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Lesson Plan - Life in Colonial America


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Life in Early Colonial America:

From Logs to Living


A Lesson Design Plan for Fifth and Sixth Grade Children

       A two-lesson plan to explore the settling of Colonial America through construction of log building models


Lesson Background



Subject - Elementary History

Topic -  Early Colonial America: Log Home Construction / Lesson One

Grade Level - 5th and 6th grade 



Note: The first lesson takes this project up to the completion of the log home and general store models. The second lesson in this series (included elsewhere) completes the overall model through construction of the surrounding scenery of a New England landscape.

Lesson Length – One Hour and Fifteen Minutes



“The teaching is not for the sake of knowledge as such; it is solely to produce a specific effect in practical life. What is important is the effect, not the knowledge.”


– Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad-Gita: A New Translation and Commentary 



Discipline Wholeness of the Lesson:


By creating a colonial-era home and general store, using methods and materials simulated from constructions of the time, students will understand the concerns and reponsiblities of new settlers in America.



"Science of Creative Intelligence" Wholeness Point:

 “The whole is more than the sum of it's parts.”

To experience firsthand the creation of a home from numerous parts is to discover wholeness emerging from a myriad of diverse activities - sawing, assembling, securing, etc.



 Main Points:

  Children will understand the mingling roles and relationships of new settlers.


  Children will experience the hands-on activity and sense of accomplishment involved in the creation of a log home model.


  Children will experience for themselves, as did the early settlers, the pride and freedom of home ownership with the cooperation of an altruistic society.


Objectives of the Learning:

   The basic needs of each member of society can be filled when all members share their skills and creative intelligence, as was practiced in Colonial America. By the group practice of the "skill" of transcending during the TM program, harmony is spread at the most basic level of society.  


  It is possible to build something much bigger than ourselves, such as a home or a store: we simply start … and Nature supports our intentions. In the practice of the TM-Sidhi program, we experience the impossible becoming an everyday experience – the accomplishment of Yogic Flying!


   A new country or a new world begins with new hope. Hope is the faith that the heart feels in the mind’s ability to accomplish its dreams. And hope is also the confidence of the mind in the skill of the heart -- to bring life to ultimate safety in the experience of pure self-referral, the state of Unity Consciousness.




A constructivist learning approach is employed in this submergence learning activity. Hands-on creation of Colonial American log home models is accompanied by guided inquiry of the teacher. The natural environment and the communal elements of life in early Colonial America are discussed and are even role-paled during this ambitious project.



Maharishi Principles of Teaching – "Receptivity"


"Supply frequent and varied opportunities for students to enjoy, apply and otherwise experience the meaning behind the concepts they learn.”



Teaching Strategies:


Large group reflective thinking is used in discussing the colonial-era occupations that might have assisted in home building. Small group work (three to four students per "sub-project" area) is the strategy used during construction of the buildings, mortar and roof (and later the furniture and the scenery). Students may transfer as needed or desired between projects. These simultaneous small group projects then come together in the final phase, as in a colonial-era "home-raising" endeavor,  to create our finished model.



Multiple Intelligences and Differentiation:


  Children of many expressive modes will enjoy this educational activity. The socially adept (interpersonal) child will like to learn of the occupations and roles of society and perhaps to model them during home construction. The artistic, spatially-adept child will enjoy planning and decorating the home. The mathematical or scientific thinkers in the class will have fun measuring and assembling the model home and one other colonial structure.


     Children of restricted learning skill will find the systematic procedure of assembly of a small log home encouraging to their abilities. Sighted and non-sighted students will find the sawing and assembly of cardboard logs exciting.



National Standards for Social Studies (NCSS) 


       "Students of the fifth grade will take part in “authentic activities … that call for real-life applications using the skills and content of the field.” This activity will require “reflective thinking and decision-making as events unfold during instruction.” 


     "The subject matter of fifth grade social studies curriculum will “integrate knowledge, skills, beliefs, values and attitudes to action. It integrates across topics and curriculum, and across time and space.”



Special Application of Vedic Knowledge of Architecture:


Building of safe shelter for humanity is a project that unifies all mankind. It finds its fulfillment in the safety from disease and misfortune that Maharishi Sthapatya Ved design offers to each prospective homeowner.



Lesson Beginning





In our review we will discuss some of the characteristics of life and environment in Colonial America that new settlers encountered. We will also examine some of the occupations of a colonial village that were associated with early home building, including:


    Lumber Jack (cuts logs) and Sawyer (creates lumber)

     Carpenter / Cabinetmaker (home construction and furniture-making)

    Blacksmith (created spikes for home-building)

    Plasterer (mortar preparation)

    Glazier (installed windows)

    Locksmith (locks and handles installed)

   Cooper (maker of barrels for rain collection and food storage)   

    Millwright (builder of mills, incl. saw mills)

    Bricklayer (for later colonial homes)      



Introductory Focus:


“Let’s close our eyes for one minute. Let’s imagine that we are settlers, just arriving on a ship coming from England. Our first need, when we arrive at our new plot of land is to create shelter for ourselves. Along with a few neighbors, whom we later assist in the same way, we begin to build our family a log cabin.”



