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Margaret Ball EDMT 380.03 Fall 2004

Project One

ITV Component

Program Title: Frontier House
Series: Frontier House
Publisher: A Co-Production of Thirteen/WNET New York and Wall to Wall and in association with Channel 4 Television Corporation and Channel 4 International.  
Production Date: 2002 
Program Length: 45 minutes (this is just a portion of a 6 hour long series.
Subject Area(s): Mathematics, Language Arts, Social Studies
Intended Audience: Not specifically stated but based on content and language the majority of the video seems to be directed towards middle school through adults. However, the portions selected for this lesson are appropriate for upper elementary students.
Source: Acquired from the Altoona Public Library video collection, Altoona, WI
General Purpose: Not stated specifically but the series informs the general viewing public about what it was like to live and survive as settlers on the Montana frontier in the 1880's.


Wisconsin Model Academic Standards Addresed by the Program, Frontier House

bullet C.4.1 Orally communicate information, opinions, and ideas effectively to different audiences for a variety of purposes.
bullet A.4.2 Communicate mathematical ideas in a variety of ways, including words, numbers, symbols, pictures, charts, graphs, tables, diagrams, and models  
bullet A.4.3 Connect mathematical learning with other subjects, personal experiences, current events, and personal interests see relationships between various kinds of problems and actual events use mathematics as a way to understand other areas of the curriculum (e.g., measurement in science, map skills in social studies)
bullet B.4.5 In problem-solving situations involving whole numbers, select and efficiently use appropriate computational procedures such as recalling the basic facts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division using mental math (e.g., 37+25, 40x7) estimation, selecting and applying algorithms for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division using a calculator
bullet B.4.4 Compare and contrast changes in contemporary life with life in the past by looking at social, economic, political, and cultural roles played by individuals and groups
bullet B.4.8 Compare past and present technologies related to energy, transportation, and communications and describe the effects of technological change, either beneficial or harmful, on people and the environment


Description of Frontier House

The series follows three modern day families as they immerse themselves in the year1883 building homes, cooking, cleaning, caring for livestock, planting food and surviving the frontier life without any modern tools or technology. Viewers watch as the three families leave the modern day behind and enter the year 1883. They stake a claim under the Homestead Act in the Montana Territory and prepare for their journey to their 160 acre homestead. The families must plan and stockpile the supplies they will need for the journey by wagon and foot to their homestead. Once they arrive, the audience sees how the settlers survive daily life on the frontier. We see the families build their log cabins, cook over campfires, milk their cows, and live a pioneer lifestyle.

Credibility and Source of Bias

Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is well respected as a source of educational programming for the general public. The series, Frontier House appears to be a well researched project. The series employed historical experts and consultants on topics such as animal handling, domestic skills, building, and frontier life in general. The families chosen to live the frontier life agreed to live as closely to the pioneer lifestyle of the 1880s as possible such as wearing period clothing, preparing and consuming foods typical of the era, using period equipment, and contemporary work routines.


The content of the video, Frontier Life, is related to the lesson in many ways. The teacher chose the video because it fits into the cross-content lesson plan. The video shows a realistic display of life on the frontier in the 1880's from planning the cross country trip to building shelter, eating period foods, using period equipment, wearing period clothing, and everyday survival on a homestead. This will allow students to compare and contrast modern day life with life in the past. The video also discusses what kind of supplies the settlers needed to survive and the amount of supplies they ordered. This facilitates a math discussion and problem solving exercise about the cost of supplies and inflation.

Lesson Use

The lesson is designed for a 4th or 5th grade class practicing mathematical problem solving skills. The lesson also uses mathematical learning to connect to other content areas such as language arts and social studies. The students will study frontier life in the 1880's and compare and contrast contemporary life with frontier life.

Learner Preparation and Cueing

The teacher would prepare the students for watching the video by presenting the students with this scenario: your parents/caregivers have found new jobs in a different state so you and your family need to move to that state. The teacher would then ask the class to brainstorm about the kinds of things they would need to pack to take with them, what they need to do in order to move to a new state (pack, say good-bye to friends, change addresses, etc.), and how they would physically move to the other state (drive, fly, ride a train, etc.). After discussing the process of moving to another state and making a list, the teacher would then say: "today we are going to watch a video of three families' experience packing and moving to the Montana frontier in the year 1883. In the video excerpts you will see what types of things the settlers decided to take with them for survival in the frontier and how they traveled with their belongings to their homesteads." The teacher would then provide the students with a worksheet to complete to help them focus on the content of the video. The teacher would also tell the students that later on they will research the supplies needed to take to Montana, how much it cost, and compare 1883 prices to current prices.

Viewing Details

The teacher chose portions of the video that showed a realistic display of life on the frontier in the 1880's including planning the cross country trip, building shelter, eating period foods, using period equipment, wearing period clothing, and everyday survival on a homestead. This will allow students to compare and contrast modern day life with life in the past. The excerpts also included the kinds of supplies the settlers planned, packed and took with them on their trip as well as the amount of supplies they ordered. The teacher will only show excerpts from the first two videos in the three part video series and will begin by showing excerpts from the first video.

The teacher will show the very beginning of the first video introducing the Frontier House project and the settler families. The first 18 minutes introduces the families, the Homestead Act, and the survival training the families received. These are things the students will use to compare and contrast contemporary life to life in the 1880's. The teacher would stop the video about 18 minutes into the program right after the narrator talks about the medicines of the era and shows the bottles of medicine of the era (right before the discussion of outhouses and personal hygiene.

The next excerpt the teacher would show begins about 25 to 30 minutes into the program when the narrator says "The families are being outfitted with the basics..." this excerpt shows the financial profile of the family settlers and their physical transformation (clothing, haircuts, and photos) into 1883 settlers. This portion also discusses how real settlers traveled to their homesteads and the hard choices they made about what to take and leave behind. The teacher would stop the video at the point the narrator begins to talk about settler Karen's cow becoming ill and not being able to make the trip.

The teacher would show the second video in the series and start the video about 12 to 15 minutes into the video when the narrator says, "the Homesteaders are each driven by their own needs. Nate has less than a week..." This portion of the program discusses the journey to the nearest store, shows Hop Sing Yin Mercantile, and shows the settlers buying and trading supplies. The teacher would stop the video at the point when the three settlers are done buying and trading and are shown sitting around the campfire. This portion of the program lasts about 10 minutes.


Post Viewing Interaction

After the students are done watching the video they will have time to finish writing their answers to the questions on the worksheet and discuss them in groups. The teacher would also discuss the worksheet with the class. The worksheet asks the students where the families in the video were moving to, what supplies they took, how they traveled to their homesteads, what types of things that they could do and buy at the mercantile. The worksheet also asks the students to discuss what supplies they would take if they were settlers in 1883 and why they chose those things. The teacher would ask the students to make a group list of the supplies the settlers in the video took with them and inform them that later on they would use the internet to research the list and report their findings.


| ITV Component | Web Component | Final Lesson Plan |

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Date Updated December 12, 2004
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