free, but for the best show in town, be sure to stop by the Masonic Temple for the Trial of Jack McCall.  It's a live show, and they pull up kids and other audience members to make it even more fun.  At about an hour and a half, it's both funny and educational, and truly worth the money.
The night started out with a singalong....silly camp songs, but a lot of fun nonetheless.  We hadn't heard of some of them, and several months later, these songs are still being sung at our home.  Now you know where our mascot, the Ghost Chickens, came from!!
Everyone gets to sing along and participate, at least minimally, but some have larger roles.  They even pulled our workin' man up on the stage!!  All in all, it was a great impromptu evening on our stopover from Rushmore to the job in Colorado.  If you get the chance, you should go visit Deadwood, too!

Wild Bill Hickok Unit
In the 1870s, gold was discovered in the Black Hills. 
When some miners came across a creek full of dead trees and gold, the town of Deadwood was born. It was a boomtown, growing full of gamblers, outlaws, gunslingers, and gold seekers within just a few weeks.

Wild Bill Hickok was a prominent figure in the Wild West. His background as a Union soldier and Pony Express wagon driver are just part of what led to his dangerous and adventurous life up in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Wild Bill Hickok Resources

Thursday, May 18

Gold Dust Woman (Fleetwood Mac)

Colorado Gold Rush Unit
In the tiny town of Silver Plume, Colorado, we stumbled upon a wonderful family day trip!  We started the morning at the train station, and then took a long train ride through the mountains...
While waiting to board the train, we made commemorative pennies with some coins found between the tracks.  We also walked over and spent some time checking out the adjoining historical museum.
The initial train ride over to the old mining site was fairly lengthy, but that gave us plenty of time to take in the crisp, fresh mountain air and all of the beautiful scenery laid out before us!
Upon arrival at the mining site, we de-boarded the train, along with other families, and made our way over to the trails.  It was still cool way up here, and we had to keep the kids away from the edge of camp, as it immediately dropped off into a raging river.
It took a few minutes for the staff to get all of the passengers sorted into their various groups.  We opted for both a mine tour and panning for gold.  If you're going to take the day trip, go ahead and spring for the lunch.  It's not much, but it's all provided and you won't have to pack everything in and out of camp yourself.
There were so many picturesque scenes....every way that you turned!  We loved all of the trestle bridges built through the mountains and across the rivers.
Our group leader was incredibly perky...and she knew a lot about panning!  She helped everyone sort through their gold, and every single person in our group found gold, except for one.  I, naturally, came home with a vial of copper.  Go figure!
The mine tour was a great way for the kids to get hands-on with their history lesson for the day.  The staff turned the lights all the way out, discussed the various tools miners would use, and we even learned some chemistry lessons!
After finishing up our gold panning, mine tour, and lunch, we hopped back on the train for another gorgeous ride through the Rockies.
All in all, a beautiful, wonderful, memorable day!!