Motivation Step:


“Let’s open our eyes, now. Looking at this picture of a log cabin, let’s decide what materials we would need in order to build it. Let’s also decide who in our village will help us get these materials, and what people could help us build our home.”


“Now let’s build our home and one more log structure that we might visit on a regular basis in our colonial village.”



Suggested Buildings for Construction:


     General Store   


Lesson Development




       Cardboard picture of a log cabin, for discussion and (partial) reference

   White glue

       Small saws (see Figure One)

       Flour and salt modeling dough (see “Mortar” below)

       Bamboo barbecue skewers (replaces Colonial era “spikes” for securing corners and logs)

        2" x 4" wood sections for use as cutting blocks (secure to desks with strong tape)

      Wooden spoons / Plastic plaster trowels, various widths / palettes or squares of cardboad for use as plaster holders while applying mortar

   Pliers with a wire-snipping edge 

   Clear tape or plastic wrap

   Paper figurine cut-out book of Colonial American settlers




Teacher should laminate sections of cardboard with corrugation moving in the same direction. A scrolling line of glue is sufficient.


Cut “log sections” out of cardboard panels. Cut logs two inches wide, plus the full length of each side of both buildings. Length should include the overhang at both ends of log, as seen in Figure Two.


Cut roof panel and tiles (see "Student Procedures" below)


Collect natural elements such as gravel, sand, decorative rock and pinecones for next day's landscaping project


Set up desks into workshop mode, including taping wooden 2" x 4" to tables as cutting blocks


Distribute materials strategicaly into work station areas for each sub-project. Create: roof assembly, wall assembly, mortar mixing and furniture-making stations



Student Procedures and Activities:


Notch bottom left and bottom right of each log section as shown in Figure Two. The notch indent is 2 times the thickness of the tri-layered cardboard logs. Thus, log ends overhang the corners of the buildings, as shown in Figure ThreeNotch height is one half of the width of the log: a layer of two notched logs "dovetail" at each corner.


Mix mortar: 

3 cups flour

1 cup salt

1 cup water (to begin with)

Allow children to experiment for an ideal consistency (wet but still sticky) of mortar by adding extra water to above dough mixture. Mix and knead well. Use cardboard palettes and spreading tools to apply mortar to top of logs when ready (Figure Three).


Assemble logs utilising notched ends of logs, mortar and bamboo skewers. Long skewers should be placed at corners of buildings and half

way along the length of the wall (one long segment, plus short segments

as needed), especially between future door and window (Figure Two).

Allow students to trim skewers to length using wire-snipping pliers,

after last row is applied (see below).


Slide log sections down over the skewers to begin construction from

bottom layer to top layer. Apply mortar thickly then squeeze it slightly

(to about 1/4 inch thickness) as logs come together. Let extra mortar

dry naturally, or use a small tool to trim it away, depending upon the

desired finish look.


Hold structure firmly "with many hands" as teacher cuts out door and

windows. Optional tool -- a serated steak knife, used carefully -- works

best. Apply shingles to roof with white glue as in Figure Four.


Set roof on top of walls, using spare cardboard to create four small

stopping blocks (2" by 2") on inside of roof panel. These allow roof to

remain free-standing, for easy removal and viewing of interior of cabin



Apply clear tape or plastic wrap carefully to window spaces (from inside)

as "glass panes".






Fulfillment and Closure


Welcome the class into their new home and village!


“Today, we have created a log cabin in much the same way as the early settlers of America did. Do you like your new log home and your general store? Does it make you feel happy to know that you created it?”


Ask what would be nice to have inside and outside these structures. Discuss the point that many families in early Colonial America built their own furniture, until they could afford to purchase items from stores or craftsmen. Does the class think that they could build some furniture tomorrow for their homes, church or store? Discuss the natural environment of New England -- mountains and trees -- and introduce materials for tomorrow's landscaping project.





On-going assessment is the best tool for this classroom project, since all children will be naturally inspired to be a part of the creation of their home. Students will be assessed upon their level of participation, regardless of their "competency" in constructing their log buildings. Their knowledge of occupations in Colonial Society will be the second element for on-going assessment. A short post-

exercise, created from the list above, in naming the occupations that each child has role-played during the activity of house-raising is beneficial and fun.


The satisfaction that results from individual effort combining in a grand group participation should be one of the primary grading points for this project -- as they would have been for a successful life in Colonial America.





Send paper figures home for children to cut out as stand-up models (permanent or movable) in final display. Children should each bring two food items – spices, staples, etc. – that will fit into general store “apothecary” jars the next day.




Knowledge is the basis of Action; Action leads to achievement; 

Achievement brings Fulfillment  ~



(From the teachings of

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi)