Welcome to the exciting journey through Lancaster County! With these lesson ideas, you will delve into the rich history, culture, and traditions of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Whether you’re a homeschooling parent, a teacher looking to supplement your curriculum, or simply a curious individual, this blog post will provide you with engaging lesson ideas for teaching elementary-aged children about Lancaster’s fascinating past. Let’s dive in!
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Lancaster County Lesson Ideas
Lesson 1: Amish Culture and Traditions
Discover the unique Amish community that has shaped Lancaster County. Explore their way of life, their beliefs, and the importance of simplicity. Encourage students to read “Amish Friends Cookbook” by Wanda E. Brunstetter, which not only offers authentic recipes but also provides insights into Amish traditions.
Amish Quilting: Explore the art of Amish quilting and its significance in Amish culture. Teach children about the different patterns and techniques used in creating quilts. They can even create their own simple quilt squares using colorful construction paper or fabric scraps.
Amish Clothing and Plain Dress: Discuss the significance of plain dress in Amish culture. Show children examples of Amish clothing and encourage them to compare it to their own clothing styles. Discuss the reasons behind Amish dress, such as modesty and separation from the world.
Amish Barn Raising: Learn about the communal spirit and cooperation in Amish communities through the tradition of barn raising. Discuss the importance of community support and working together towards a common goal. Engage children in a collaborative building or crafting project to simulate the spirit of barn raising.
Amish Ordnung and Gelassenheit: Explore the Amish principles of Ordnung (order) and Gelassenheit (submission to God’s will). Discuss how these principles shape Amish daily life, decision-making, and interactions within the community. Encourage children to reflect on their own values and how they compare to Amish principles.
Amish Farming and Sustainability: Teach children about Amish farming practices, such as organic farming and sustainable agriculture. Discuss the importance of respecting the land and living in harmony with nature. Engage children in hands-on gardening activities, such as planting herbs or vegetables, to promote an understanding of sustainable practices.
Amish Education: Compare and contrast Amish education with mainstream education. Discuss the role of education within Amish communities and the emphasis on practical skills. Encourage children to explore hands-on learning experiences, such as woodworking, cooking, or sewing, to gain a deeper appreciation for practical knowledge.
Amish Technology and Simple Living: Explore the Amish approach to technology and the intentional simplicity of their lifestyle. Discuss the reasons behind the rejection of certain technologies and the focus on maintaining a more traditional way of life. Encourage children to reflect on their own reliance on technology and consider the benefits and drawbacks of a simpler lifestyle.
Amish Values and Community: Explore the values of humility, community, and service that are central to Amish culture. Discuss how these values shape relationships, decision-making, and support systems within the Amish community. Engage children in discussions and activities that promote empathy, kindness, and community service.
Amish Market and Food Traditions: Learn about Amish food traditions, including farm-to-table practices and preserving techniques. Visit a local Amish market or farm stand if possible, and encourage children to try traditional Amish foods. Engage children in cooking or baking activities using simple, traditional recipes.
Amish Folklore and Folk Traditions: Introduce children to Amish folklore, stories, and folk traditions passed down through generations. Explore Amish folk songs, folk art, and folk tales. Encourage children to create their own artwork or storytelling inspired by Amish folklore.
Lesson 2: The Underground Railroad
Learn about Lancaster County’s role in the Underground Railroad and its significant contributions to the abolitionist movement. Read “The Drinking Gourd” by F.N. Monjo, a picture book that introduces young readers to the courage and resilience of those involved in the Underground Railroad.
Underground Railroad Routes: Study the various routes and paths used by freedom seekers traveling through Pennsylvania on the Underground Railroad. Research significant stops, safe houses, and conductors who aided escaping slaves on their journey to freedom.
Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad: Learn about the remarkable life of Harriet Tubman, one of the most prominent conductors of the Underground Railroad. Explore her courageous acts, her role in leading enslaved individuals to freedom, and her impact on the abolitionist movement.
Quaker Abolitionists: Discover the vital role played by Quakers and other abolitionist groups in aiding escaped slaves and promoting the abolition of slavery. Explore the Quaker influence in Pennsylvania and their commitment to social justice.
