TV Viewer

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From 1950 to present, television has made a huge impact in American homes.  Television influenced the way people thought about social issues.  It brought major events into homes.  It entertained and educated.  Advertisers used television to convince Americans that their lives would be better if they bought certain products. 

A television uses sound, light, and electricity.  John Baird is the Scottish inventor who has been credited as the inventor of the first practical television.  On January 26, 1926, he demonstrated the first working television by transmitting images to a viewing screen.  But there were many inventors and inventions that made the television possible.

Wireless Telegraph 1895 – Guglielmo Marconi invented a way to transmit sound for a distance of more than a mile.

TV Picture Tube 1889 – Vladimir Zworykin was a Russian-American inventor known for the iconoscope (a forerunner of the TV camera).

Video Camera Tube – 1927 – Philo Farnsworth – Demonstrates his invention of a working television.

In 1947 there were 44,000 black and white televisions in the USA.  By 1960, 3/4 of American families owned a TV.  In 1970, color TVs outsold black and white TVs.

When television first became popular, there were 3 stations that came into your house through an antenna on the roof.   Early televisions were big and bulky with small viewing screens.  There was an antenna attached to the TV.  Dads were constantly moving the antenna to get a better picture.  Also, when your dad snapped his fingers and pointed to the TV, you had to get up and walk over to the TV to change the channel or adjust the volume.   

Some areas, especially mountainous and remote areas, got weak over-air signal and poor TV reception.  In 1948, John Walson, came up with the idea of cable television to carry the TV signal through a cable wire.  But the cable TV industry wasn’t fully approved until 1979.  Cable brought many TV channels and viewing choices into American homes.


This TV Viewer project works best if page one is printed on heavier paper and pages 2 and 3 are printed on regular 20lb paper.  Students can use the blank page (page 3) to create a documentary about a historical event that happened in the second half of the 20th century (1950-2000).  Below are some suggestions of historical events from this time period.

Neil Armstrong Walks on the Moon, The Korean War, Disneyland Opens, Laika the Russian Dog Goes into Space, Segregation Ruled Illegal in the U.S., Brown v. Board of Education, The Freedom Riders Protest, Jim Crow Laws in the South, First Man on the Moon, Martin Luther King Jr. Gives “I Have a Dream” Speech, Vietnam War, Woodstock Music Festival, First Super Bowl, The Apollo 13 Mission, First Test-Tube Baby is Born, Terracotta Army Discovered in China, Tangshan Earthquake – Biggest Natural Disaster, Skylab Orbits the Earth, Berlin Wall Falls, Chernobyl Disaster, First Sheep Cloned, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, Mt. St. Helen’s Erupts, Persian Gulf War, People Fear Y2K Bug, World Trade Center Terrorist Attack

Wright Brothers’ Airplane

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The Wright Brothers

The Wright brothers are known for inventing and flying the first motorized airplane. 

There were 5 children in the Wright family.  Wilbur, the middle child, was born in 1867.  His brother Orville was born 4 years later, in 1871.  Their father was a traveling preacher who often brought small toys home for his children.  One of those toys was a model helicopter.  The boys were fascinated by the mechanics of the helicopter toy.

Wilbur was an excellent student who had planned to go to Yale University.  Unfortunately, he was severely injured while playing hockey.  He became so depressed that he never even finished high school.  The only sibling who attended college was their sister, Katherine.

In 1889, the brothers started their own newspaper.  They also opened a bicycle shop where they built and repaired bikes.  The brothers were interested in aviation.  They observed birds in flight.  Studying birds helped them develop a concept they called “wing-warping.”  They used their wing-warping idea and a moveable rudder to create a successful flying machine.

On December 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, they made their first flight in their flying machine.  Orville was the first to fly.  His flight lasted 12 seconds.  Wilbur was the pilot of the fourth flight which lasted for 59 seconds and went 852 feet.

Make the Wright Brothers’ Paper Airplane Craft.  Have a contest to see who can fly their plane the furthest.

Victorian Era Toy

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In the early 1800s, American children had very few toys.  Toys were given to children on special occasions, like Christmas or birthdays.  Toys were very expensive, so even rich kids only had a few of them.  Popular toys for wealthy children included rocking horses, doll houses, tea sets, toy soldiers, and train sets.   Toys with moving parts were extra special.  The Zoetrope was a spinning toy that made still pictures look like they were moving.  The kaleidoscope was a toy you could look through to see a design then twist or shake to make a new design.  Rich kids also had wind-up toys.  (Battery operated toys weren’t invented until the 1960s.)  

