Activity-based learning gives students an opportunity to use hands-on instruction to fully understand a subject. Constructing a battlefield, such as the one at Gettysberg in July 1863 with paper mache, will peak a child's intellectual curiosity and motivate him to learn about famous battles, such as the Civil War.
Place the plywood vertically on a table. North will be at the top. Map the city of Gettysburg 1/3 down from the top, Oak hill just to the north of Gettysburg, Culp's Hill southeast of the Gettysburg, Little Round Top 1/3 from the bottom, Big Round Top just south of Little Round top, Devil's Den east of Little Round Top, Cemetery Ridge north of Little Round top, and Seminary Ridge west of Cemetery Ridge, with your pencil.
Draw the railroad that runs east and west through the city of Gettysburg, like a "U" shape. Add a vertical line for Rock Creek which is just east of the city of Gettysburg. Marsh Creek and Willoughby Run are west of the city.
Ball up newspaper and place on Oak Hill. Tape it down with masking tape. Roll up newspaper into a long piece, and tape down at Seminary Ridge.
Roll up newspaper for Cemetery Ridge, and ball up newspaper for Culp's Hill. Tape them down with masking tape.
Ball up newspaper for Little Round Top and Big Round Top, and tape into place.
Mix one part flour to one part water in a mixing bowl until it is the consistency of porridge. Add more flour if it is too thin and more water if it is too thick. Tear up strips of newspaper approximately 6 inches by 2 inches. Dip the strips in the paper mache paste and lay one layer of saturated strips over the entire scene.
Wait for the layer to dry 24 hours. Add another layer of strips in the other direction over the entire battlefield. Wait 24 hours for it dry. Add one final layer like the first layer, and wait for it to dry for 24 hours.
Paint blue for your creeks, and paint the rail roads with black paint. Paint the grassy area with green paint, and paint areas of dirt and road brown. Allow for the paint to dry completely.
Brush on glue to your green areas. Sprinkle on fake grass material. Brush glue onto painted dirt areas and sprinkle sand and pebbles. Leave roads and water painted. Glue on fake trees.
Place Confederate soldiers near Oak Hill, where their headquarters were. Place the Union soldiers at their headquarters at the northern portion at Cemetery Ridge. Add cannons, other weapons, and other models.
- Have students read first person narratives of the battle of Gettysburg to hear the oral history of the historical event.
- Ask students to re-enact the different battles at Gettysburg with the model soldiers and weapons.
- Unused paper mache paste can be refrigerated and used up to 48 hours.