Posts Tagged “teaching history”

Historical Scenes Built With Legos

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While this post contains affiliate links, and a sample copy of Brick History was provided for the purpose of this review, the opinions expressed within are strictly my own. #Sponsored

Brick History Profile Pic


We love Lego building sets as much as the next family. We love history. So when given the opportunity to check out Brick History, featuring 50 of the most pivotal historic moments in time…yeah we got a little excited. The detail in these scenes is incredible and what’s really nice is that the author, Warren Elsmore, including smaller building projects with step by step directions/illustrations. This is a pretty cool way to get kids thinking about history or enhancing some Social Studies topics. In fact, as I write this review sitting at McDonald’s, a little boy approx 3 1/2 years old sits across from me, completely mesmerized with the pirate ship scene. The book comes with 2 tear out posters of Lego scenes… I can’t help but give them to him. 😉

Brick History Pic

There are 45 larger dioramas and 30 buildable projects to give you the best of both worlds. There are four chapters and an incredible introductory section that offers tips on building, cleaning and even photographing your Lego creations. Again, pretty cool. The chapters are outlined below as described in the press release March, 2016.

  • Prehistory and the Birth of Civilization—The Big Bang, the very first Olympic Games, and the Norman conquest of England
  • Renaissance and the Age of Empire—the invention of the Gutenberg Printing Press, the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and the Mayflower’s journey to America
  • 19th Century—the California Gold Rush, the abolition of slavery following the Civil War, and Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone
  • 20th Century and Beyond—the Wright brothers’ first flight, the sinking of the Titanic, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton

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Get Lost in Learning with Lost Egypt at The Franklin

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Partnered with The Franklin Institute, we are excited to offer insight into Lost Egypt. While they compensated us with admission to Lost Egypt, the opinions expressed herein are strictly mine. #Sponsored #Terrific

Hands On Learning collage

You may have seen our social postings raving about Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science… but seriously, NOW is the time if you haven’t made it to the exhibit. Lost Egypt closes Aug 28th. Let’s take a look at what makes this Franklin Institute exhibit stand out.

Well, first of all, how can you decline an opportunity for a selfie with a camel? Hop on up and be transported to a different place and time.

say cheese

Experience the physics of building a pyramid.


Then give it a try on the model pyramid exhibit. There’s a little surprise buried in the center… just a little something to peak your child’s curiosity.

Egypt pyramid model

Decoding hieroglyphics feels more like a puzzle than learning. Go figure… or figures.


Whoop – there’s that selfie again. This camel just can’t get enough.


We don’t want to give away all of the surprises but let’s just put it out there that this is an incredible opportunity to actually experience Ancient Egypt; reconstruct ancient pottery (plastic replicas, of course), put your critical thinking skills to work with an archaeological dig, and yes… get a close up look at an actual mummy tomb, while learning the story of  “Annie”, the 17 year-old girl preserved inside.

This is sure to be an exciting experience for the whole family. And while we are on the topic of Egyptian exploration and mummies, be sure to check out the Penn Museum’s exhibits and live artifact lab. Jewels, mummies, hieroglyphic language, pyramids… what about Ancient Egypt has you intrigued? We’d love to hear your story in the comments section.

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150th Anniversary of Gettysburg

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Guest post by Mark Spalding

With the festivities of the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg almost upon us, I felt it would be a great time to let you know a little more about the place and time that shaped who we are as a country today.

I’ve been going to Gettysburg off and on since I was a teenager some twenty years ago. Our boy scout troop would make an almost annual trip to the park to hike the “North” and “South” trails of this sprawling National Park and I absolutely loved it. It was hands down my favorite place to hike around and explore. To see Devil’s Den, Little Round Top, The Wheat Field and of course the site of Pickett’s Charge is an emotional thing to behld (even for a 12 year old boy).

It’s difficult know what it was like to be a soldier in those times. What it was like to march over a mile of completely open ground, shoulder to shoulder with your brothers in arms, moving at a parade pace with cannon fire bursting in every direction, bullets whizzing by your head and decimating your friends and comrades, only to finally be able to cut loose and run at the enemy with less than a hundred yards separating you and them. But you may at least have an understanding if you are there, walking that same stretch of land yourself. Gettysburg is like a full access pass to history!

