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The companion teacher guide for the Museum's Timeline of the American Revolution features a variety of activities of different lengths to help students learn about the Revolutionary era and the ongoing Revolution using historical objects, documents, and timelines. 

Notes for Teachers
Ensure students have access to computers, tablets, or other devices with a working internet connection to access the Timeline of the American Revolution. The Timeline can also be downloaded onto computers and other personal devices.

Content Warning: This Timeline of the American Revolution, like the Museum’s collection, includes a variety of 18th-century weapons, including firearms. These objects can invite comparisons to and/or discussions of contemporary issues. Please use your discretion and understanding of your students and community when introducing and using this resource with your students.

Protest

PROTEST IN THE PAST AND PRESENT: “WILKES AND LIBERTY” MUG
Engagement,10 minutes, Pride and Protest
Ask students what the word “protest” means. What forms does protest take today? What types of ideas are commonly protested? Then, project or display the “Wilkes and Liberty” Mug or allow students time to examine and read its description on their personal devices. Engage them in conversation around the following questions:

  • How did people use this mug to protest British policies?
  • Are there similar forms of protest using similar objects today?

Conclude by asking students why objects can be important tools for a protest movement.  

NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION: STAMP ACT STAMP
Development, 40 minutes, Pride and Protest
Project or display the Stamp Act Stamp or allow students time to examine and read its description on their personal devices. Ask students why the colonists were so upset with this tax? Then, play the video. Afterwards, assign students to further research the Stamp Act in class or as homework in order to produce a pamphlet or political cartoon as if they were a colonist in 1765 protesting the Stamp Act using the phrase “no taxation without representation.”

Display the pamphlets and cartoons around the classroom. Allow students time to walk around the room to view their classmates’ work. Afterwards, engage students in conversation around the following questions:

  • What do you think was making the colonists more upset — the Stamp Act Tax or the fact that they were not represented in Parliament?
  • Why was representation so important to the colonists? Why is it important today?

Loyalists

SYMBOLS OF LOYALTY: THE GR CHAMBER POT
Engagement,10-15 minutes, Pride and Protest
Project or display the GR Chamber Pot or allow students time to examine and read its description on their personal devices. Once students have had time to observe the object, engage them in conversation around the following questions:

  • What do you notice about the object?
  • What are 2-5 details that you find interesting on the object?
  • What do you think the GR symbolizes?
  • What do you think this object was used for?

Then, play the video. Note that students may challenge the idea that the GR Chamber Pot actually demonstrates a fondness or loyalty to the British Monarch, given its function. Consider also showing them the array of everyday objects with British signs and symbols on them in the “Rule Brittania” gallery of the Museum’s virtual tour to reinforce that many/most colonists were fond of the British Monarchy prior to the Revolutionary War.

Afterwards, engage students in a conversation around the following questions:

  • What does this object tell us about the diversity of political opinions and loyalties in British North America during the Revolutionary War?
  • Do you think some colonists continued to use objects with symbols like the one on the chamber pot during the Revolutionary War? Which groups of people would use it?
  • Is there anyone you admire so much that you would put their name or an image of them on your chamber pot (toilet)?
  • Do we still place names, signs, and symbols on objects we own and use to show affection for a person, group, or idea in a similar way today?

TWO SIDES OF AN ARGUMENT: THOMAS PAINE’S COMMON SENSE AND JAMES CHALMERS’ PLAIN TRUTH
Development, 40-45 minutes, War and Independence
Begin by asking students why it is important to understand both sides of an argument. Have students suggest an example of a situation they can think of where this is/ was the case. Project or display Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and James Chalmers’ Plain Truth or allow students time to examine and read its description on their personal devices. Then, show students the video.

Afterwards, engage students in a conversation around the following questions:

  • Why do you think both Common Sense and Plain Truth were published in one book?
  • How would an understanding of both sides of American colonists’ feelings towards the King and Parliament help people in both the colonies and England understand the conflict better?
  • Why do you think many colonists chose to remain loyal to the King?
  • What are some reasons why this might have been a difficult decision to make?
  • What feelings might those who made the decision to remain loyal to the British Empire have experienced.

Afterwards, assign students to find two opposing sides of a current argument in a newspaper or on a website. Then ask students:

  • What was the importance of learning both sides of the argument?
  • Did this activity change or deepen your understanding of the issue in any way? 
  • Think about your experience and relate that to the experiences of people living in the Revolutionary era. How might being exposed to differing perspectives have impacted people’s decision-making in the Revolutionary era? How easy or hard do you think it was to make decisions about the Revolution?

EXTEND: Provide students with time to research some of the arguments and counter-arguments made within Common Sense and Plain Truth, and then debate their merits.

Kids & Teens

REVOLUTIONARY WAR TOYS
Engagement, 5-10 minutes, An Ongoing Revolution
Project or display the Revolutionary War Toy Set or allow students time to examine and read its description on their personal devices. Engage students in conversation around the following questions:

  • Why do people create toys about the Revolutionary War and other historic events?
  • How are the toys in this set similar to and different from toys children play with today?
  • If you were asked to create a toy about the American Revolution, would you choose to make one that highlighted the war, like this toy set, or would you choose to make one that highlighted life during the colonial or Revolutionary Era? Why?

KIDS AND TEENS, THEN AND NOW
Development, 40-45 minutes, entire Timeline
Guide the students in using the Filter feature of the Timeline to narrow the list of objects down to those tagged “Kids & Teens.” Allow students individually or in groups to observe and read about the objects and documents. Afterwards, engage students in conversation around the following questions:

  • Would someone your age use any similar objects today or be affected by any of the documents?
  • If not, what accounts for the differences (how have things changed since the Revolutionary era)?

Ask students to consider whether someone their age would use a similar object today or if any of the documents bear similarities or connections to ones that exist today. Why or why not? Have them present their findings to the class.

Native Americans

WHAT IF?
Research Project, War and Independence
Begin by asking students what side they believe Native Americans supported in the Revolutionary War. Ask them to explain their reasoning.

Then, show students the video on the Letter about a Council with Native Americans primary source (found in the War and Independence section). Engage students in conversation around the following questions:

  • What are some reasons Native Americans would have wanted to stay neutral in the Revolutionary War?
  • What are some reasons they might have chosen to support the British? The Revolutionaries? 
    Note: The teacher resource guide for Liberty: Don Troiani’s Paintings of the Revolutionary War Unit 5 provides further support for answering these questions.

Afterwards, assign students individually or in groups one of the following Native American nations mentioned that attended the council (Mohawk, Cayugas, Senecas, Munsee, and Nanticoke).

Have them research their assigned nation’s role in the Revolutionary War and how the war might have been different if the treaty at Easton in 1777 had not been broken. How might the lives of the members of these nations have been different? Students can present their findings in a written research paper, video, PowerPoint, Canva, Prezi, tri-fold poster, or other creative means. 

People of African Descent

PHILLIS WHEATLEY’S WORDS
Engagement, 10-15 minutes, Pride and Protest
Project or display the Phillis Wheatley Poetry Book or allow students time to examine and read its description on their personal devices. Then, show the video. Afterwards, engage students in conversation around the following questions:

  • Why did the Wheatley family choose the name Phillis? How do you think this affected her throughout her life?
  • Why do you think she signed the book of poems?
  • How might different groups of people have viewed her poems in the years before the Revolutionary War?

ONA JUDGE’S DECISION
Development, 40-45 minutes, A New Nation
Project or display the Chamber Door Handle or allow students time to examine and read its description on their personal devices.

Afterwards, engage students in conversation around the following questions:

  • Who are some of the people or types of people who would have engaged with this object?
  • What sorts of events and everyday activities might have taken place inside the house where this door handle was used?

Afterwards, explain to students that among the nine enslaved people living and working in the President’s House was a young woman by the name of Ona, referred to by the Washington family as “Oney,” who worked as Martha Washington’s housemaid. Then, project or display the following primary source, a runaway ad for Oney Judge placed by an agent working for George Washington.

Engage students in conversation around the following questions:

  • What type of document is this?
  • Who would have placed this ad and why?
  • What risks and rewards do you think Ona Judge considered when she made her decision to seek her freedom?
  • What feelings and emotions do you think Ona Judge experienced when she escaped from the President’s House?
  • How do you think Ona Judge might have interacted with the chamber door handle on the day that she left?

End the activity by asking students to write a diary entry from the point of view of the door handle witnessing Ona’s escape.

