Finishing Strong: Integrating Geography & History Activities

Welcome to Finishing Strong ~ a weekly link-up dedicated to families homeschooling middle & high school kids. Each Wednesday, moms just like you share their best tips, encouragement, advice, and more for teaching older kids at home.Finishing-Strong-500x500

Finishing Strong is hosted by me here at EvaVarga along with my friends – Heather from Blog She Wrote, Megan and Susan from Education Possible, and Heidi from Starts at Eight. Each week, we collectively highlight the post that received the most clicks. We also choose a few posts that most appealed to us as individuals.

Be sure to join us next week as we reach a huge milestone. We’ll be celebrating our 100th edition of Finishing Strong with a fabulous $100 cash giveaway!


In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ben Stein famously plays a high school teacher who drones on about the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act while his students slump at their desks in a collective stupor. For many kids, that’s history: an endless catalog of disconnected dates and names, passed down like scripture from the state textbook, seldom questioned and quickly forgotten.

Taught well, geography and history are fascinating topics and two that I love to teach. My favorite way to teach social studies is through travel. Nothing quite compares to seeing historic sites and walking in the footsteps of those who made history. These past couple of weeks, my family has been inundated with the history of our country as we’ve walked the Freedom Trail in Boston and talked with interpreters in Gettysburg and Philadelphia. I can’t wait to share it all with you.

Meet Historical Figures at a Living History Event @EvaVarga.net

I know it is not always feasible to travel, especially for large families. There are a variety of creative ways to enrich geography and history studies. One of my favorite approaches is through primary source documents – letters, interviews, etc. Providing students opportunities to research historical figures and develop an engaging presentation they deliver in first person, brings history to life.


The most clicked-on post was An Inside Look at Our 2016-17 Homeschool Plans by Sara at Classically Homeschooling. It’s always fun to take a peak into the decisions and choices other families have made. Often we find inspiration in new curriculum materials and approaches to educating our children at home.

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My favorite posts this past week focus on activities to inspire you to integrate geography and history into your curriculum.

A Cemetery Scavenger Hunt Makes a Great History Lesson shared by Cindy at Our Journey Westward. What better way to dig in to the history of your community than to learn more about the actual lives of the people who have made your town their home?

Amber Oliver’s How to Teach High School Geography at Bright Ideas Press. I love her statement, “While it is indeed impossible to learn all there is to know about this planet, its territories, and its people in just one course, it is quite manageable to give your child a good look at this world we live in from the comfort of your own home.”

One of the things I love best about traveling is sampling the wonderful regional dishes and local favorites. It is a fabulous way to learn about history and geography. I’ve selected Teaching Kids to Cook: Epcot Food & Wine by Megan at Education Possible because it provides a great example of how families can integrate these cultural experiences at home.

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As always, thank you for helping us to make Finishing Strong a key resource for families who are homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

What are you going to share with us this week?

Guidelines:

  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
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  3. Grab our button to add to your post after you link it up. Each week we will be choosing our favorite posts to highlight on all 4 sites. If you were featured, we would love for you to use the “I was featured” button.
  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

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Volunteer Opportunities for Kids

Volunteer Opportunities for Kids @EvaVarga.netVolunteering is an opportunity to change lives, including your own.  It is generally considered an altruistic activity and is intended to promote goodness or improve human quality of life. In return, this activity can produce a feeling of self-worth and respect.

As a family, we have made volunteering and service learning a major component of our homeschool. Over the years, we have had opportunities to volunteer in a variety of ways. I’d like to share some of those experiences with you in hopes of inspiring you to seek out volunteer opportunities for kids in your local community.

Roots & Shoots

My children and I have been active in Roots & Shoots since they were toddlers. Roots & Shoots is a youth-led community action and learning program of the Jane Goodall Institute. The program builds on the legacy and vision of Dr. Jane Goodall to place the power and responsibility for creating community-based solutions to big challenges in the hands of the young people. They are encouraged to work towards three goals: Care & Concern for the Environment, Care & Concern for Animals, and Care & Concern for the Community.

One of the things I love about Roots & Shoots is the flexibility. Through the program, young people map their community to identify specific challenges their neighborhoods face.  From there, they prioritize the problems, develop a plan for a solution, and take action.

Volunteer Opportunities for Kids @EvaVarga.netWe were recently interviewed for a local magazine about our volunteer efforts with Roots & Shoots. My kids loved talking with the reporter about their projects – each sharing what was in their heart and how they have been inspired to do locally.

My son shared his passion for music and talked about how he volunteers regularly at a local retirement home to perform for the residents. He stated, “I really look forward to going. I like giving them something to listen to and I like hearing them share about how music has touched their lives.”

My daughter talked about her long-term study looking at the impact of invasive turtles have on the ecosystem, specifically how they affect the population of native pond turtles. She shared with the reporter the posters she and her friends made to inform the public of the threat releasing pets.

