American Revolution Hands-On Activities for Middle School
These two American Revolution hands-on activities are the perfect way to break up a boring history lesson.
I am a huge advocate of incorporating American history activities into your homeschool. When kids complete interactive tasks while studying history, the subject becomes real and tangible to them. Plus, they’re a lot of fun.
So whenever you can, let your older kids ditch the history textbook and work on a project instead.
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American Revolution Hands-on Activities
Right now we are studying the American Revolution, so I went hunting for some projects that my oldest, Abigail would find interesting. I settled on two (drawing a historical silhouette and creating a story) and added them to our lesson plans.
Creating a Historical Story
Have your kids put themselves into the time period by writing what is called, My Side of the Story. After doing some research on both sides of the revolution, they should decide which one they would support and why. It’s a fun way to tie some creative writing into your history studies.
Abigail loves reading historical fiction, so she jumped at the chance to create her own story.
After she had a good handle on the different views people held during the American Revolution, I had her to pretend she was living in the 1700s and think about whether she would be a loyalist or a patriot. Then, for the creative writing part, she would need to write a letter to someone close to her, sharing her views.
She thought about it for a while and did some brainstorming. She then created a story in which she was a married woman who supported a different side of the revolution than her husband, and it was tearing her family apart.
Once she had a version she was happy with, she neatly wrote her letter on a plain piece of white paper with black ink. Since the letter was from the 1700s, she also needed to age the paper.
Here’s what she did:
- She placed the letter on a sheet tray.
- Then she made a cup of hot tea, letting the bag steep until the liquid was dark (she wanted her paper on the darker side). She then let it cool.
- Poured the tea over the letter, wetting the paper completely.
- Removed excess liquid by pouring out pools of liquid and sopping up large puddles with a paper towel.
- She ripped and tore the paper around the sides to make it look as if they had handed it down through generations.
- Baked it in a 200-degree oven for about 10 minutes. She started checking it after 5 to see if it was dry enough and until the edges curled.
- Removed it from the oven and let it cool.
She loved how it turned out. It was a wonderful addition to her end of the year portfolio.
Prior to the invention of photography in the early 1800s, capturing someone’s image was done either through painting or sculpture and was an extravagance that few, aside from the wealthy, had the time or money for.
A different option, silhouette portraits, gained popularity as more skilled artists came over to the new world from England.
Creating her own silhouette was the ideal activity for Abigail because she loves both history and art.
As she thought about this project, she decided she didn’t want to do a full-sized portrait, so she used one of her American Girl dolls instead. It was perfect because she was starting with a smaller portrait for her first time attempting a silhouette, plus she didn’t have to worry about her model sitting still.
She tied her doll’s hair back to resemble the historical silhouettes she saw during her research. She set her up on a stool and taped a piece of paper to the wall behind her.
Then, working with a light, she created the silhouette she was looking for. It took quite a bit of trial and error, but she stuck with it and was able to successfully trace the shadow. After she finished outlining the doll’s head, she removed the paper and painted the image with black acrylic paint.
Because Abigail enjoys painting more than cutting, I encouraged her to paint the silhouette on white paper instead of following the traditional method of cutting it out of black paper.
If you would like to take this project a step further, add in an additional writing assignment by having your middle schooler write a story about the person in the silhouette.
Abigail really enjoyed completing these two American Revolution activities. Plus, as I walked through them with her, I could see just how much she understood about the time period.
Is your tween ready to work on these fun projects and take a trip back to the American Revolution?
More American Revolution Hands-on Activities
- Hands-on Activities to Bring Early American History to Life
- Liberty Bell Timeline Scavenger Hunt
- Study the American Revolution by Combining Art and History
American Revolution Resources
- American Revolution for Kids: A History with 21 Activities
- George vs. George: The American Revolution As Seen from Both Sides
- Liberty: How the Revolutionary War Began
We also love studying history… and there are so many ways to incorporate all kinds of things into a study on history….it makes it just come alive and be remembered. We did the silhouettes with our kids years ago….but after seeing this, I am reminded that it is time to do them again! Thank you.
Love this with 4 girls and 1 American Girl Doll (thanks Grandma) so far I have no choice but to pin it!
This is awesome! We love history as well. What a clever way to use your American Girl dolls … we’ve created silhouettes of one another in the past. It’s hard to sit still.
Way to bring history to life! These are great activities! Thanks for sharing at the After School Linky party.
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