Teaching The Revolutionary War Through PBS’ Liberty’s Kids

When I gave up on my dream of playing pro basketball and decided on teaching I looked to my history teachers. History was my subject in high school and fortunately nobody asked me, “John, math is your worst subject, your group won best presentation at the civics competition and you have 9 AP credits in History; why do you want to teach physics?” It might have been my senior year physics teacher that had too many students to keep me from lighting things on fire in the back of the lab or it might have been my realization that history wasn’t going to change much in the future and therefore wouldn’t be that exciting to teach. I’m not sure but I do know that I have a bit of knowledge in the subject.

Revolutions often fail, and even countries who succeed in revolting have a hard time staying afloat. It is absolutely amazing that the colonists were able to do what they did. With a little bit of hand waving the Revolutionary War between the Colonists and British is as epic as the Rebels vs. Imperials. PBS tried to show this in 2003 with the television show for children called Liberty’s Kids. The show follows a group of teenagers from the start of the war as they happen to get involved in the major events. For now, Grace writes a short blog post for every other 20 min episode that summarizes the show, expands on a topic, and provides her thoughts.

My goals for Grace:

  • learn the major events and people What did George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Paine do?
  • practice connecting ideas What cultural similarities exist between the colonists and Americans today?
  • learn about the reliability of sources How reliable is a government funded, kids show as a source for the war?

As always I try to get her to discover concepts on her own. Luckily, our first discussion led to a major point that I wanted to hit. She asked why they started the series with The Boston Tea Party when she remembered that the Boston Massacre was a major event that happened recently before. I claimed ignorance and asked her what she thought. After a couple minutes of pressing her she said that it might be because it is a kids show and they don’t want to show too much violence.

Grace often says very intelligent things such as this but I’m always having trouble getting her to write about her thoughts. She does not seem to be able to differentiate between her brilliant and average thoughts and she is far from understanding that interesting writing has a component that is thought provoking. However, we are making progress. She has given up making excuses and has made it a habit to edit her writing with the tools of cutting out redundant words and phrases which is one of the learning goals I made in August.

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