Puzzles are messy. You start with a pile of mixed up pieces and begin framing the whole picture. This week, our puzzle frame started with the first settlement at Jamestown followed by the inside pieces of the puzzle that contained sprawling lush plantations, stately manor homes, colonial shops and trades, and the early government of the Virginia colony.
Today, we were fortunate to have our great National Park tour guide from Jamestown Settlement join us to engage our fifth graders with the final battle of the American Revolution. Our visit to Yorktown, where Lord Cornwallis surrendered to Commander-In-Chief of the Allied Forces George Washington, was the final piece. And it was messy… from the cramped living spaces (like six men to a tiny tent) to the barbaric medicinal practices (like crude dental tools and poor diagnoses), to harsh punishments for even simple crimes and to extreme weather.
He highlighted how winning America’s independence from the British was a result of a number of “puzzle” pieces that came together for the Americans. One piece was the fact that we benefited from cannons that shot further than the British, which our guide and one of our fifth graders demonstrated using a ping pong ball and baseball. We proved that heavier cannonballs simply traveled further. Another piece was the outbreak of smallpox amongst British troops during this battle, which Washington wisely used to his advantage.
Another interesting piece of the puzzle related to how the Americans used the ravine between the infamous redoubts 9 and 10. This had been a mystery to park rangers and historians for over a hundred years, until a fifth grader on a school field trip a number of years ago made an observation that noted historians had never made. Our park ranger started on Monday by encouraging us to explore the mysteries and investigate the stories for ourselves. He ended our week on Friday with how a child their own age did just that. Hopefully, it inspires our children to continue to ask questions, make connections, and complete the puzzle.
We completed the day by inserting the few last pieces to our colonial puzzle – visiting a couple of final trade shops in Williamsburg, doing a bit of shopping, and eating one more fabulous meal together. The group has had an amazing educational trip full of bonding, discovery, learning and making memories… and now we are all very ready to come home! We cannot wait to share our stories!
by Chris Lemieux & Susan Reudelhuber, parent bloggers