teaching american history
The eighth grade students of Davis Waldorf School are completing a four week block on American history. We started with the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Then we went northward to Virginia to catch a glimpse of James Fort, later renamed Jamestown. We saw John Rolfe save the colony with contraband tobacco, and essentially sparked one of America's first successful cash crops. Oh, and he also marries the beautiful Pocahontas! Plymouth Rock welcomes the Pilgrims, who escape religious oppression in England, only to be blinded by their own faith in the Salem Witch Trials where 20 of their own citizens were wrongfully convicted of witchcraft. Mercantilism builds the Thirteen Colonies. The French, also seeing the opportunities of the New World, find themselves traveling down the St. Lawrence River into the areas around the Great Lakes. They make friends with the indigenous people, trade muskets for beaver fur (whose felted fur is a hit with the fashion-forward Europeans), and establish forts in Ohio Country. Tensions rise as the English colonists crash their party. George Washington unconvincingly tries to encourage the French to leave Fort Le Boeuf, but after a bit of French wine, he leaves; his mission is a failure. Fighting ensues with the French and Indian War. It's an expensive war for the English crown, who subsequently levy heavy taxes on the colonists. The colonists cry "No taxation without representation!" Five Bostonians die in an altercation near the State House against British soldiers - the Boston Massacre. Then a Boston Tea Party. Intolerable Acts are pushed on the colonists to punish them for their actions. Patrick Henry gives an ultimatum: "As for me, give me liberty or give me death!" The colonists stockpile arms, ammunition, and supplies. The British march from Boston to Lexington and Concord, and the minutemen rise to meet them. (That's me in the picture, I taught the eighth graders how to fire muskets - eurythmy copper rods, and we charged across the field to fire at redcoats across the street!) George Washington, now Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, drives the British from Boston, crosses the Delaware River to take Trenton and Princeton from the British and the Hessians, hunkers down at Valley Forge with Baron von Steuben training the Army and boosting morale, and, with French allies, forces a surrender from Cornwallis at Yorktown.
We covered 200 years in four weeks, with a second block of American History planned later this year: the Civil War, Industrial Revolution, WWI and WWII, and modern times. Whew!