When I was in middle school, ancient history was the bane of my existence. I balked at all the facts I was supposed to care about, gave lackluster effort toward the chapter quizzes, spent most of my time lamenting over the old marble men of yore, and defaced my textbook by drawing pupils and irises onto all the hollow-eyed busts (as an adult, I just add googly eyes.)
A hands-on approach to world history makes a difference.
Even though I stubbornly insisted ancient history was pointless — sorry, mom! — if you would have talked to the seventh-grade me about the extravagantly tiered Hanging Gardens of Babylon, I’d have sprung to life, rattling off fact after fact about this wonder of the ancient world, indignant at your insinuation that these incredible gardens might not have existed at all. Why? Because I built a miniature version of the Hanging Gardens out of styrofoam, and the hands-on immersion cemented it in my brain and secured my loyalty forever more. Tactile experiences made an impression on me, bookworm and writer though I was. (Maybe let’s not mention the Borax-salt paste my brother and I slathered on the metal microscope before we reshelved it and forgot about it.)
[Disclosure of Material Connection: I received two copies of Project Passport in exchange for investing my time exploring and reviewing this product and publishing this post. All the photographs, opinions, and experiences shared here are in my own words and are my own honest evaluation. I was not required to write a positive review. ]
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I’ve been trying to bring more hands-on activities, even simple ones, into our routine. My daughter read well over five hundred books on her own last calendar year — so I think it’s safe to say she’s thriving as a bookworm, er, visual learner. But I also know how valuable it is to incorporate hands-on activities into our regular studies, and I love the way her eyes light up in excitement when I mention a project to cap off our day.
Time to get excited about ancient history!
When you’re not able to travel to actual historical ruins, a hands-on, project-based approach to history is the next best way to make the distant past come alive. And when it comes to projects, the aptly-named Project Passport world history curriculum by Home School in the Woods takes center stage. (And you’ll have a chance to win copies of Project Passport at the end of this post!)
What is Project Passport?
Project Passport is a digital world history curriculum available for studies of Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece (the newest!), the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Reformation, and, coming in 2018, Ancient Rome. These are such ideal topics for our classical-leaning approach to home education!
Each set is designed for grades three through eight, and I would say that’s an accurate range. (Although, an inquisitive and motivated younger child could get a lot out of the program if someone were to help with the paper crafts requiring more precise fine motor skills. My six-year-old daughter is not neuro-typical, consistently working at two or three full grade levels ahead of her chronological age, and she enthusiastically enjoyed the work with my help on the more intricate assignments.)
We tested the Ancient Greece curriculum, which, like others in the Project Passport series, is set up as a twenty-five stop, six-to-twelve week excursion through the highlights of that particular ancient culture. Each stop, or lesson, is quite detailed, with multiple assignments, so children on the younger end of the age range might retain more of the material with much slower time travel, such as one stop per week.
Each study is available on a physical CD you can hold in your hands, or alternately via digital files downloads. Either way you choose to purchase the study, the process to begin is the same. Rather than just give you access to folders of files and leaving you to figure out how each PDF, MP3, and JPG is connected, both CD and digital editions of Project Passport offer convenient, easy-to-navigate launch screens, with all the step-by-step instructions, printable files, and audio clips needed for every single lesson. There’s also a printable list of additional book and film recommendations, should you wish to extend your study.
Before the student launches out on the adventure, you’ll want to do a bit of prep work, such as printing the initial cardstock and paper templates needed to start the study, assembling the three-ring binders, creating the timeline, and making sure the glue you have is strong enough to easily adhere cardstock together (we used a combination of Elmer’s Extreme Gluestick, Elmer’s No-Wrinkle Dual Tip Glue Pen, and Glue Dots.)
How do you use Project Passport?
For each lesson, or “stop”, the student begins by reading the assigned chapter from the digital guidebook, each containing about three pages of pleasantly-written narrative about the time period. Then, the student moves on to the hands-on portion of the lesson. Activities vary in complexity. In the Ancient Greece edition, assignments include moonlighting as a Greek chef at the cleverly named Greece-y Spoon eatery, crafting a Greek theater mask from papier mache, or organizing a Greek Olympics.
One constant throughout the program, though, is the student’s Scrapbook of Sights, a three-ring binder portfolio documenting each and every time travel stop. For every lesson, the student adds to this scrapbook through paper crafts such as creating tiny booklets about Greek mythology, compiling fact cards about the constellations, assembling 2D architectural columns, creating advertisements for a Greek newspaper, illustrating postcards from Socrates, or cutting, scoring, folding and gluing a series of matchboxes detailing Spartan life.
A big highlight for us, too, was the dramatized audio tour scheduled in installments throughout the program. Even “dear old Archimedes”, as my daughter says, was included in this audio theater.
And since the capstone project after all twenty-five stops have been completed is an elaborate lapbook, every few lessons the student also assembles a pocket, wheel, fact cards, envelope, or some other detail to be placed into the lapbook at the end.
