Friday, July 26, 2013

Civil War Unit Final Projects

As we entered the last week of our Civil War Unit, I assigned the three boys a final project on whatever Civil War subject they chose. I gave them a few guidelines (it had to be made with materials we had on hand; it had to be something they could do mostly by themselves; it had to include several written facts about the topic; etc.) and turned them loose. Abraham and Sebastian did literally their entire projects by themselves---there was much secrecy and intrigue so no one could see anyone else's project while it was being made. I helped Malachi with his, but only with the actual construction of it---the set-up and the materials were his own ideas. I was really, really impressed by how well they all did. At our Civil War Unit Celebration (we kept accidentally calling it our Civil War Celebration, which doesn't seem very good) they each gave an oral presentation where they talked about their projects and answered questions, and they did a great job. I loved seeing what they came up with!
Hard at work

Abraham's project was a display of Civil War artillery (guns and projectiles). He taught us that there are two kinds of artillery, guns (cannons) and howitzers (of which mortars are a type). He made models of all those, with their various parts labelled.
He also had a section for shells and balls---solid shot, canister shot, shells, etc. He painstakingly created these little canisters filled with poppyseeds to represent the gunpowder or grapeshot inside. It was awesome.


Malachi's project was a model of the "ironclads"---the Monitor and the Virginia (or the Merrimack as many books called it).
The Merrimack was made of a big vinegar container cut in half and covered with duct tape. I helped cut the holes for the cannons (it is historically accurate with 14 gunports, four on the broadsides and three each on the bow and stern) and cut strips of duct tape for him to use. The smokestack is a toilet paper roll and the flag is taped onto a straw.

The Monitor was just a flat strip of cardboard with a gun turret (hairspray lid+toilet paper roll+strange cone-shaped duct tape structure) and the captain's box (foreground) was part of a matchbox. The smokestacks were straws as well. Malachi was disappointed that we couldn't figure out a way to make the gun turret turn around like it really did on the ship, but I thought it looked great just how it was.

Sebastian chose to make a depiction of the Battle of Fredericksburg. It's such an interesting (and sad) battle because of all the mistakes that were made----starting with the pontoon wagons arriving 10 days late, so the engineers had to build the pontoon bridges under heavy fire from the waiting Confederates on the other side of the river. Some Union soldiers actually had to paddle across the river in pontoons to provide some cover for the engineers while they finished up the bridges, so the rest of the army could cross.
 Seb explained the movements of the battle in great detail---I think stuff like this really fascinates him. The macaroni noodles on his poster represent artillery for both sides.
He wrote it as "Fredericks-'burg'", he told me, because it's spelled differently than St. PetersBERG and he prefers the -berg spelling. :)

I could go on and on about how much I like these projects, but I'll confine myself to a simple, "Good work, boys!" :)

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