Thursday, May 3, 2012

Colonial Life TrackStar Activity

When I found this website, I think I spent three days trying to look at everything it had to offer...and I think I just barely scratched the surface. Colonial Williamsburg's website is absolutely fantastic. It's way more than fantastic, actually. I just realized how completely inadequate fantastic and any other synonym would be for the website.

The part I enjoyed the most is the video section. You can watch them make all kinds of things from scratch - chocolate, bricks, cannons, and even entire buildings. The picture below is a screenshot of one video that shows a demonstration of how wall structures were raised back in the day (minus the hardhats and US Army...). In many videos, you can watch how the actors interact with each other to get a feel for what it was like back in colonial times. You can watch fifers and drummers perform. Have you ever seen anyone make plaster from scratch? Ever wonder what it was made of a long time ago?! You can watch a small clip to see the whole process!
I made an activity for a bunch of the videos that is made to be like a reading guide - but for the video clips. Here is the Colonial Life TrackStar Worksheet (MS Word) and the Colonial Life TrackStar Worksheet Key (MS Word). I sequenced the videos in the same order that they appear on the worksheet using TrackStar. TrackStar will only let you post 15 links on each track, so I had to split it into two parts: Colonial Life Part 1 and Colonial Life Part 2. Some videos had their own link; those videos open and start automatically when you click the link on the side. For the videos that did not have their own link, there are simple directions for locating them in the top of the TrackStar when you click the link on the side. 
Both parts (Part 1 and Part 2) each take about an hour to complete. If I were using this activity with my class, I would give the students the worksheet, and I would show all of the videos in class in the classroom. They could complete the worksheet as they watched it. I would, however, let them go to the computer lab afterwards to fill in anything they missed. After they finished the worksheet in the lab, I would let them explore the website. Some of them may want to watch some of the videos a second time, and some of them may want to look at some of the videos not included in the TrackStar. 
This is just a fun way to learn what life was like in the 18th/19th century.


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