Gettysburg 150th Anniversary, Gettysburg Address, LincolnMuch is made of the battle itself (over 51,000 casualties, more than the entire Revolutionary War and any other battle fought by U.S. soldiers until the Vietnam War), but it is what happened after the battle which solidified a nation. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is the gold standard that all other American oratory is compared to. This is in large part due to the eloquence of his words ( a svelte 268), but also the circumstances in which they were spoken. While fighting an unpopular war, mired in a debate with his enemies and his allies alike about the need to emancipate slaves and mourning the death of his young son, Lincoln managed to put into words what it means to be American. His words, spoken at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery in Gettysburg four months after the battle ended, galvanized a weary north and gave them the strength to persevere through 2 more years of bloody combat.  Gettysburg 150th Anniversay, Lincoln, Gettysburg Address

As with many great events, it was the little things that made the difference at Gettysburg. Here are just a few quick points about the battle which turned the tide of the war;

  • General Robert E. Lee’s right hand man, “Stonewall” Jackson, died in May, shortly before the battle at Gettysburg. His Corps (pronounced “Core”) was split in two and given to A.P. Hill & Richard Ewell. On the first day of battle, the Rebel army could have easily overtaken the Union lines and had the high ground at the north end of the battlefield for the coming days, but miscommunication between the new commanders and General Lee stopped the advance. This allowed the Union forces to be reinforced and entrench overnight and is considered by many scholars to be a critical and costly mistake by the south.

  • On the second day, a small Maine regiment, led by Joshua Chamberlain, held off an advance by a much larger Rebel force on Little Round Top that would have flanked the Union line and given the South the high ground at the south end of the battlefield. They did it without any bullets in their guns! Note: To see how this happened, a good resource is the “Gettysburg” movie (1994).

  • On the third day, Pickett’s Charge did accomplish one thing. For the span of a few seconds, the Southern army was at the furthest point north that it had ever gone in the war. After this battle they would never venture further into the north than they had that day.

    Gettysburg battlefield, 150th anniversary Gettysburg, Civil War

    Gettysburg Battlefield

    Gettysburg Battlefield, 150th anniversary Gettysburg, Civil War

I could go on for pages about this subject, but I don’t want to cause too many TLDRs. 🙂 If you’re interested in knowing more about the Battle of Gettysburg or the Civil War in general, let me know in the comments. There are thousands of resources and ways to get information,  including our Homeroom At Home website section on the Civil War.

Gettysburg BattlefieldMy most recent trip last fall provided my family and I the opportunity to visit all the museums and venture out into the battlefields via double-decker tour bus.  Thanks to the Gettysburg Tours, Inc. and Gettysburg Group Reservations, we had plans that suited each of us in our party. Gettysburg Battlefield, Civil War Gettysburg Group Reservations helped us (a family of four, not a school trip) with our destination needs and can provide the same assistance to your family, highlighting the hot spots or giving tips for traveling with young children, special needs members or older folks.  Gettysburg 150th anniversary, Civil War, Battlefield Tour Our day started with a Battlefield Bus Tour and was perfect for laying the foundation of the land and battle.  We made stops at the Hall of Presidents & First Ladies, the Jennie Wade House Museum and Ghostly Images Legends & Showroom (an indoor ghost experience vs the ghost walking tours) all booked through Gettysburg Tours, Inc.

Civil War, Battlefield of Gettysburg

On the Gettysburg Battlefield Tour

Gettysburg Battlefield, Civil War, 150th Anniversary GettysburgThe other highlights of our trip included the Gettysburg Diorama & History Center and the Lincoln Train Museum with a simulator train ride.  Please visit as an additional resource to plan your visit to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Gettysburg 150th Anniversary, Civil War, Battle of GettysburgGettysburg 150 Anniversary, Civil War, Battle of GettysburgGettysburg Battle, Civil WarDisclosure:  Thank you to  Gettysburg Tours Inc. for providing a media pass to several of the mentioned attractions.  We were not compensated for this post and as always the opinions expressed here are strictly ours.
Gettysburg 150th Anniversary, Battle of Gettysburg

Soldiers National Museum, Gettysburg, PA

Battle of Gettysburg, Civil War

Hall of Presidents & First Ladies

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Celebrating Presidents' Day Weekend With Fun Facts

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Entertain your youngsters this Presidents’ Day weekend with some trivia-filled fun. Kids love pets, so what better way to help them relate to our current and former Commander in Chiefs, than to expose them to some of the adorable (and in some case most unexpected) pets of the White House. Here are six crazy tales of White House animal dominance:

