Monday, October 17, 2016

American Revolution Road Trip: Fort Necessity

If you're going to study the American Revolution, then the French and Indian War is as good of a place to start as any.

You could also start, of course, with Columbus and the European colonization of North America.

Or you could start with the pilgrims and the Mayflower Compact.

Heck, you could even start with the Magna Carta, if you had a mind to!

But if you really want to just zero in on the American Revolution, with just enough context to understand how it fits into geographical and historical context, then start with the French and Indian War. You'll learn how the European countries fought over North American land, how the Native Americans were used and lied to and manipulated and exploited, why Great Britain thought that the American colonies needed to pay all those taxes, and most of all...

You'll meet young George Washington!

Since our spine for this study was Joy Hakim's A History of Us, we read the chapters in From Colonies to Country that cover the French and Indian War, but also delved more deeply. In particular, the kids used reference materials to color and label their own maps of North America before the French and Indian War and after it. We also used a lot of the curriculum materials on the Fort Necessity Park's website, in particular the lessons on the Forks of the Ohio, which is important for understanding how disputed territory is guarded and governed, and the lesson on the Native Americans who inhabited the land. It's so easy for the Native American story to get lost in studying the American Revolution that I wanted to make a special point of bringing it in from the beginning, especially as the role that they play in this particular war is so important.

I didn't use any flashcards like these, because there weren't any particular facts that I wanted the children to memorize, but I did have them complete several of the mini books from this lapbook for the American Revolution notebooks, and when we go over them again to review and add photos and new information, I might have them complete a couple more of the books. The kiddos also love BrainPop, and as usual, I was not disappointed when I searched their site for the French and Indian War; they have a video for everything!

Our favorite resource, by far, for the French and Indian War was The War that Made America (it's nevertheless pretty dry, so I only made the kids watch it as far as the Fort Necessity info), but here are some other resources that we used:

And here's what it looked like in real life!
We started, of course, with Second Breakfast while the kids worked on a couple of non-site specific activities from their Junior Ranger books.
Then we did a little role-playing.
And then we saw the fort! Kinda... small, isn't it? This is one of the reasons why I love travel so much. Would you ever have believed that Fort Necessity was this small unless you'd seen it for yourself?
Inside the fence is a tiny little shack, and inside the shack is a rustic little table.
And outside the fence is where the enemy is!
I can't imagine that this fence was much protection, alas, especially as you can easily do things like stick your entire head between the posts.
And ESPECIALLY when there are cannons like these on the other side!
Here the kids are mapping the site for their Junior Ranger books. We were excited to see the pitiful little earthworks in the background, and much of our study vividly represented the misery of huddling behind these earthworks in the pouring rain, half-submerged in standing water, freezing and getting shot at.
Later we hiked away from the fort...
...past the old treeline and the French encampments...
...and along Braddock's Road, the wagon-rutted path that he had his soldiers painfully widen the whole damn way here. When he was killed, the soldiers buried him in the middle of this road, then they marched over his grave and away. They were worried that his corpse would be defiled if his grave was found, and thought this the best way to conceal it.
It's also a lovely natural area. See the milkweed!
The nice thing about historical battlefields and other events is that places that seemed super far away to them are just a short drive away for us, so it was only a minor detour from Fort Necessity to go see the place that I was SUPER excited to see: Jumonville Glen, where Washington and his scouting party surprised a group of French. What happened here and the mistranslation of a later treaty related to this event represents not just the first bloodshed of the French and Indian War, but also influences the development of George Washington into the soldier and leader that he becomes, AND makes very, very, VERY clear why knowing more than one language is important.

It also turns out that it's a fabulous place to explore, with lots of lovely large rocks to climb:

I'm sorry to say, however, that much of the ground around these beautiful boulders was littered with broken glass. We neglected to bring a trash bag on our short hike, so we each collected a big handful of the trash to bring back with us to the car.

After clambering around big rocks so that we could jump down and surprise the French, we tromped back to the car, deposited our broken glass in our own trash bags, made ourselves big sandwiches, and drove the long drive to Washington, D.C. We're going to take a little break from the Revolution itself to see how our fledgling country turned out!

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