EXTEND: Show students the following virtual walking tour video to learn more about Ona Judge and her escape from the President’s House. Engage them in discussion around the accompanying questions.

RAPPAHANNOCK FORGE MUSKET AND THE WAR EFFORT
Development, 40-45 minutes, War and Independence
Engage students in conversation around the following questions:

  • What does a country need in order to fight in a war?
  • How can people who are not directly involved in fighting contribute to the war effort?
  • What groups of people besides soldiers would have contributed to the war effort during the Revolutionary War?

Then, project or display the Rappahannock Forge Musket or allow students time to examine and read its description on their personal devices. Ask them who they think made the musket, since it was not made in a mechanized factory. Then, show them the video.

Engage students in conversation around the following questions:

  • What group of people made the musket?
  • How do you think an enslaved person felt about making the musket since they most often had no choice?
  • Some enslaved people supported the Revolutionary cause and others did not. How might this have affected their work in producing muskets like the Rappahannock Forge Musket?
  • What are other ways enslaved people might have contributed to the war effort?

Soldiers on Both Sides

MUG MEMORIES: JOSHUA WARREN’S REDWARE MUG
Engagement, 5-10 minutes, War and Independence
Ask students what objects people commonly carry with them when they go on a trip. Then ask them what they think Continental Army soldiers carried with them in their knapsack while on campaign. Write the list on the board. Then project or display Joshua Warren’s Redware Mug or allow students time to examine and read its description on their personal devices. Engage students in conversation around the following questions: 

  • What is this object? How do you know?
  • Why do some objects change drastically over time while others stay the same?
  • How would the items in your backpack compare to items found in Joshua Warren’s? Why might some be similar? Why might others be different?

EXTEND: Allow students to explore the Museum’s Sergeant John Hawkins’ Lost Pack Discovery Cart and Camp Followers Discovery Cart to see examples of what men and women carried with them as part of the army.

A SIMILAR SOLDIER’S TIMELINE
Development, 40-45 minutes, entire Timeline
Break the class into two groups: Continental Soldier and British Soldier. Using the Timeline, have students create a timeline with only objects that their soldier would have used. Have students present their timeline to the other group.

Afterwards, engage students in conversation around the following questions:

  • How similar were the objects between the two groups?
  • What experiences might these soldiers have had in common?
  • Does thinking about the experiences of soldiers on the opposing side shape how you view them? Should it? Why or why not? 

HESSIAN HEADGEAR DISCOVERY
Development, 40-45 minutes, War and Independence
Project or display the Hessian Headgear or allow students time to examine it on their own devices. Tell them this is an example of a type of headgear (a cap, hat, or other head covering) worn by a group of soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Using the zoom in function, show students the symbols found on the headgear.

Engage students in a conversation around the following questions and prompts:

  • Describe the headgear (shape, size, material, texture)
  • Why might a soldier have worn this on his head?
  • What do you think the symbols on the hat stood for?
  • What group of soldiers do you think wore this hat? • Does this seem like a sensible piece of clothing for a soldier to wear? Why or why not?

Then have students watch the video on the Hessian Headgear within its Object Detail Page. Afterwards, engage students in conversation around the following questions:

  • How close were your observations?
  • How do you think a Hessian soldier felt when he put on the headgear?
  • How might the headgear have differentiated soldiers  on the battlefield?
  • Does the idea of a soldier wearing this object make more sense after watching the video? Did it make more sense during the Revolutionary era than it does now?
  • Why is it important to withhold judgment about decisions people made in historical eras until we’ve gathered information about what their lives were like?

More activities on Hessian Soldiers can be found in the Liberty: Don Troiani’s Paintings of the Revolutionary War teacher resource guide.

EXTEND: Have your students make their own Hessian cap or headgear using this craft activity.

Women

WOMEN AND THE WAR EFFORT: REBECCA FLOWER YOUNG AD
Engagement, 5-10 minutes, War and Independence
Project or display the Rebecca Flower Young Ad or allow students time to examine and read its description on their personal devices. Engage students in conversation around the following questions:

  • What is Rebecca Flower Young selling? The word colors refers to flags)
  • Why were these items she produced important to the war effort?
  • Is this ad surprising? Why or why not? What does it tell us about women’s involvement in the war effort?