1. Theodore Roosevelt’s son and daughter had a liking for snakes. His daughter would carry her snake “Emily Spinach” in her purse during formal parties. One day Miss Emily Spinach got into a rather large spat with the other snakes in the Oval Office. What a sight!
2. After Abraham Lincoln was gifted a live turkey for a Thanksgiving Feast, his son befriended the feathered creature and the family kept it as a pet.
3. John Quincy Adams had a two-month long visiting pet alligator that resided in the East Room of the White House. More than a few wandering guests were greeted by this toothy visitors.
4. With having over 40 pets, it is no surprise that the Roosevelt family made our list twice. In an attempt to cheer a sick sibling, the Roosevelt brothers sneaked in a pet pony through the White House mirrored elevator, only to find that the beloved pony fell in love with his own reflection. It took quite a doing to pull him out of the elevator.
5. Rebecca, Calvin Coolidge’s pet raccoon had free roam for the White House and in fact found a hobby in unscrewing light bulbs. She was another intended Thanksgiving meal whose fate was forever changed.
6. Former President Thomas Jefferson was gifted two grizzly bear cubs by explorers Lewis and Clark. Jefferson built them an outdoor cage and often walked them around the White House garden. He also had a favorite mockingbird “Dicky” who was free to fly about the President’s office.

For more stories on the wildest and funniest pets that have roamed the White House, be sure to check out Wackiest White House Pets by Gibbs Davis. The examples above came from this delightful book. Learn stories about mice, Zsa Zsa the trumpet playing rabbit, Billy the opossum, goats, cows and of course lots of Presidential cats and dogs.

Yes, it’s true that a lot of kids are super picky eaters – but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t enjoy learning of our Presidents’ favorite bites. Take Franklin Roosevelt for instance – his all time favorite was Grilled Cheese – what kids couldn’t relate to that? Not to mention his love for scrambled eggs and hot dogs. For more White House favorites check out this Food & Wine article: “Presidential Food Obsessions“. Before you go… guess which former President enjoyed ketchup and cottage cheese – oh yum!

Silliness is an excellent learning tool. So I wanted to include another favorite book on Presidents – that definitely appeals to the school-aged group. What Presidents Are Made Of by Hanoch Piven is a personal favorite of mine with amazing illustrations. It’s kinda part puzzle, part abstract art whereby the pictures are portrait compilations of everyday items. Take a look below – I love this book. Each President is featured with a title, a portrait and then just enough wording to briefly summarize. It’s a fun, quick read to keep learning light and easy.

Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are strictly mine. I was not compensated in any way for this post or material.

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Honoring Black History Month at Home

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Black History Month (February) is highlighted and taught in schools across the country – but as parents we can take advantage of this nation-wide theme to include lessons on love, acceptance, patience and diversity. We can also introduce our children to African American role models and influence that perhaps aren’t emphasized in school. As much as it is important to tell the stories of Martin Luther King Jr and Rosa Parks – there are so many others worthy of an honorable mention as well.

Consider these four amazing African Americans from our culture. They offer inspiration and positive influence with their diverse backgrounds, accomplishments and passions.

Ella Fitzgerald

Ms. Fitzgerald was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. She was also awarded with 13 Grammies. Click below for a taste of Ella’s jazzy magic. Here’s the official website for fun facts and bio:

Fredrick Douglas

Mr. Douglas was a former slave, an escaped slave who’s life’s work was devoted to human rights and the abolitionist movement.  He led the first all black regiment, 54 MA Infantry, was an published in 1845, and public speaker for anti-slavery.  There’s so much more to his bravery and story.  Watch the clip below to learn more or visit

Lonnie Johnson

Mr. Johnson invented the Super Soaker.  He was influenced by another famous and important scientist and inventor, George Washington Carver.  Mr. Johnson’s story is interesting for children because of his curiosity to learn how things worked and interest in toys – his father taught him to make his own toys.  Here’s more on Lonnie Johnson’s career as an inventor:  Click here for a coloring sheet on Lonnie Johnson and other inventors.

Mae Jemison

This woman has almost done it all… a doctor, a dancer and an orbit into space.  Dr.  Mae Jemison is  former NASA astronaut and in 1992 she was part of the crew to go into orbit on Space Shuttle Endeavor. She’s held a television career and remains a large inspiration for our young generation and parents alike.  Here’s a quick bio on the never-bored, truly inspiring Dr. Jemison.

And here’s another well worth the 26 minutes… she really touches on the ways parents can influence and encourage children. She says creativity and exploration are key. “When we ask how do we get our children to find that – it’s really we have to keep them from losing it.” She speaks about ways to foster the inner scientist in our children. Attached here is an interactive coloring page for your children to enjoy and here is an informative print out coloring sheet.

