Monday, April 9, 2012

From London to Jamestown in 1609: Colonial History Lit class: A Lion to Guard Us

I taught a fun colonial history/lit class at our homeschool learning cooperative last trimester on the short historical fiction novel, "A Lion to Guard Us," by Clyde Robert Bulla. The kids all followed the book at home and then on Fridays during my class we did hands-on projects and discussion of the book.
The book follows 3 children who live in London and travel to the New World to find their father in Jamestown, Virginia on the Sea Venture in 1609 through the Virginia Company, so along with various literature elements such as similes, cliff-hangers, mood and symbolism, we were also able to cover a good deal of historical events.
Throughout the 10 weeks we examined numerous "Then and Now" comparisons while doing fun hands-on activities, including making soap, making butter, quill feather pens, oil lanterns and making small candles, and the kids had a blast packing their own travel chests and bringing them in to show and tell what essentials they would bring with them to the "New World."
The Lion's Head door knocker is a vital center to the story, and I was blessed to get an identical one (the fact that it was brass was also central to the story) from a friend in Grand Rapids who picked it up for me from an antique store for $7.

Mid-trimester I had set-up a field trip for our homeschool group to a nature center's sugar bush tour and it worked out great as they went over the history of how Native Americans and the early pioneers made maple syrup.

On the last day, we also played some games like Tic Tac Toe with ships and lion heads, which the kids enjoyed, and I gave them journal pages called "The Starving Time" with a girl's picture on it that they could continue the story from the lead character, Amanda's point of view on their own after the novel ended.

It was a great trimester and a fun unit. I drew many ideas from Laurie Carlson's Colonial Kids Activity book, too. Here are some more extremely helpful links:
On The Trail of Captain John Smith: A Jamestown Adventure from NGK
A Lion to Guard Us unit study from the Homeschool Share

And here is an awesome short video on the exact ship from the story, the Sea Venture!

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