Wednesday, June 17

Exploring the U.S. Life-Saving Service! {Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.
Early summer is the time of year that we usually head to the Outer Banks.  Of course, 2020 has proven to be a horse of a different color!  But when we had the chance to check out Rebecca Locklear's new curriculum Exploring the U.S. Life-Saving Service 1878-1915: 17 Student Workshops with 120 Activities, it gave us a golden opportunity to revisit our favorite destination!

The U.S. Life-Saving Service was the ancestor to today's Coast Guard.  It had eight-member teams stationed at remote areas of coastline that literally put their lives on the line to save lives.  Their unofficial motto was, "You have to go out, you don't have to come back."  These men ventured into violent storms and shipwrecks, showing exemplary courage, and saved thousands of lives total during their years of service.

With four aunts and uncles serving in the US Coast Guard, the boys were excited to learn about the history of that branch.  We've been listening to their "tales from the sea" for nearly twenty years now...some are mesmerizing!  Knowing what they experience, with today's technology, made us very curious about how these same feats were accomplished over a hundred years ago.  

Exploring the U.S. Life-Saving Service is a curriculum geared toward middle and high school students.  The unit has 117 pages and contains four units and several extras, each focusing on a different aspect of the service.  Each unit features ideas and activities that incorporate all modalities of learning.

  • Introductory Text
    • With several pages, this is like a pre-unit.  It gives students the background knowledge necessary to visualize and incorporate what they are about to learn.  The publisher uses several photos through the entire curriculum, and these really help bring it to life!
  • Unit One - Life at the Station House
    • Because of our recent roadschool trip (see below), and because our family just loves history, this is the unit we really got into the most.  We learned about local food fare, studied skunks, learned note-taking basics, and read a funny story.  We didn't have enough people to perform the skit.  
    • Getting to cook gingerbread...having a seafood feast...and playing with swords and shields....they were like the icing on the cake!
  • Unit Two - Working Together
    • In this section, we focused on various ships, signs and signals (which the boys had done at scout camp), and learning to work together as a team.  We learned about the training schedule and how difficult this life truly was for the men who served.
  • Unit Three - Culture of Character
    • Probably the most awkward section of the curriculum, this focuses on manners and character of the era.  One of the included activities is situational cards where students are expected to make a toast.
  • Unit Four - Relevance Today
    • This was a nice rehash of the survival skills the boys have learned in scouting.  These are survival skills that all students should learn, and it's a critical life skill that the publisher has neatly incorporated into the subject.
  • The Arts
    • Eleven art projects - all with different media - and eight musical projects are included here for hashing out the unit.  These are perfect for the hands-on classroom that has a bit more time to devote to the arts...or any homeschool!
  • Research
    • With twenty-nine different topics presented, and a little bit of background on each, there's something for every student to choose to research here.
  • Appendix One - Why did ships sink?
    • This section focuses on the cause of shipwrecks.
  • Appendix Two - Food Sampling
    • This section includes yummy recipes such as Boston baked beans, steamed clam, and fish hash that the men would have eaten regularly.
  • Also included are an introduction for teachers, introductory workshop, glossary, and sources.

As we explored the curriculum, we also pulled out photos from our visit to Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station from last summer.  This visit accompanied units one and two, about the life at the house and working together.  We had the opportunity to work with others to carry a boat -- they are HEAVY!!  We climbed the lookout tower, explored the communal house, and learned about the Mirlo Rescue, which was the most famous rescue to occur at this station.  We even learned about Little Midgett!  {My Coastie sibs say the Midgetts are like USCG royalty...but we found their name choices a bit odd...}

The only thing we didn't like about this curriculum was that it focused primarily on the Pacific Northwest and New England.  There was really no mention of the Outer Banks and its surrounding regions...and since that is our neck of the woods, and it's such a big deal to Bankers, it felt as though a critical element was missing from the curriculum.  I chose to supplement as we went along, finding pictures and videos from OBX to accompany each lesson.

We used the curriculum as a family, but with only two children, some of the activities were not easy to accomplish.  There are many skits and classroom activities included that will work considerably better in a group of ten or more kids.  For that reason, we will be tabling the curriculum at this point and using it in the history class at our local homeschool co-op in the fall.  In addition to homeschool co-ops, I could see this easily being used in Scout troops or school classrooms.

Using a maritime history unit in rural Oklahoma may seem a bit odd, but many of these students have never had the opportunity to visit an ocean, and this unit is so thorough that - when accompanied by videos to help bring it to life - it is a great way to introduce something completely new!  Because it has skits, games, cooking projects, music activities, science experiments, and art projects included, it makes the class fun and engaging.  We're going to use it over the course of a week, naturally dubbed Beach Week, for a unique experience here in mid-America.

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