Underground Railroad & Civil War Unit

Just before Spring Break, we wrapped up our study of the Underground Railroad and the Civil War.  This is definitely one of my favorite units to teach, and I think the students learned a bunch, and maybe even had some fun, too!!

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The first day of our study, students entered the room to find the desks divided onto two sides.  There was a line down the middle dividing the sides, and there were pictures of states on each student’s desk.  We soon learned why certain states were on certain sides of the line, which states were the “trouble makers”, and how the Civil War often divided friends and family.

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While studying the Underground Railroad, we read a book called “Follow the Drinking Gourd.”  It told of how runaway slaves were able to escape to Canada by following the North Star.  They were able to find the North Star in the sky by using the Big Dipper, also known as “The Drinking Gourd.”  They also used songs to learn directions they needed to follow.  We also learned that some directions were taught through different designs on quilt squares, passed down through families.  We created our own Freedom Quilt, and our squares had both patterns and pictures depicting the things we learned about the Underground Railroad.

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We also studied the Underground Railroad a bit more in depth by using http://www.mission-us.org, an amazing site where you are a runaway slave, and you have to make certain decisions as you try to escape from slavery and reach Canada.  (You can play this at home by clicking the “Register” button at the top and creating a name!)

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When we had finished our unit in the book and were preparing for our unit test, we broke into teams for a Jeopardy review game.  Naturally, it was the Union vs. the Confederacy.

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As a unit wrap-up activity, we explored what it would have been like if the people we learned about had used texting back in the 1860s.  Students chose one or two people we studied and came up with a fake text conversation between them.  Then, using http://www.iphonefaketext.com, we created a screenshot of the conversation.  Everyone did a VERY creative job with these!!

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Well, That Was Messy!

We’ve had quite a few different activities in 4R lately that would definitely be found on the “messy” list (if there is such a list…hmm…).

First up, last Friday we had a very tasty lesson on the geography of Indiana.  After a search through our Social Studies books, we were able to locate the 3 (that’s right, 3!) different locations of Indiana’s state capital over the years.  We also found Fort Wayne and Lake Michigan, because, well, those are important!  Once those were found, we marked them on our “maps”…aka, our Indiana state shaped cookies.  It was quite the tasty learning experience.

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Then, today in Science, we learned about earthquakes and volcanos.  To help reinforce the ideas we talked about in our book (and to get a little messy), we did two different activities.  The first activity dealt with volcanos.  With a partner, we built a volcano out of toilet paper.  Then, the “magma” (baking soda) inside the volcano was placed, ready to rumble.  Finally, we added the “shifting plates inside the earth’s crust” (vinegar and food coloring) to our volcano and watched it erupt.  It was messy, smelly, and fun.

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Our second activity today dealt with plate tectonics.  We used some food items to demonstrate how shifting plates beneath earth’s surface affect the ground around them.  Taking a graham cracker, some marshmallow fluff, and two pieces of chocolate, we were able to show how the space between two plates can be filled with magma and other rocky items as the plates shift and move!

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Then, of course, we were left with a yummy s’more to munch at the end.  We also took to graham cracker pieces, dipped them in water, and pushed the pieces toward each other to demonstrate how colliding plates can cause damage to the surface of the earth from underneath.  (No pictures of this, unfortunately.)

Social Studies and Science you can eat?!  Making a mess is ok?!  What is this world coming to?!  😉