Lastly check out this cool online Black History Quiz.  Enjoy celebrating diversity and some of the most amazing contributors to humanity.

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Broadway in Philadelphia: War Horse Open Nov 27th

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War Horse at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia

Review By Deborah McMaster

My friend and I fell in love with Joey within a few minutes of meeting him. Through a comical incident of one-upmanship, Joey came to live with Albert who took great care of him. Joey’s spirit was seen in the move of his head, his switchy tail and reactive ears. Over the next two years we frolic and grow with Joey and Albert in Great Britain just before World War I.

Photo by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

We are one of the townspeople as Joey is unfairly taken off to battle and we are one of the infantry as Albert the desperate teenager follows the fighting to find his beloved horse.

Time, place and weather are creatively projected on a cloud shaped screen hanging above the stage. The wind blew and the birds flew. At one point it was raining on the screen and the horse on the stage actually looked wet. Lighting plays a major role in fading players onto and off the stage, and in bringing the action of war to every seat.

If this version of the story involved long discourses on war and dirges from beginning to end I was concerned that it would have been hard for me to stay awake. It didn’t, and in fact I was so mesmerized I wouldn’t have needed the intermission. There was constant action on the stage and the pace of the scenes had an excellent balance. I cannot find words to describe the music. It must suffice to say that it was pretty yet suitable, and definitely enhanced the overall production.

Photo by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

There are two cautions that may be helpful to know in advance. First, during some war scenes there is some repeated implied profanity. The second is that there are some very loud sound effects throughout the show.

As keen parents and teachers are already aware, any event can be a springboard for education. This is particularly applicable with this production, and there is a 33 page educational guide available for download on the website. The most obvious opportunity for teaching is that the story takes us to Europe during the time of World War I. Cultural differences and International Relations can be explored, as well as things like a horse’s role in a war. Another opportunity is exploring the world of stage production such as set design, lighting and special effects.

One of the most impressive things about this production, though, and another avenue for learning, is the puppetry. There are birds, a cute goose, and of course, the horses. The horses are specially constructed, and each is operated by two people inside. Several of the actors actually mount and “ride” on these horses. Since the audience can see the operators inside, it is fascinating to watch a person moving one way but the outward appearance is that the horse is moving another.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable and moving play.  Click here for details on showtimes, tickets and directions.

Disclosure:  I was issued complimentary tickets to review this production.  The ideas and opinions expressed here are mine alone.

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Our Learning Journey Takes Flight

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2012 Atlantic City Airshow “Thunder Over The Boardwalk”  with Greg W., Marissa W. & Thomas H.

So who said learning had to take place in a quiet environment? Not me, we took a roadtrip to the 2012 Atlantic City Airshow “Thunder Over The Boardwalk”. Invited by the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, I packed my car with three excited teenagers/preteens and headed to the shore. As this was everyone’s first airshow, nobody knew what to expect – except the teen would have you believe he’d been to a dozen shows before! Our Media passes had the schedule of events printed on the back, so we could keep tabs on the entertainment. Assisting us with that was the announcing team to include Gordon Bowman-Jones, an expert in the field of aviation. Those that sat in the VIP sections and in close proximity to the speakers got the extra treat of narration throughout the airshow – extremely helpful in truly appreciating the stunts and aircraft being showcased.

Needless to say, we had an amazing time. At one point, we headed to the beach… with two just itching to get into the ocean. I stood close with my toes in the water and loved the up close views of the planes. One particular stunt plane made several rounds and loops and was super entertaining, meanwhile the kids splashed in the waves, occasionally glancing up at the artwork in the sky. We went back and forth between the sand and the VIP tent a couple of times. On the sand we found some of our blogging family with Jersey Family Fun, Real: The Kitchen & Beyond, Growing Bilingual and A Day In Our Shoes. Marissa won a prize from Kid Constructions offered by Jersey Family Fun. Several children won these prizes and a couple of them couldn’t wait to assemble and wear them. Marissa took hers home to share and complete with her sister and cousin. Below you’ll see some pictures of this Stunt Plane craft. It comes in sturdy cardboard pieces ready to be colored and then assembled (no tools required making it a perfect craft on the sand at the airshow!!). We love items like this to bring the whole experience full circle. We watched and listen to the aircraft whiz by and the announcers showcase cool facts about the jets, planes and helicopters and then to complete our experience we got to build our own plane and pretend to be part of the show. Hands on activities like this Kid Constructions “Wearables Stunt Plane” really make a difference in reinforcing a learning moment. (PS – they offer the cutest wearable Dozer and Princess Carriage!) Highly recommended as a super cool and super easy aircraft construction activity.

