Thursday, February 28, 2013

Teach America's Story...through Music

Recently, a gentleman was telling our parade team about a fun little-known story behind the song "Yankee Doodle Dandy".   Most Americans know that the song has something to do with the Revolutionary War but the details to this story have been mostly forgotten.  They deserve to be brought back out of hiding though...especially for those who live in a town called "Lafayette".  Read on to learn why. 

Richard Shuckburgh, a British Army doctor, wrote the words of this song during the French and Indian War (which took place BEFORE the Revolutionary War) to make fun of the ragged, "country bumpkin" American soldiers.  The British, of course, were from one of the most powerful and prestigious nations on earth at the time and the Americans, in their mind, were backwards, uncultured simpletons.

As the British marched into battle at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, they sang this song.  However, what was meant to mock the Americans ended up uniting them.  The Americans took the song as their own - after changing some of the lyrics - and the song became a source of national pride for the rugged American colonists. 

At the end of the war, after the British surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown, a young general named "Lafayette" ordered that the Army band play the song "Yankee Doodle Dandy" to show the British it was the Americans who had the last laugh.  The British soldiers were furious.  At least one soldier even wrote about the humiliating experience in his diary.

American anthems and folk songs are just loaded with these kinds of stories.  The following link will take you to a blog with a great list of patriotic songbooks.  Some of these are written as storybooks for children and others offer a more in-depth look at how these songs came to be symbols of American culture.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Little Help to Get the Kids Motivated...


Did you know your children can earn medals just for learning about America's past?  Read on to learn about just one specific program that allows you to help your children do this.

"Youth Patriotism Awards"  was started by a Cub Scout Cubmaster in the state of Virginia on September 11, 2008.  Since that time, Brian Kale has awarded 1,443 medals, 657 elective stars, and 250 patches to youth throughout the United States.  A few of these medals are shown above.

His program has become an officially recognized award in the American Heritage Girls program and is also used by Scout units, home school co-ops, social studies classes and other groups like them.

Basically, families can choose to pursue an award in any or all of the following four categories:  Heritage, Citizenship, Freedom, and Service.  The children can earn a silver or for more of a challenge they can do more work to earn a gold medal.  Adults can earn the medals too and he has a separate set of requirements for them.

The website has all the listed requirements and more program details and can be found at this link:   Youth Patriotism Awards.

What a great activity for families to work on together and a great way to get children excited about history!   Wouldn't it be fun to hide the medals from your kids when you receive them and then present them to your children on July 4th?  Just an idea...


Monday, February 18, 2013

Lincoln's Link to Lafayette - a President's Day post for our town

 Abraham Lincoln

Library of Congress.

In 1849, a little-known politician named Abraham Lincoln turned down an offer to be territorial governor over the Oregon Territory.  Even after he became president, Lincoln never made it out to the Pacific Northwest for a visit.  But he had some good friends out here who he corresponded with and one of those friends lived and practiced medicine in Lafayette.  His name was Dr. Anson G. Henry and in addition to being one of Lincoln's closest friends, Dr. Henry was also Lincoln's personal physician.

Henry's relationship with Lincoln began in Springfield, Illinois in 1834.  In 1852, the doctor left Springfield behind and brought his wife and 5 kids to Oregon to settle in the thriving town of Lafayette, where some of their friends were living. But he was a frequent guest to the white house once Lincoln became president and maintained a close friendship with the Lincolns until the president was assassinated in 1865.

You can read more about Dr. Henry's active political life in the Pacific Northwest and his life-long friendship with Lincoln at the following link (and many other places online as well):

When speaking about Dr. Henry to an Oregon politician, the president once said the following words about this Lafayette pioneer:
"What a great big-hearted man he is. Henry is one of the best men I have ever known.
He sometimes commits an error of judgement, but I never knew him to be guilty of 
a falsehood or of an act beneath a gentleman. He is the soul of truth and honor."
 (quote source can be found at the above link)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

President's Day fieldtrip Idea: Visit Hoover's boyhood home

Commons;Herbert Hoover, Wikimedia
Did you know President Herbert Hoover lived in Yamhill County for part of his boyhood?  He became an orphan at 9 years of age and was sent to Newberg, Oregon to live with an uncle.  He lived there for four years and the house where he lived is still standing and has been restored and preserved as a memorial to the president.  

While this might not be the place to take your very active 3 year old, the tours they offer would be a great educational experience for older children, maybe 8 and older.    

Click on the link to be taken to the museum's website for more information. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Polish your Pennies for President's Day!

With a different president on each coin, money can make for a great object lesson when wanting to teach children about our presidents.   Here are just a few things you could do with the coins:

Clean them:  Follow the above link for details on how best to clean them.  Basically, fill a few bowls with water and/or baking soda or vinegar and let the kids clean coins with old toothbrushes until the presidents are shining brightly again.

Stack them:  See how high the kids can stack their coins without coins falling.  

Study them and quiz each other on them:  Do a review of which president is on which coins and dollar bills.  Then, let them "earn" some money by quizzing them on this information.  If they can identify which president is on a coin, they get to keep the coin (or dollar bill!).  Start with the penny and work your way up.  This is a good activity for the older kids.

Do crafts with them:  Let kids use paintbrushes to glue pennies onto a giant letter "P" for president or onto a paper picture frame, with a picture of a president in the center, of course.

Treasure Hunt with them:  Have everyone sort through pennies to find their birthday year.  Once the kids find their own, give them a bigger challenge by helping you find yours!  Keep everyone's birthday pennies in a special place. You could also see who can find the oldest penny.

Collect them:  Start a coin collection with your kids!  Here is the link to the U.S. Mint website:   "U.S. Mint" website coin collecting tips.

Ideally, in the middle of these activities, you will have some great opportunities to teach the kids who are on the coins and why.    

U.S and Canada Sing "Happy Birthday" Together

  Public domain. Photo of Detroit's event.  Courtesy of Vito Palmisano

Did you know that in some of America's most northern states there are celebrations that bring Canada Day and our Independence Day into one combined event?  That's because Canada Day is the day Canadians celebrate THEIR independence (Although they didn't receive complete independence from Great Britain, this is when they officially became a recognized country,) and they do so on July 1, just 3 days before our own nation's birthday.

Not only do they celebrate their freedom together but these cities also use this event to celebrate their mutual commitment to friendship.  Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario, Canada do an event called the Windsor-Detroit International Freedom Festival.

Another celebration that unites the 2 neighbors is the Friendship Festival, that brings together citizens of Fort Erie, Canada and Buffalo, New York.

Next posts on this blog will be focused on President's Day and ways we can use this often-overlooked holiday to learn - and teach - about our nation's past leaders.