Learning American history through the life of Wyatt Earp, an American lawman is another fun way to learn American history.
History comes alive when you focus on the dramatic life of an American figure or exciting event.
American History through the Eyes of an American Lawman
When I need to cover American history, the boys always get to decide the person or event.
Whether they choose to cover the FBI in high school or the gunfight at the OK Corral, I can always make the time period come alive.
One way I have learned to round out a unit study and make it more meaningful is to study the world at the time the person was living or the event was happening.
By steering Tiny to events or persons in a time period we need to focus on, it’s a win-win. He gets to choose a person or event that piqued his curiosity and the teacher in me is satisfied because I know he is exposed to a time period we need to cover.
Too, beginnings are important in unit studies. Remember to make the beginning of your unit study lively. I added a few details that will lead us into hands-on activity first and then reading will come second.
Look at these few details.
- Wyatt Earp was born in 1848 and died in 1929;
- Tombstone is close to the Mexican border in Arizona;
- Wyatt Earp wanted to join the American Civil War but his dad wouldn’t let him; and
- Wyatt Earp made a name for himself in postwar Kansas as a lawman.
What a great time period to focus on for modern American history.
Right away, I know that the American Civil War happened during his life time so I could tie in the Civil War if we hadn’t studied it before.
However, because we have covered the American Civil War twice and a did a lapbook both times, I think we are going to head another direction by getting the flavor of the world at that time.
Being the youngest child, Tiny was too young for some of the hands-on activities we did during the time period of the late 1800s when we studied the Civil War twice.
Another thing about Tiny though is that he is different from my other two sons because he doesn’t care the age of many hands-on activities. The kid just loves all of it. If it’s a hands-on activity he is in.
That combination actually makes for a great kid to homeschool because he just loves activities.
So today, we had a pioneer day. We spent the whole morning doing fun and easy hands-on activities that families would have done during the time Wyatt Earp lived.
Hardtack – Staple of the American Civil War
Because the Civil War was going on when Earp was a boy, we started off making hardtack, which was eaten during the Civil War.
You probably have heard of the flat biscuit like staple of the Civil War.
Two ingredients make it easy to make.
- 1 cup of water
- 2 cups of flour
After mixing the flour and water, Tiny turned it out onto the counter.
Yes, he used a plastic bottle to flatten the dough. (A rolling pin would be nice to use but since we are still building up our kitchen supplies here in Ecuador, a clean plastic bottle worked just fine.)
You want it about a 1/4 inch or thin as we learned. Thin is better.
He used a fork to poke holes in it. We did read somewhere that the original hardback had 13 holes in it to represent the 13 original colonies.
Then you know I told you we don’t have an oven, but we do have a toaster over.
So we baked the hardtack for about 30 minutes on 400 degrees in a glass pyrex container.
It actually came out pretty good tasting when it was warm. We were surprised.
Of course I know they can probably break your teeth if you wait to try one longer, but it was a fun activity to learn about what could be made to eat with just a few ingredients.
Pioneer Cooking – Make Your Own Butter
Then we had to have some fresh butter on those warm hardtack crackers. So we started that activity too.
Again, I like this activity to explore the times of the pioneers because these ingredients I keep on hand here at the house.
The two ingredients are:
- heavy cream
- salt (if you choose too)
You also need a glass jar, which we had too.
I filled the jar about half-way up with the cream and let it sit at room temperature while we started the hardtack.
The hardest part to this project is the shaking. After filling the jar, shake….
and shake it some more ……. and shake it some more all over the house.
We took turns shaking the jar for about 45 minutes before we saw results. You can see it in the picture where the butter started separating from the soured milk.
So we poured out the soured milk and added tap water in the jar to rinse the butter. We shook some more to rinse it and poured off the water.
Tiny added some salt and taaaa – daaa, we had some sweet butter.
Here is our warm hardtack and sweet butter.
And oh yes, it was delicious and a fun way to get the flavor (pun intended, corny, I know) of the time period that Wyatt Earp lived in.
Those aren’t the only activities we did though. I’ll share our next easy hands-on activity we did, the history magazine we will be using for this unit study and the lapbook printables will be coming soon.
Look at a few of these website that have some great ideas for more pioneer living activities.
- Include the littles with this unit for middle school by making a hand print horse, cow collage, animal cracker ranch scene or yarn doll to name a few from Kids Activities.
- Make some taffy if you have some middle school kids.
- Make hand dipped candles if you have middle school kids.
- A Book in Time is chock full of ideas for each time period. Depending on the age of your child, he can make a covered wagon, log cabin or learn about cotton, which was a huge commodity during this time period.
Check out these resources for the American West and Wyatt Earp
Here are the other posts for Learning American History through the Life of Wyatt Earp Unit Study.
What do you think? Can you think of some other fun ways to kick off this unit study?
Hugs and love ya,