For kids who were not rich, toys were handmade by parents or other relatives.  Children from non-wealthy families had toys made from cloth and wood scraps.  There were cloth-peg dolls for the girls and wadded cloth kickballs for the boys.  Kites were also made from cloth.    Sometimes toys were whittled out of wood.  A spinning top, jump rope handles, or toy soldiers were carved from wood.  There were also moveable toys made from wood.  These toys didn’t have a motor or a key for winding.  They needed to be moved by hand. 

Because children had so few toys, they carefully guarded the ones they owned.


This “hungry chickens” toy is an example of a Victorian toy that a woodworker might have carved for a child. 

It works best if you print the pattern on cardstock paper or glue it onto posterboard.   If you want to make the toy look like it’s wooden, color it with crayons, then lightly paint over it with brown watercolor paint.  Let it dry before cutting out the parts and assembling them.

When and if your students complain about how boring this toy is, tell them to imagine this is the only toy they own.

3-D Sewing Sampler

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In the 1700s, girls learned basic sewing skills by making sewing samplers.  A sampler is made by stitching a strand of embroidery thread into a piece of fabric using a sewing needle.   The word sampler comes from a French word that means example.  The sampler was an example of a person’s sewing skills.  Sewing was a necessary skill during this time period.  Most families sewed their own clothes, bedding, and curtains.  Learning to sew well gave wealthy girls family pride.  It gave poor girls a chance to earn a living.

Cross-stitch is a type of hand sewing in which x-shaped stitches are used to form a pattern or picture.  It’s one of the easiest needlework stitches.  A cross-stitch picture requires planning.  The sewer has to count their stitches carefully to make sure the letters and numbers are the same height and are spaced equally.


In this activity, your students will use a paper grid to plan how they’d make cross-stitches to sew their name on a piece of needlepoint fabric.  (If you can provide an embroidery hoop, thread, and needle, each student can practice making the cross-stitches to form the first letter of their name.)  But just using the paper grid to plan how to stitch the letters will be difficult for many students.  They will get an idea of how hard it is to cross-stitch numbers, letters, and other shapes onto a piece of fabric.  When they complete the project, they’ll have a cool pop-up nametag to display on their desk.


There is no written documentation of who sewed the first flag.  But several relatives of Betsy Ross have testified to having heard family stories of the flag’s creation.  Betsy Ross was an upholsterer by trade.  It was not uncommon for upholsterers to be tasked with making flags.  Betsy Ross knew George Washington.  She’d sewn buttons on his jacket.  They also went to the same church.  No one else has come forward with claims about who created the first flag.  It was most likely Betsy Ross.

The colors of the flag are red (for valor and hardiness), white (for purity and innocence), and blue (for vigilance, perseverance, and justice).   The original 13 stars represented the 13 colonies.  They were sewn in a circle to signify that the colonies were equal in importance.

Colonial School Hornbook

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The families who settled in New England in the 1600 and 1700s wanted their children to be educated so they could read the Bible and participate in local town meetings.  Families did most of the teaching, but towns with 50 or more families had to, by law, provide a an elementary school, known then as a Dame School, for the children. 

The Dame School teacher was generally a woman who often taught from her home.  She taught boys and girls to read and write.  Each student had a hornbook.  The hornbook was a piece of wood shaped like a cutting board with a handle.  It had a transparent sheet of horn attached to the front to protect the lesson which was printed on parchment paper.  A strap of leather was attached to the handle, so students could hang the hornbook from their belt or wear it around their neck.  Each student was required to learn the alphabet, phonetic sound patterns, numbers, and the Lord’s Prayer.  Once you knew all of the information on the hornbook, you were done with Dame School.

After Dame School, girls stayed home to learn to cook and clean.  There were mothers who wanted their daughters to continue to learn, so they taught them at home.  Boys could go on to grammar school to learn Latin and to prepare for college, ministry, or law.  Families supported the schools with money, food, and firewood.  If your family couldn’t afford to help with the cost of school, you could still attend, but you had to sit in the back of the classroom.


This hornbook craft is definitely not a replica of the ones used in colonial times.  It’s the same shape and it has a lesson on both sides.  Side one includes the alphabet and some of the phonics patterns from the original hornbook.  It also has a story about the Pilgrims for your students to read.  The story was, of course, not part of the original hornbook.  The other side of the hornbook is a Mad Lib.  Also, obviously, not part of the original hornbook.