REMEMBER THE LADIES
Development, 40-45 minutes, entire Timeline
Using the filter function, have students create a timeline on the participation of women in the war using at least 10 objects/documents that women likely used or documents that they may have been affected by.

Then, have students individually, or in a group, pick two of the objects to focus on and answer the following question: What did your objects/documents tell you about the role of women during the war? Have each student or group present their findings to the class. Then engage students in conversation around the following questions:

  • What conclusions can you draw about the role and experiences of women during the American Revolution?
  • What other objects and documents might reveal more about the experiences and involvement of women in the American Revolution?
  • Are there similar objects/documents that we use today?

EXTEND: Have students use the Museum of the American Revolution’s virtual tour to find more objects and documents that reveal the story of women during the American Revolution. More activities on women and the American Revolution can be found in the Liberty: Don Troiani’s Paintings of the Revolutionary War teacher resource guide.

A FEMALE SOLDIER: DEBORAH SAMPSON AND THE FEMALE REVIEW
Development, 40-45 minutes, War and Independence
Ask students if they think women were allowed to become soldiers during the Revolutionary War and have them explain their reasoning. If they think women were not allowed to serve as soldiers, what options would they have had if they still wanted to become one. 

Project or display the book, The Female Review, or have students examine it on their personal devices. Have them examine the visible pages, read the description and details, and then watch the video together as a class.

Afterwards, engage them in conversation around the following questions:

  • Why would Herman Mann choose to overemphasize and make up some parts of Sampson’s story? 
  • If you were Herman Mann, what stories about  Deborah Sampson’s wartime experiences would you choose to include in the book?
  • How might these stories have helped Deborah Sampson obtain a pension?
  • Why do you think this book became popular?
  • Are there similar stories today that spark the public’s attention?
  • If you could ask Deborah Sampson three questions about her experiences, what would they be? 

George Washington

PUT A PRESIDENT ON IT!
Engagement, 10-15 Minutes, A New Nation
Begin by asking students where they do and don’t expect to find political symbols in their day-to-day life. After a brief discussion, project or display the George Washington Toby Jug or allow students time to examine and read its description on their personal devices. Engage them in conversation around the following questions:

  • How is this object celebrating George Washington? Have you ever seen anything like it before?
  • Why would this object have been created when it was? Why would someone choose to own one?
  • Do you decorate your property with images or pictures of people or groups of people that you like or respect?
  • Who would you create a replica jug to celebrate? (Have students vote on the class favorite!)

ARTS CONNECTION: Have students work with modeling clay or other material to create a jug of a historical or contemporary figure that they would want to celebrate, then display around the classroom and conduct an “art walk” so that students can discuss their creations with one another.

WASHINGTON INAUGURAL BUTTON
Engagement, 10-15 Minutes, A New Nation
Project or display the Washington Inaugural Button or allow students time to examine and read its description on their personal devices. Explain that an inauguration is when a president is sworn into office. Allow students time to observe the button and then consider the following questions: 

  • What message does this button send about George Washington? About the new nation?
  • What message does this button send about the wearer?
  • Why did people commemorate Washington’s inauguration then? Why do we commemorate certain events today?
  • How do we choose these people/events that are honored or remembered?

EXTEND: Have students pick their favorite president or other political figure and create an inaugural button for them. 

MOURNING PRESIDENT WASHINGTON
Development, 40-45 minutes, A New Nation
Project or display the Mourning President Washington painting or allow students time to examine and read its description on their personal devices. Engage students in conversation around the following questions:

  • What symbols and phrases do you see? What do they mean and why do you think the artist included them?
  • What are the two people in the painting doing? Why do you think they were included in the scene?
  • How does this image show the mood of the country after Washington’s death in 1799? Do you think that everybody felt this way? Why or why not?
  • Why do people mourn political leaders?

Have students find other images of the country mourning presidents upon their death in the 20th and 21st century. Assign students to write about:

  • How these images compare to the mourning picture of George Washington.
  • What these images tell us about the national mood at the time and/or the time period in which they were produced.

An International War

BEYOND THE BRITISH EMPIRE: AN INTERNATIONAL WAR 
Engagement, 10-15 minutes, entire Timeline
Have students browse the Timeline using the filter Beyond the British Empire. Have them find five objects and place them on the timeline using the My Timeline feature. Engage students in conversation around the following questions:

  • What nations does this object have connections to? What are those connections?
  • Does this object serve as evidence that the Revolutionary War was an international war? Why or why not?