Conductors and Safe Houses: Research notable conductors and safe houses in Pennsylvania. Investigate the strategies employed by conductors to ensure the safe passage of freedom seekers. Create a map highlighting key locations and their significance.
Oral Histories and Primary Sources: Engage with oral histories and primary sources related to the Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania. Read narratives of former slaves, abolitionists, and conductors to gain firsthand accounts of their experiences. Discuss the importance of preserving and sharing these stories.
Fugitive Slave Act of 1850: Study the Fugitive Slave Act and its impact on the Underground Railroad. Discuss the challenges faced by freedom seekers and the risks taken by those who assisted them.
Code Words and Signals: Explore the use of code words, signals, and other covert communication methods employed by those involved in the Underground Railroad. Engage children in creating their own coded messages or secret signals to understand the importance of secrecy during this time.
Underground Railroad Quilts: Investigate the theory of Underground Railroad quilts and their potential role as hidden messages and signals for escaping slaves. Learn about the symbolism and meanings behind certain quilt patterns and create a quilt square with a symbolic message.
Historical Sites and Museums: Visit local historical sites and museums dedicated to the Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania, such as the National Underground Railroad Museum at the Belmont Mansion in Philadelphia or the Underground Railroad Museum at the Christiana Historical Society. Explore exhibits and engage in interactive activities to deepen understanding.
Personal Reflection and Empathy: Encourage children to reflect on the experiences of freedom seekers and those involved in the Underground Railroad. Discuss the importance of empathy, compassion, and standing up against injustice in their own lives.
Lesson 3: Lancaster County Farming
Delve into the rich agricultural history of Lancaster County. Discover how the fertile land and farming practices have shaped the region. Engage children with the picture book “County Fair” by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which captures the essence of rural life and the excitement of community gatherings.
Crop Rotation and Soil Health: Explore the importance of crop rotation in maintaining healthy soil and sustainable farming practices. Discuss the benefits of rotating crops and how it helps replenish soil nutrients. Conduct a hands-on experiment to demonstrate the impact of crop rotation on plant growth.
Farm Machinery and Technology: Investigate the evolution of farm machinery and technology in Lancaster County. Explore the impact of advancements in farming equipment on efficiency and productivity. Engage children in designing their own innovative farm machinery using recyclable materials.
Sustainable Farming Practices: Teach children about sustainable farming practices, such as organic farming, integrated pest management, and water conservation. Discuss the benefits of sustainable agriculture for the environment and human health. Visit a local organic farm, if possible, to witness sustainable farming methods firsthand.
Seasonal Farming: Learn about the seasonal nature of farming in Lancaster County. Explore the concept of crop cycles and the different tasks involved in each season. Create a seasonal farming calendar or chart that highlights key activities for each time of the year.
Farm-to-Table: Discuss the farm-to-table movement and the importance of knowing where our food comes from. Investigate the journey of food from farm to consumer, including the steps involved in harvesting, processing, and distribution. Encourage children to research and prepare a farm-to-table meal using locally sourced ingredients.
Dairy Farming: Focus on Lancaster County’s dairy farming industry. Learn about the life cycle of dairy cows, the milking process, and the production of dairy products. Visit a local dairy farm or invite a dairy farmer to speak to the children about their experiences.
Sustainable Livestock Farming: Explore sustainable livestock farming practices, such as rotational grazing and responsible animal husbandry. Discuss the benefits of raising animals in an environmentally conscious manner. Engage children in designing and building a model sustainable livestock farm.
Farmers’ Markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): Visit a local farmers’ market or research CSA programs in Lancaster County. Discuss the benefits of supporting local farmers and the importance of fresh, locally sourced produce. Create a class project where children set up their own mini farmers’ market or CSA program.
Farm Economics and Business: Introduce children to the economic aspects of farming, including budgeting, marketing, and entrepreneurship. Discuss the challenges faced by farmers and the importance of supporting local agriculture. Engage children in a farm business simulation where they make decisions about crop selection, pricing, and marketing strategies.
Farm Conservation and Preservation: Explore initiatives aimed at preserving farmland and protecting agricultural heritage. Discuss the importance of conserving farmland for future generations. Engage children in a hands-on conservation project, such as creating a mini-farm habitat for beneficial insects.
Lesson 4: Pennsylvania Dutch Influence
Explore the influence of Pennsylvania Dutch culture on Lancaster County. Learn about their language, folk art, and traditional celebrations. “The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story” by Gloria Houston is a heartwarming picture book that showcases the heritage and values of the region.
Pennsylvania Dutch Language: Introduce children to the Pennsylvania Dutch language, a dialect derived from German. Teach them common words and phrases and encourage them to practice speaking simple Pennsylvania Dutch sentences. Compare and contrast Pennsylvania Dutch with standard German and English.
Hex Signs: Explore the decorative folk art tradition of hex signs commonly found in Pennsylvania Dutch communities. Learn about the symbolism and meanings behind different hex sign designs. Engage children in creating their own hex signs using paper, markers, and traditional motifs.
Folk Medicine and Remedies: Investigate Pennsylvania Dutch folk medicine practices and home remedies. Learn about common herbs and plants used for healing purposes. Conduct a class activity where children research and present on a specific Pennsylvania Dutch remedy.
Traditional Food and Recipes: Discover the culinary heritage of Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine. Explore traditional dishes like shoofly pie, scrapple, and pot pie. Engage children in cooking or baking activities where they follow Pennsylvania Dutch recipes and taste the flavors of the region.
Decorative Arts and Crafts: Study the traditional decorative arts and crafts of Pennsylvania Dutch culture, such as fraktur, tin punching, and paper cutting. Teach children the techniques and symbolism behind these art forms and encourage them to create their own Pennsylvania Dutch-inspired artwork.
Amish Influence: Explore the influence of the Amish community on Pennsylvania Dutch culture. Learn about their distinct lifestyle, clothing, and values. Discuss the impact of Amish traditions on the broader Pennsylvania Dutch heritage.
Pennsylvania Dutch Music and Dance: Listen to Pennsylvania Dutch music, including folk songs and traditional tunes. Learn about Pennsylvania Dutch dance styles, such as the Schottische or the Dutch Hop. Engage children in learning simple Pennsylvania Dutch dance steps or playing musical instruments like the harmonica or the accordion.
Barn Stars: Investigate the significance of barn stars in Pennsylvania Dutch culture. Learn about their history, meanings, and usage. Create paper or craft foam barn stars with unique designs and display them as decorations.
Pennsylvania Dutch Festivals and Celebrations: Research Pennsylvania Dutch festivals and celebrations, such as the Kutztown Folk Festival or Fasnacht Day. Learn about the traditions, music, food, and activities associated with these events. Organize a classroom celebration inspired by Pennsylvania Dutch festivals.
Anabaptist Heritage: Explore the Anabaptist heritage of the Pennsylvania Dutch, including the Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren communities. Discuss their religious beliefs, values, and contributions to the region’s cultural landscape. Engage children in discussions and activities that promote understanding and respect for diverse religious traditions.
Lesson 5: Lancaster County’s Role in the American Revolution
Uncover Lancaster County’s involvement in the American Revolution. Engage children with the chapter book “Meet Felicity: An American Girl” by Valerie Tripp, which takes them on a historical journey through the Revolutionary War era.
Revolutionary War Timeline: Create a timeline of key events during the American Revolution and focus on the significant events that took place in Lancaster County. Discuss the Battle of Brandywine, the occupation of Philadelphia, and other notable moments in the region.
Revolutionary War Figures: Research and study important figures from Lancaster County who played a role in the American Revolution. Explore the contributions of General Edward Hand, Brigadier General James Ewing, and Colonel Thomas Hartley. Discuss their military strategies and leadership during the war.
Historic Sites and Battlefields: Visit historic sites and battlefields in Lancaster County associated with the American Revolution, such as the Rock Ford Plantation or the Ephrata Cloister. Explore their historical significance and engage in guided tours or interactive activities to learn about the events that occurred there.
Spy Networks and Communication: Learn about the spy networks and communication methods used during the American Revolution. Discuss the Culper Spy Ring and its impact on gathering intelligence. Engage children in creating their own coded messages or secret communication systems.
The Pennsylvania Rifle: Explore the significance of the Pennsylvania Rifle, also known as the “Kentucky Rifle,” during the American Revolution. Discuss its accuracy, range, and influence on the outcome of battles. Study the craftsmanship and engineering behind the Pennsylvania Rifle.
Revolutionary War Artifacts: Investigate artifacts from the Revolutionary War period, such as uniforms, weapons, and documents. Discuss their historical importance and the stories they tell about the war. Create a mini-museum in the classroom showcasing replicas or images of these artifacts.
Women in the Revolution: Explore the role of women during the American Revolution in Lancaster County. Research women who supported the cause through fundraising, nursing, and other activities. Discuss the challenges they faced and the impact of their contributions.
Lancaster County Militias: Learn about the militias formed in Lancaster County during the American Revolution. Discuss their training, organization, and participation in battles. Engage children in a role-playing activity where they simulate militia drills and tactics.
Local Independence Celebrations: Investigate how Independence Day and other patriotic celebrations are observed in Lancaster County. Learn about the parades, fireworks, and community events that commemorate the American Revolution. Create artwork or decorations for a class celebration of Independence Day.
Declaration of Independence Signatories: Explore the signatories of the Declaration of Independence with connections to Lancaster County, such as James Smith. Discuss their roles in shaping the nation and their contributions to the fight for independence.
Lesson 6: Famous Lancaster County Figures
Introduce children to influential individuals from Lancaster County, such as Thaddeus Stevens, a prominent abolitionist and congressman. “Thaddeus Stevens: Nineteenth-Century Egalitarian” by Hans L. Trefousse is a biography that sheds light on his life and accomplishments.
Thaddeus Stevens: Thaddeus Stevens was a prominent figure in American history, known for his role in advocating for abolition and equality during the Civil War era. Explore his life and contributions, including his work as a lawyer, politician, and leader of the Radical Republicans. Discuss his influence on Reconstruction policies and engage children in a debate or discussion about his controversial stance.
James Buchanan: James Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States, hailed from Lancaster County. Study his presidency, including his efforts to preserve the Union leading up to the Civil War. Discuss the challenges he faced and the impact of his policies. Engage children in a mock election or role-playing activity to understand the complexities of leadership during a tumultuous time in history.
Milton Hershey: Milton Hershey, the founder of the Hershey Chocolate Company, was born in Derry Township, Lancaster County. Learn about his entrepreneurial journey, philanthropic efforts, and the establishment of the town of Hershey. Discuss his legacy and the impact of the Hershey company on the local community and economy. Engage children in a creative project where they design their own candy or chocolate brand. RELATED CONTENT: HOMESCHOOL AT HERSHEY’S CHOCOLATE WORLD
Susan E. Wiley: Susan E. Wiley was a prominent educator and women’s rights advocate from Lancaster County. Learn about her contributions to education and her role in advancing women’s rights. Discuss the challenges she faced and the impact of her work on society. Engage children in a writing activity or presentation where they reflect on the importance of education and gender equality.
Christine Ladd-Franklin: Christine Ladd-Franklin, a renowned mathematician and psychologist, was born in Lancaster County. Explore her pioneering work in color theory and vision science. Discuss her contributions to the fields of mathematics and psychology and the obstacles she faced as a woman in a male-dominated profession. Engage children in a hands-on experiment or activity related to color perception.
Demuth Foundation: Explore the life and artwork of Charles Demuth, a famous American modernist painter who grew up in Lancaster. Study his unique artistic style, including his precisionist paintings and industrial landscapes. Discuss his impact on the art world and engage children in creating their own precisionist-inspired artwork.