Read my post, Service Learning Through Roots & Shoots to learn more about this dynamic program. You might also consider joining me for a free online course this summer, Turning Learners Into Leaders: Empowering Youth Through Service in Education.

Humane Society / Animal Shelter

Volunteering at a local animal shelter is one of the easiest ways to make a difference. Children can decorate kennels, help with events, foster an animal, or even walk the dogs. Children may be interested in raising monies to purchase food, bedding, or goods as a donation.

When my kids were younger, we volunteered at a shelter regularly to simply play with the cats. They wanted to walk the dogs as well but weren’t quite old enough. Age restrictions will vary so check with your local shelter to learn more.

Rescue Mission / Homeless Shelter

Another great way to give back is to volunteer to serve meals at a homeless shelter. A few years ago, I volunteered in the education department of our local mission and my children were allowed to accompany me. They worked on their own assignments as I walked around the room and helped the women with their coursework and job training skills.

Volunteer Opportunities for Kids @EvaVarga.netLiving History

Some of our fondest memories of volunteering come from our experiences at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, where we volunteered as living history interpreters, Homeschooling in 1880: Living History Volunteers. In this role, we spent one day a week dressed up in period clothing and told the story of the early pioneers in the high desert. Our story was based loosely on our own ancestors. It was an awesome way to connect with the past as well as develop public speaking skills.

Public Library

My daughter is anxiously awaiting her 13th birthday so that she can serve on our local library’s teen advisory board. In this role she would get to interact with other avid readers, make recommendations to library staff on books, programs, and services, and inform patrons of her favorite books via shelf flags.

What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make. ~ Jane Goodall

Adopt-A-Park

Many municipalities utilize partnerships with local organizations to preserve, beautify and maintain neighborhood parks. Some of the tasks could include pruning, raking, weeding, light painting, graffiti removal, litter removal, tree and flower planting. As a part of the turtle project, my daughter is considering this option for the future.

Community Cleanups & Weed Pulls

Lastly, another way to tap into volunteer work is through organizations like church youth groups, scouts, and local agencies. The California Coastal Commission organizes an annual beach cleanup event in the fall each year.

Invasive species have always been a passion for me and we’ve thereby participated in many community weed pulls – both locally and while on vacation. You can read about our weed pull experience in Hawai’i in my post, Hoaloha ‘aina Weed Pull. Can you find a weed pull or cleanup in your community?

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I have shared additional resources and ideas for volunteer opportunities in my post, It’s Our Turn to Lead: Earth Day 2015,  at Multicultural Kid Blogs. I encourage you to take time to talk over the interests you share as a family and seek out options in your area. In what ways can YOU make a difference?

The Collision of Art & Literary History

My children and I love historical reenactments and living history. Not only does it literally bring history to life – it captures our emotions and connects us to the stories of individuals who have made a difference in the lives of others.

In my post last week, Traveling Through Time, I shared with you a little snippet of our experience at a recent Civil War reenactment. Living history volunteers worked together to recreate aspects of a Civil War, sharing with us tales of battles, living conditions, and hardships they faced. We loved singing songs from the era and learning about their pastimes.

Living history is an activity that incorporates historical tools, activities and dress into an interactive presentation that seeks to give observers and participants a sense of stepping back in time.

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Pictured here are my children dressed as Snowshoe Thompson and Marie Curie and their friends dressed as Anne Sullivan and Ole Kirk Christiansen in 2013.

Each year, I coordinate a living history day for our local homeschool community.  The event is always a highlight of our homeschool year and we look forward to “talking with the historical people we meet”.

Living history is an art form whereby performers connect art and literary history.

In my post, Bringing History to Life, I share a video of the presentations my children did as Irena Sendler and Arnold Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller earlier this year. Sadly, the video I captured of their presentations the preceding year was very poor so I am unable to share that presentation with you.

My kids have just begun to think about the characters they wish to research for their presentation in 2015. I won’t reveal just yet who they have selected, but I will give you a hint. 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the man who rediscovered the lost art of the guara, a kind of aboriginal center-board used by the indians of Peru and Ecuador for navigation.

I encourage you to consider hosting a living history event of your own. In my post, Bringing History to Life, I share guidelines and tips for success.

If you have taken part in living history performances or have enjoyed local reenactments, I would love to hear about it. Share your story in the comments! 🙂

 

 

Traveling Through Time: Civil War Reenactment

Last month, we had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a field trip coordinated by a friend of mine to a local Civil War reenactment.

Organized in 1991, Reenactors of the American Civil War (RACW) is a non-profit living history organization based in Northern California.  One of their goals is to stimulate interest in the historical significance of the period in our history termed “the War Between the States”.

Comprised of Confederate, Federal and civilian representatives, the group recreated the drama and realities of life during this pivotal time in American history — portraying life as it was for members of both armies in the camps, on campaigns, and in battle.