EXTEND: Have students mark locations on a map, or create a map of their own, illustrating international connections to the American Revolution.

THE FRENCH INVOLVEMENT 
Engagement, 5-10 minutes, War and Independence
Project or display the French Gorget or allow students time to examine and read its description on their personal devices. Engage students in conversation around the following questions and prompts, revealing answers to the questions based on its description after allowing students the opportunity to discuss:

  • Make observations about the object (size, shape, material(s), weight, color, symbols, etc.).
  • What might this object have been used for? What do you see that makes you say that?
  • Who may have worn this object and why might they have worn it? Do the symbols on the object and/or the material it’s made from provide any clues?
  • How does this object help prove that the Revolutionary War was an international war?

EXTEND: Have students research the role of France in the Revolutionary War and afterwards, form them into opposing teams to engage in a debate over the following statement: The French played a significant role in the United States’ victory in the Revolutionary War. Students can begin their exploration using the Museum’s Revolution Around the World post featuring France.

LAFAYETTE RETURNS 
Development, 40-45 minutes, An Ongoing Revolution
After learning about the Marquis de Lafayette, explain to students that 2024 is the 200th anniversary of the Marquis de Lafayette’s return to the United States which was welcomed with parades and celebrations. Ask students why they think the return of Lafayette in 1824 was so important to the new nation.

Then, project or display the Lafayette Parade Banner or allow students time to examine and read its description on their personal devices before watching the accompanying video. Engage students in conversation around the following questions:

  • What are 2-5 details that you found interesting on the parade banner?
  • What symbols were featured on the parade banner?
  • What was the importance of the Liberty Cap?
  • Why do you think Lafayette was so celebrated in 1824?
  • How did these celebrations highlight the importance of the French involvement in the Revolutionary War?

Have students create a banner to celebrate the 2024 return of Marquis de Lafayette focusing on the relationship between the United States and France in 1824 and today.

GLOBAL TRADE: PAST AND PRESENT  
Development, 40-45 minutes, entire Timeline
Either individually or in small groups, have students choose one object or document from each of the four Timeline themes that was produced or published in another country. For each object, have students answer the following:

  • Where was this object produced?
  • How do you think it got to North America?
  • What does this object tell us about life in North America?
  • What clues does it give us about the culture where it was produced?

After answering the above, select several students to share some of their findings. Then, engage the class in a discussion around the following questions:

  • How can trade between different nations and cultures be helpful? What challenges might trade between different nations create? For whom and why?
  • How is global trade during the Revolutionary era and today the same? How is it different?

EXTEND: Have students place their object on a world map.

Weapons & Firearms

FIREARMS, THEN AND NOW 
Development, 40-45 minutes, entire Timeline
Teacher preparation: Prepare copies of the Firearms, Then and Now worksheet to distribute individually or in groups.

Have students locate the following weapons on the Timeline of the American Revolution in order to complete the worksheet:

  • New Jersey Musket (Pride and Protest)
  • John Christian Oerter Rifle (War and Independence)
  • French Musket (War and Independence)
  • Rappahannock Forge Muskets (War and Independence)

Once students have completed the worksheet, engage students in conversation around the following questions:

  • What similarities did you find between the weapons? Differences?
  • How did examining the symbols on each weapon help in understanding its use?
  • Who owned the weapons? What were they designed to be used for?
  • How have weapons changed since the Revolutionary era? How have they remained the same?
  • How can these observations about weapons in the past and present inform our conversations about weapons today?

Learn More

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Timeline Teacher Resources

View the companion teacher guide for the Museum's Timeline of the American Revolution that features a variety of activities to help students learn about the Revolutionary era and the ongoing Revolution.
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A desktop computer showing the Timeline of the American Revolution with a succulent and mug next to the computer
 
Timeline

Timeline of the American Revolution

Explore the history of the American Revolution through objects, artifacts, and documents from the Museum's collection that were there.
Explore the Timeline
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For Students & Educators

Engage your students with the dramatic story of America's Founding with our in-person, in-class, homeschool, and virtual learning resources.
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