Your students can color their hornbooks, cut them out, and punch a hole in the handle.  They can attach a piece of yarn or ribbon and loop the hornbook around their belt.

Solar System Mobile

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Renaissance astronomers made many discoveries about our solar system.  From the time of the ancient Greeks, people believed that the Earth was at the center of the universe and all of the planets and stars, including the sun, revolved around our tiny planet.  But Renaissance astronomers used mathematical measurements and charted nightly observations to prove that wasn’t the case.  They measured the movements of the planets over time and learned that the planets were actually revolving around the sun.  Not many people believed them.  In fact, Galileo Galilei, was put on trial for sharing this idea. 

In 1543, Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, through observation and mathematical calculations, realized that the movement of the planets was better explained if the Earth and other planets moved around the sun.  He also noted that the Earth spins on an axis.

In 1571, 23 year old Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe, built his own observatory on an island in Denmark.  There he recorded his observations of the planets and the stars.  *Here’s some Brahe gossip that your students will love:  As a young man, Tycho Brahe got into a sword fight with a classmate.  The classmate accidentally cut off half of Tycho’s nose.  To cover the injury, Tycho Brahe glued a gold nose onto his face every morning.

In 1600, Johannes Kepler of Germany met Tycho Brahe and became his assistant.  Kepler applied mathematics to Brahe’s research.  This gave a clearer, more data driven, concept of how the planets moved in space.  Kepler is known for the three laws of planetary motion and his theory of the planets moving in elliptical orbits.

1n 1610, Italian astronomer, Galileo Galilei, improved the design of the telescope.  He used it to observe the craters on the moon.  He saw four of Jupiter’s moons.  And he noticed the oval rings around Saturn.  After studying the solar system for a long time, Galileo agreed with Copernicus—the Earth and the other planets were in orbit around the sun.  He wrote a book about the motion of the planets around the sun.  This theory was different from the belief long held by the Roman Catholic church—that the Earth was at the center of the universe.  They put Galileo on trial and locked him up.  He was 69 years old.


The Solar System Mobile craft is very easy to make.  It will give your students an idea of where the planets are in relation to the sun, the size of the planets compared to the sun, and the colors of the planets.  You can even have your students draw the moons (satellites) orbiting around each planet. 

We printed the sun on yellow paper and the solar system on purple paper.  This saved time on coloring.

Long-toed Shoes

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During the Gothic period, cities showed off their wealth by building giant fancy cathedrals.  People showed off their wealth by wearing fancy clothes and long-toed shoes.  It’s possible that the tall spires on the cathedrals inspired the long-toed shoes; known as Crakows because they originated in Krakow, Poland.  The shoes are also called poulaines.  Poulaine refers to the long pointed tip of the shoe. 

Cobblers were the shoemakers who made shoes for commoners and peasants.  It was the cordwainers who made shoes for the rich.  In those days, shoes were not made to fit each foot.  The left and right shoe were exactly the same.  The shoes were made of leather.  Rich people’s shoes had elaborate patterns and embroidery.  Everyone else wore plain leather shoes.  Because the shoes were made entirely of leather, they could easily be ruined if the wearer walked on a muddy road or stepped in a puddle.  To protect the soles of the shoes, people wore wooden patens under their shoes to keep them dry.  Patens were a flat piece of wood with two wedges of wood on the bottom.  People tied the patens on their feet, over their shoes, with leather straps.

The pointy-toed shoes were very impractical.  Sometimes the toe of the shoe was so long, the wearer had to stuff it with hair or moss to help it hold its shape.  

This long-toed shoes craft will give your students an idea of what it would be like to walk around in shoes with toes that are much longer than your foot.  It takes about fifteen minutes to color and assemble one shoe.  If you have time, you can have the kids make two shoes, but one is enough to experience the ridiculousness of wearing a shoe with a super long toe. 

For added fun, you can have a Gothic shoe fashion show.

Medieval Catapult

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A catapult is a medieval device used to hurl objects into and over castle walls.  Catapults were able to hurl 300 pound boulders as far as 1000 feet.  The big rocks would eventually break through castle walls so the opposing army could enter the castle.  But rocks weren’t the only things medieval armies hurled at castles.  Sometimes they loaded their catapult with buckets of hot tar to set fires inside the castle.  They also loaded the catapult with stinky garbage or diseased corpses to drive out the people who were in the castle.



The earliest known catapult was invented in ancient Greece by a man named Dionysius the Elder in 400 BCE.  He designed the catapult to operate like a giant crossbow.  Instead of using arrows as ammunition, his catapult shot sharpened logs.


