October is such a fun month for us in 5th grade. We spend the month learning about what life was like for the early settlers. We begin each month by establishing our colonial families. I arrange the kids’ desks into groups (their “family” for the rest of the month) and each student then chooses a colonial first name, and the family chooses a last name. We make journals out of special, old-looking paper and yarn where the students write entries throughout the month. Their first journal entry always describes why they chose to come to the New World – maybe they are in search of gold? Or maybe they’d like religious freedom. Whatever the reason, they describe it in their journal.
The families then must decide what they want to bring to the New World with them. I have them first make a list of EVERYTHING, prompting them to remember things like clothing, food, water, and other essentials; however, I do tell them to be specific (not just “clothing”, but “3 wool sweaters, 5 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of leather shoes”). After they have created their lists, I send each family to a rectangle taped on the floor in the dimensions of 48″ by 36″ (the height of 24″ is just imagined). This represents their chest that they must pack their belongings in – they will have two for the journey. Of course, I always have the group that asks if they can still bring their livestock 🙂
After the families have narrowed down their list of belongings, we then get ready for the voyage. We travel to a different area of the school, somewhere that the kids can be tightly packed in. I read them a paragraph describing their 3-month voyage on the ship, and when we “get off” the ship, we always pretend to have shaky legs from being on the ship so long!
We make our way to land (aka the classroom) where the students are asked to find a place to settle. Each family usually chooses a different corner of the room. They are then given 4 resource cards. These cards may include things like berries that allow them a few meals, an abandoned wig wam to sleep in tonight, or an unlimited supply of water. They are allowed to trade cards, but only going through the “governor” (me!) first.
That usually gets us through our first day of Colonial America. The students love being actively involved and are still learning about what life is like in the process. Soon I’ll describe the next day of our simulation which is the kids’ favorite – hunting!
Here is one family deciding what to bring in their trunks!