Wearing the Wearable Stunt Plane by Kids Construction

Wearing the Wearable Stunt Plane by Kids Construction

Coloring Wearable Stunt Plane by Kids Construction

Coloring Wearable Stunt Plane by Kids Construction

Assembling Wearable Stunt Plane by Kids Construction

Assembling Wearable Stunt Plane by Kids Construction

So back to the show… and how one might take advantage of a learning opportunity here. Well for starters, it is a great way to reflect on the varying Military Services in the US. There were a couple of touching moments of reflection and it is always good to remind our children of our freedom and its cost. Also, as I mentioned the announcers offer tid-bits of information throughout the event and you can always expand on any goodies they throw out there. One thing I thought was kinda cool that I wouldn’t have otherwise picked up on is the Stratotanker’s purpose of refueling MID-AIR! Of course they had demonstration planes like the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Red Eagle and I’d point out that it’s obvious these pilots paid attention in their Math and Science classes to pull these stunts off. A couple pieces from WWII included Supermarine Spitfire, AT-6 Texan, and the P-51 Mustangs so it was history in the sky that day. All in all, the best part is that I don’t have to be an Aviation Engineer or fanatic for that matter to enjoy the show and make it an educational fun time for my family.

Many thanks to ACCVA for providing refreshments, as it was a HOT one! And speaking of hot, just as we thought we might pack it in and head for the car… the THUNDER began! Oh my, I had no idea just how loud and fast those jets are. We were in for a real treat as these suckers came flying in over our heads just as loud as could be. Poor Marissa, she has a sensitivity to loud sounds but she was prepared with earplugs and a cousin more than willing to help cup her ears. You really had to be on the look out because they scooted past so fast and THEN you heard them, almost with no warning. I think the Black Diamond Jet team was the guys’ favorite part, but I have to admit to liking the helicopters (like the Navy Seahawk) best myself. It was a hot and crowded day on the beach and if you are considering the show for next year, you might want to think about the Flight Line (tent) packages, offering refreshments and shade and seating off the sand. All of that information and more can be found by clicking on the below website or following via Twitter or Facebook.



Disclosure: We were provided with a media family pass, allowing us access to the ACCVA tent and within listening reach of the announcers.

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The Civil War on the Small Screen

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The Good Kind of TV – Guest Post by Mark Spalding

Our recent trip to Gettysburg has rekindled my passion for all things Civil War. If you’ve never been interested or known exactly where to start to get some good, general knowledge on what it was all about, look no further than Ken Burns’ Civil War series that aired in 1990 on PBS. I saw this series when I was 13 and it kicked off a lifetime passion for all things Civil War which has turned into a passion for all things historical. It’s an amazing tour de force documentary that encompasses as many angles as possible regarding the people, places and events that surrounded the five most bloody years in America’s history. The truly wonderful part of it is the narration, which is done by such luminaries as Morgan Freeman, Jeremy Irons, Laurence Fishburne and many others. The music is at times haunting and heartfelt. I to this day have an emotional reaction when I hear the violin solo that has become the theme for this series (Ashokan Farewell).

Right now you can see the entire 11 hour series on netflix or you can see if your local library has it to check out.

And with the coming 150th anniversary of Gettysburg, there’s no time like the present to dig in deep and really get into the spirit by watching Gettysburg. This movie encompasses the three most horrific days of the war and really gives you a sense of what the men who were involved were thinking and feeling at the time. Based off of Jeff Sharra’s novel “The Killer Angels” it takes an equal look at both sides and how they handled or mishandled the war. While the language can get pretty flowery at times (long soliloquies that I have a feeling weren’t a part of normal conversation) it adds a humaneness to the story that would otherwise be one battle after another.

Currently there is no easy way to view this one online, but again, your local library may have a copy or E-Bay or Amazon could be a possibility for a used copy.

If you’re concerned about how safe it is for children to watch, the images in the Civil War series do show men dead on the battlefield, but nothing too gruesome from what I have seen in re-watching it. Gettysburg has many battles with many men falling dead, but it was a made for tv movie in 1994 for TBS, so no blood.

There are many other options available to help you delve deeper into this most important part of our national heritage. If you’re interested, let me know in the comments and I can add some more.

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