The mangonel is a standard catapult with a long wooden arm and a bucket for flinging objects.  The mangonel could be as large as a truck, so it was built on wheels to make it easier to transport.


This catapult has a long wooden arm with a sling on one end and a counterweight on the other.  They were still used during WWI to launch projectiles over trenches.


The catapult craft isn’t a scientifically working catapult.  It will give students an idea of what the medieval catapults looked like.  After they’ve made their catapults, your students can use them to play launching game.  Set up an area where your students can launch their payload of pom-pons or crumpled paper balls into a cardboard box.  You can even decorate the box to look like a castle.

To make this craft you’ll need a large popsicle stick, a water bottle lid, a small rubber band and a 5” dowel for each student.  You’ll also need a hot glue gun to glue the bottle lid to the popsicle stick.  The craft works best when printed on cardstock paper.

Handwritten Book

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                 The printing press didn’t exist in the early Middle Ages, and yet, there are beautiful books from that time period.  The books of the early Middle Ages were made entirely by hand.  The pages were vellum or parchment made of specially treated animal skins.  Each page was handwritten in Latin, mostly by religious people; monks or nuns.  The pages were illustrated, decorated, and illuminated.  Illumination made the pages look like they were glowing.  To illuminate the artwork, the writer brushed on gold or silver leaf and bright mineral paints.  Finally, the book pages were stitched together and bound in a leather cover.  The books were stored in libraries of the European monasteries.  Hand-copying books was very time consuming.  Copying the bible took about 15 months.  But copying books was necessary to preserve knowledge.  Monks often traveled to other monasteries to copy the books from their libraries.


                 The Pied Piper of Hamelin is an ancient story, a legend, from the town of Hamelin, Germany.  The main character is called the Pied Piper because he is a musician who plays a pipe.  And the word pied means multicolored clothing.  No one knows exactly when the story was created, but there are a lot of theories about its origin.  Some people think it began as a story of hope.  During the Middle Ages, many towns were hit by terrible plagues that spread because of large rat populations.  It’s likely that a storyteller invented a tale of a magical man who had the ability to make the rats go away.  But the other aspect of the story, the moral, gives the story a meaning that applies today:  Keep your promises or something bad might happen.


The purpose of this craft is to give your students an idea of how time consuming and difficult it is to copy text onto blank unlined pages. You can decide how complicated you want the craft to be. Just doing the craft in the most basic way; the writing, layout, and stitching the pages together, will take at least an hour.

If you want to make the book look like it has a leather cover:  1.  Crumble a 10X13” piece of tissue paper.  Un-crumble it and spread it flat with your hands.  2.  Spread watered down school glue (1 part water + 1 part glue) on the book cover page with a paint brush.  3.  Lay the tissue paper over the glued book cover page.  Spread it flat with your hands.  4.  Sponge brown and black paint over the tissue paper.  5.  Let it dry.  Trim the excess tissue paper from the edges.

Greek Theater Mask

Ancient Greek Theater Masks Craft
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The ancient Greeks loved theater.  They had two theater festivals each year that lasted all day for three days.  Businesses were closed on festival days.  Everyone  was allowed to attend — even prisoners and women.  The plays were performed in large outdoor theaters.  There were two kinds of plays: comedies and tragedies.  The comedies made fun of everyday people and politics.  The tragedies dealt with serious subjects like war.  The actors wore tall boots and heavy robes to make themselves larger than life.  They also wore large masks that were created to give the audience an idea of their character’s age and personality.  The masks had funnel-shaped mouths to amplify the actor’s voice.  


The earliest Greek plays included a large chorus and dealt with the lives of gods and goddesses.

Aeschylus (525-456 BC) He reduced the size of the chorus and made bigger parts for individual characters.

Euripides (484-406 BC) He introduced characters with recognizable problems and personalities.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) He built suspense in his tragedies.

Aristophanes (450-388 BC) His comedies poked fun at the politics and people of the time.

In 320 BC the architect, Polykleitos, built a theater that could seat 13,000 people.  Everyone in the audience had an equal view of the performers.  The sound quality was amazing.  Plays are still performed there today.


Greek theater masks were made of cloth, covered in plaster, then colored.  If you want to make this craft seem as if it were made using this technique, you can have your students scribble horizontal and vertical lines over the mask using a white crayon.  Then have them brush over the mask with watercolor paint.  They can paint the mask parts page in the same way.  Just remember to have them dab the excess water off of their paper so it won’t wrinkle.  Wait for the mask and parts to dry before cutting out the pieces.