Add flavor to history lessons



October 25, 2002|by LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

When Janis Herbert's book "Lewis and Clark for Kids" was published in 2000, she gave a copy to a neighbor.

Soon after, local children showed up on her doorstep holding the buffalo masks they had made from one of the 21 activities described in the book.

Now that Herbert's newest work, "The American Revolution for Kids" is out, she wouldn't be surprised if her recipe for Liberty Tea Punch - raspberry tea mixed with ginger ale - becomes popular at children's parties this fall.

After all, when the colonists boycotted their favorite beverage, they learned to make tea from other sources, including raspberry leaves.

Need some background?

Remember learning about the Boston Tea Party? In 1773, the Sons of Liberty protested the British Tea Act, which added a tax to tea without the American colonists' consent.


They dressed up like Mohawk Indians, boarded ships that had brought tea to Boston Harbor, smashed the tea crates with axes and dumped the damaged goods into the water.

Seeking a different way to help your child remember this event?

How about hosting a Boston Tea Party? Children could take "axes" (sticks), destroy "crates" of tea (empty cardboard boxes) and dump them into the "Boston Harbor" (onto a blue rug) while chanting, "Bring out your axes. And tell King George, we'll pay no taxes!"

After their hard work, they could be served Liberty Tea Punch while being treated to a story about the event, which occurred in December 1773.

Or does the crisp autumn air we've had of late call you (and your restless little ones) to the great outdoors?

Try a Lewis and Clark adventure. Herbert suggests finding tracks of animals in the woods and making casts of the tracks with plaster of Paris. You can learn a lot about an animal by studying its tracks. For example, since rabbits hop, they use their back legs to push off the ground. When they land, their hind feet are in front of their forefeet. Little round paw prints will be seen behind the prints of the longer hind feet, Herbert notes.

Lewis and Clark made many observations of animals and their surroundings. From 1804 to 1806, the men traveled from St. Louis, Mo., to the Pacific Ocean, exploring land that had been acquired in the Louisiana Purchase.

There will be events at parks across the nation to commemorate Lewis and Clark's expedition as the bicentennial (200th anniversary) approaches.

For information, check out, the Web site of the Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation Inc.; or, the National Park Service Lewis and Clark site.

Herbert, who also wrote "The Civil War for Kids," says she aims to make history come alive to children through the activities she includes in her books.

"When I was in grade school, it was not a lot of fun to learn history," Herbert says. "I really wanted to make it exciting."

It wasn't until she was in her 30s and started reading about historical personalities that history gained meaning.

She doesn't want children today to be turned off to history.

"I think they can understand a lot of things that we think they can't," Herbert says.

Herbert's books, which are published by Chicago Review Press, are written for 8- to 12-year-olds.

Did you know?

Next year will mark the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase. When President Thomas Jefferson bought the land for $15 million from France in 1803, he had no idea how much territory had been acquired. The purchase turned out to be 800,000 square miles, which came to three cents an acre and doubled the size of the United States.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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