John F. Reynolds: John F. Reynolds, a Union general during the Civil War, was born and raised in Lancaster County. Learn about his military career, including his leadership at the Battle of Gettysburg. Discuss his legacy and the significance of his contributions to the Union cause. Engage children in a role-playing activity where they strategize and make decisions as military leaders during a fictional battle.
John Wright: John Wright was a prominent businessman and politician in Lancaster County during the 18th century. Learn about his contributions to the local community, including the construction of the first iron bridge in America, known as the Wright’s Ferry Bridge. Discuss the significance of his achievements and the impact of transportation infrastructure on economic development.
Daniel Carter Beard: Daniel Carter Beard, a renowned illustrator, author, and co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America, was born in Cincinnati but spent significant time in Lancaster County. Learn about his artistic career, his love for nature, and his advocacy for outdoor activities and scouting. Engage children in a nature-themed art
Lancaster County Book List
- “Caleb’s Crossing” by Geraldine Brooks
- “The Secrets Beneath” by Kathleen Fuller
- “Pennsylvania Dutch Alphabet” by Chet Williamson
- “The Folks in the Valley: A Pennsylvania Dutch ABC” by Jim Aylesworth
- “The Hundred-Year Barn” by Patricia MacLachlan
- “K is for Keystone: A Pennsylvania Alphabet” by Kristen Kane
- “A Day in the Life of an Amish Kid: A Children’s Story” by Jeremiah Raber
- “Just Plain Fancy” by Patricia Polacco
- “Little Amish Lizzie: The Buggy Spoke Series” by Byler Linda
- “Amos & Susie: An Amish Story” by Merle Good
Field Trip Ideas for a Lancaster County Unity Study
- Amish Farm and House: Explore an authentic Amish farmhouse and learn about Amish history, culture, and traditions. This hands-on experience provides valuable insights into the Amish way of life.
- The Amish Village: Step into a recreated Amish village and experience firsthand the simplicity and beauty of Amish living. Interact with Amish craftsmen and learn about their traditional trades.
- Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum: Journey back in time at this living history museum, which showcases Pennsylvania German rural life from the 18th and 19th centuries. Explore historic buildings, participate in hands-on activities, and gain a deeper understanding of early American settlement.
- Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania: Delve into the history of railroads at this museum, which houses an extensive collection of locomotives, cars, and exhibits. Discover the impact of rail transportation on Lancaster County’s development.
- Ephrata Cloister: Visit this historic site that was once home to a religious community in the 18th century. Explore the preserved buildings, learn about the community’s beliefs, and gain insights into early American communal living.
- Lancaster Science Factory: Engage in interactive exhibits and hands-on activities focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Children can explore various scientific concepts through experiments and displays.
- North Museum of Nature and Science: Discover the wonders of the natural world at this museum, featuring interactive exhibits, a planetarium, and a live animal room. Learn about the region’s geology, wildlife, and astronomy.
- Hans Herr House and Museum: Step into the oldest surviving dwelling in Lancaster County and learn about the region’s early Swiss and German settlers. Explore the museum exhibits and experience life as it was in the 18th century.
- Wheatland: Tour the historic home of President James Buchanan and gain insights into his life and presidency. Learn about the political climate of the time and the impact of Buchanan’s decisions.
- Lancaster Central Market: Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of America’s oldest continuously operating farmers market. Explore the diverse array of local vendors, sample regional specialties, and learn about the importance of agriculture and community.
RELATED CONTENT: EXPLORE LANCASTER COUNTY
Each of these educational places offers unique opportunities to engage with the history, culture, and natural sciences of Lancaster County. They provide hands-on experiences, interactive exhibits, and valuable insights that complement and enhance a homeschool unit study focused on Lancaster County.
Embark on a captivating journey through Lancaster County with these lesson ideas to add to your Lancaster County unit study. By incorporating engaging children’s books, picture books, and chapter books, as well as educational resources, you can create an immersive and memorable learning experience. Whether it’s uncovering the Amish culture, studying historical landmarks, or exploring the county’s rich heritage, this lesson ideas will leave children with a deep appreciation for Lancaster County’s unique history and traditions.