Thursday, March 24, 2011

Curriculum Resource: US Civil War Games

We are currently studying the US Civil War in our history studies, which is such an important but grim topic.  Fortunately, there are so many great resources to use in this area, especially since this year is the beginning of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.

There are lots of excellent media-heavy and/or interactive resources on the subject that you can find online. Here are some that are appropriate to the middle school age that we are using to cover some of this material is a less depressing way.

  • The Smithsonian Institute has created a Civil War mystery game called Who Am I?  The game starts with a portion of a photograph of a real Civil War era person.  You are given a clue as to the person's role, and then choose which of the civil war items from the Smithsonian' collection might have been used by that person.  Once you have selected the right accessories, you get to see the entire photograph and learn the identity and role of that individual during the War
  • The Smithsonian has also created some lesson plans and activities entitled Full Steam to Freedom, which deals with one slave's daring escape that gave the Union control of a Confederate ship.  While the lesson is really geared to an elementary school level, it is an awesome story, PLUS it contains a fun, physically-active game (which you can download here) to simulate the Union blockade and Confederate blockade-runners.
  • There are quite a few online Civil War simulation games, but we're really not interested in doing that.  However, Big Fish Games has an online game named Hidden Treasure:  Civil War that seems more our speed.  It involves searching key Civil War locations to find hidden treasure and learn more about some people involved in a secret society to support the Union.  I'm not sure how educational it really is, but it may reinforce some Civil War facts in a more fun way.   You can play it for free for one hour, and then costs $9.99 to download the full version (or if you are new to Big Fish, you can buy it for $4.99, at least right now).  I think we'll try it an hour and see how it goes....
  • If you would like some battle simulations, but don't want all the sensory input of those online games, I would recommend checking out Junior General.  On this site, you print out maps, grids, cards, etc., and use those paper items in fighting your battles.   I think that can make it a little easier for those of us with more sensitive students.
  • They don't really count as games, because they are actually just animated quizzes, but there are several of the ever-popular Fling the Teacher modules available for the US Civil War.  Here is one that covers more of the entire time spectrum and is a little easier; this one focuses just on the Civil War and requires some more detailed knowledge.  There are also a couple of Walk the Plank quizzes (which are similar to Fling the Teacher); one is on the Civil War, while another is about Abraham Lincoln
As always, if there are any other great resources out there for this age group, please share them with us in the comments below.

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