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We were able to watch history come to life with reenactors wearing the clothing of the period, using the speech and mannerisms of the time, and playing and singing the tunes of the 1860s!

Much to our delight (as we had been enduring a drought) it was raining fairly heavy. Many families I discovered were canceling plans to join us due to the rain. The brave men and women who fought in the war and continue to serve and protect us today, did/do so under all extremes of weather.

I did not let the rain keep us indoors. Forging ahead on this field trip gave us a better appreciation of the hardships they endured/endure.

To learn more about the Reenactors of the American Civil War, visit their website. Here you can also find a printable guide for students to help them engage with the volunteers and learn more about the Civil War era.

Wings of Freedom Tour

Serendipitously, the Wings of Freedom Tour came to our area just days after we had read about Pearl Harbor, the Battle of the Pacific, and ultimately World War II. It was a great opportunity to tour the authentically restored aircraft and immerse ourselves in living history.

We arrived just a few hours after they were scheduled to appear.  We were able to tour two of the three (the P-51 Mustang had not yet arrived).

wings of freedom

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engine heavy bomber aircraft developed in the 1930s for the United States Army Air Corps.  The B-17 went from design board to flight test in less than 12 months and was the first Boeing military aircraft with a flight deck instead of an open cockpit.

In the Pacific, the B-17s earned a deadly reputation with the Japanese, who dubbed them four-engine fighters. The Fortresses were also legendary for their ability to stay in the air after taking brutal poundings. They sometimes limped back to their bases with large chunks of the fuselage shot off.

The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was one of the principal heavy bombers used by the US Army Air Force during World War II. It was produced in larger numbers than any other American aircraft and its exploits ranged the world over, seeing action in a variety of roles in all major theaters of the war.

The Wings of Freedom Tour is sponsored by the Collings Foundation, a non-profit, Educational Foundation (501c-3). Founded in 1979 to organize and support “living history” events that enable Americans to learn more about their heritage through direct participation. The original focus was transportation-related events such as antique car rallies, hill climbs, and carriage and sleigh rides. During the mid-eighties, these activities were broadened to include aviation-related events such as air shows, barnstorming, historical reunions, and joint museum displays.

The B-17, B-24, and P-51 are on the 25th season of the Wings of Freedom Tour, bringing historic aviation to your community!

Flights aboard one of the three for the B-17 or B-25 are also available – an ultimate immersion in history! You can see their 2014 schedule and book flights online at The Collings Foundation: Wings of Freedom.

Bringing History to Life: Living History Presentations

I have always been fascinated by history and have enjoyed interacting with volunteers at reenactments across the country – in Boston, Williamsburg, and closer to home at the Lewis & Clark National Historic Park in Astoria.  When we first started homeschooling, we even volunteered at the High Desert Museum as living history interpreters. I was delighted to have the opportunity to volunteer with my children in historical costume.

Living Museum

Living history is an activity that incorporates historical tools, activities and dress into an interactive presentation that seeks to give observers and participants a sense of stepping back in time.  A year ago, I initiated a Living History / Wax Museum day for our local homeschool community.  Coordinating the event is easy – I simply posted a notice (with the guidelines described below) and reserved a room at the library for the day of the presentations.

Guidelines for Coordinating a Living History Museum

  • Participants in the Living Wax Museum were instructed to choose a famous historical person to research, prepare a research poster display, and develop a 2-3 minute speech (in first-person) that summarizes the life of the famous historical person.
  • The selected historical person must be someone who has done something significant in history, or has made a positive contribution to society.  The famous person can be someone who is still alive.
  • Participants create a costume, dress as the chosen person, and then assume the identity of the historical figure.
  • Participants dress in costume to portray their subject.  This costume should accurately convey information about the subject and the time period in which they lived.
  • Participants should create a display or backdrop of at least 22” x 28”.  The famous person’s name must be prominently displayed in large letters.  A minimum of 4 photographs should be included.  A timeline, map, and notable quotes are also highly suggested.  
  • Participants need NOT memorize their speech but are encouraged to do so.  The use of note cards is permitted.

The number of students who have taken part varies each year and many come only to observe the presentations.  Either way, it is a wonderful afternoon – providing the participants with experiences in research, writing, public speaking, and costume design.  Audience members are introduced to historical persons and time periods in a fun and innovative way.

In 2013, my daughter selected Marie Curie, a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity.  This year, she chose Irena Sendler, a Polish nurse/social worker who served in the Polish Underground during World War II, and as head of children’s section of Żegota, an underground resistance organization in German-occupied Warsaw.

Last year, my son brought Snowshoe Thompson to life, the Norwegian-American immigrant and early resident of the Sierra Nevada region. He is considered the father of California skiing. This year, he introduced us to Arnold Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, the late Danish shipping magnate.


If you interested in learning more about our living history experiences, I encourage you to check out Homeschooling in 1880