How to customize Project Passport’s Scrapbook of Sights with clear transparencies:
For the Scrapbook of Sights, Project Passport uses primarily ordinary household supplies like a printer and ink, cardstock, and glue. Souvenir Craft assignments are a bit more involved, requiring items like masking tape, flour, and paper for the Greek masks, fabric and trimmings for the Greek clothing, floral wire and green felt for the olive wreath, and so on. Of course, you’re free to pick and choose which assignments you want to pursue. (See the end of this blog post for a full list of the paper craft supplies we used).
A handful of installments in the Scrapbook of Sights, though, called for affixing printed paper templates to clear acetate film called Grafix DuraLar. Since we didn’t have any handy (and since we live down the road from a copy and print shop) I experimented and customized the assignments a bit — with clear overhead transparencies and Sharpies!
Instead of pasting paper onto acetate film, I instead had the copy shop print certain templates directly onto8.5 x 11″ transparency sheets. This only cost about sixty cents per copy, which was very affordable since we only needed a handful of transparencies. You can see in the videos below how the map and clothing overlays turned out. They were a hit on our house, maybe because I let my kiddo use permanent markers, too ;)
What kind of a timeline does Project Passport use?
Each Project Passport edition begins by having you create a timeline. I love this because it provides a bit of visual context for all the information in the study. You’re given the printable PDFs need to build it, as well as PDFs containing dozens of detailed, captioned timeline figures and fun souvenirs like mini playbills, tickets, and advertisements, which you affix to the timeline at various points throughout the program. For ancient Greece, the timeline base itself is twelve pages long, and you can either stack the printed cardstock and three-hole punch all the sheets, or you can assemble the pages accordion-style, and only three-hole punch the first one. We created an accordion timeline, and jazzed up the pages with travel-themed matte washi tape rather than clear packing tape.
How do you create a Project Passport-style lapbook folder?
While many lapbooks utilize only a single file folder, Project Passport-style lapbooks have extra pages inserted. We took the suggested materials — one plain folder, one 8.5×11″ cardstock, one 5.5×11″ cardstock, and clear packing tape — and kicked it up a notch with a painterly folder, bright cardstock, and matte travel-themed washi tape. Here’s how ours looked before we filled it up.
And here’s the final lapbook — remember, Project Passport is so much more than a lapbook! This is only one component of the rich, multi-faceted portfolio (Scrapbook of Sights, recipes and food, 3D crafts, clothing, writing assignments, and more) you’ll have upon completely a Project Passport journey.
What supplies do you need to get started with Project Passport?
The supplies you’ll need depend largely on how many, and what type of, assignments you choose to do. Naturally, the projects categorized as Souvenir Crafts require more specialized items — like specific Greek food ingredients, for example. But if you’ve just ordered Project Passport and want to collect the items you need to get started on the timeline, binder, and Scrapbook of Sights, you’ll want to have the following supplies on hand:
- A printer and lots of ink or toner (We have been beyond thrilled with our Brother Laser printer)
- Colored paper
- Colored cardstock (Michael’s Recollections brand colored cardstock is just $2 for a multi-colored 50-count pack)
- Two three-ring binders
- A manila file folder (I like the colorful, funky ones from the Target Dollar Spot — $1 for a 3-count pack)
- A two-pocket file folder
- Colored pencils, Twistables, and/or watercolors
- A ruler
- An Exacto knife
- An opened metal paper clip, for scoring cardstock before you fold
- Brass fasteners
- Scrapbooking glue
What kind of student is a good match for Project Passport?
Project Passport makes an impact, even for a child who isn’t necessarily primarily a tactile learner, because hands-on activities invite the child to move out of passive learner mode and actively engage in the topic in ways he or she might not have otherwise. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Create more than you consume” — with Project Passport, students are creating while they are consuming, rather than consuming only.
This curriculum is perfect for families who love hands-on activities (especially scrapbooking!), those emphasizing the ancient civilizations so prevalent in a classical education, kids who like to move from task to task and need a lot of different kinds of assignments to break up the day into separate segments, and asynchronous kids who are ready to delve right into to complex historical topics but haven’t quite outgrown their love for hands-on projects.
Project Passport can be purchased directly from the Home School in the Woods online store.
(We’re also big fans of their complete set of historical timeline figures on CD, which can be printed at wall size, notebook size, or even as full-size coloring pages! I talk more about Home School in the Woods’ collection timeline materials at the beginning of this post about videos, printables, and other world culture resources.)
Don’t Miss the Ancient Rome release!
To keep up with Home School in the Woods so you don’t miss the fall/winter 2018 release of Project Passport‘s latest installment, Ancient Rome, head over to the Home School in the Woods website, and sign up for their newsletter (you’ll see the sign-up box in the upper right-hand corner.) You can also like Home School in the Woods on Facebook, follow along on Twitter @HSintheWoods, check out Home School in the Woods’ pins on Pinterest, or connect with Home School in the Woods on Google+.
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Have more questions about Project Passport, or additional input on how you’ve incorporated hands-on activities in your home? Leave a comment below!
Disclosure of Material Connection:: I received two copies of Project Passport in exchange for investing my time exploring and reviewing this product and publishing this post. All the photographs, opinions, and experiences shared here are in my own words and are my own honest evaluation. I was not required to write a positive review.
[We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.]
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