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Popcorn at the Palace FREE unit study

Popcorn at the Palace

by Emily Arnold McCully

ISBN – 0152776990

Summary: In the mid 1800’s Maisie Ferris and her father travel to England to introduce the American phenomenon of popcorn.

Unit Prepared by Wende



Optional Go Along Books or Videos

Corn Is Maize by Aliki
The Popcorn Book by
Tomie dePaola
Popcorn by Elaine Landau
Corn by Gail Gibbons
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingals Wilder

Narcissa Whitman, Brave Pioneer by Sabin

The Little Princess starring Shirley Temple

The Magic School Bus Goes to Seed by Joanna Cole

The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds by Patricia Rief

From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons

A Weed is a Seed by Ferida Wolff

Mistakes That Worked by Charlotte Foltz Jones

Charles Dickens and Friends by Marcia Williams

Bible and Concordance




Social Studies Lessons -

Pioneer Notebook Paper

Illinois coloring page

Queen Victoria Notebook Page

Science Lessons

Inventor Trading Cards

Corn Notebook Paper

How Popcorn Pops Notebook Paper or How Popcorn Pops Shape Book

Language Arts Lessons -

Vocabulary Word Search

Transportation List

Transportation Cards

Poetry copy work (cursive and manuscript)

Math Lessons -

Corny Math Riddle Worksheet

Popcorn Volume Worksheet

Seven Times Tables Worksheet

Graph Paper


Social Studies


Setting (Era) -  This story takes place from 1837 to 1846. The early to mid 1800’s brought many changes for America. It may be helpful to your child if he has a glimpse of what was happening across the country at this time.

In the Southwest, a battle was brewing in the then Mexican colony of Texas, where a group of American fighters were forced into the Alamo refusing to surrender. Despite losing the battle, Texas became an independent state in 1836.

In the South, plantation owners became increasingly oppressive; using more slaves as the demand for cotton increased, bringing the slaves to resist the harsh treatment they were getting and involving themselves in numerous violent revolts.

As the South was focusing its energies on the cotton and slave trade, the Northeast was pouring its resources into the first factories in the United States. There was also an influx of immigrants from Europe to the New England area from 1820-1860. (See HSS unit on The Bobbin Girl, also by Emily Arnold McCully for further reading on the northeast in 1800’s)

And as for Illinois where the Ferris family lived? After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 more and more people began moving farther west, bringing an end to the American Frontier. So that your child can properly place these events in history, make mention that it was after the Revolutionary War and before the Civil War, and place a time line piece on your time line at 1846 if desired.  Many rabbit trails can be taken, to give your child a good glimpse of what the whole country was like at the time Popcorn at the Palace takes place.


Pioneers - Have your child look through the pictures and reflect on the story, describing what it was like to live as a pioneer in the 1830’s-40’s. How did they dress? How did they travel? What kinds of food did they eat? What were their homes like? What did children do for fun? Have your child use Pioneer Notebook Paper to write about pioneers.

A pioneer is a person who goes first and opens the way for others to follow. On the first page of Popcorn at the Palace we read about a group of pioneers going into the wild frontier of Illinois in 1837. We see by the picture that they traveled by covered wagon, in a group called a “wagon train”. Most wagons were pulled by oxen, which were slow but strong. The pioneers carried with them only the basic necessities including flour, salt, cornmeal, bedding, some tools, and a few pieces of furniture. There were many dangers on the trails, including herds of buffalo, deep rivers, heavy rains, wild animals, and unfriendly Indians. It took a very brave group of people to face the long trip to the new land.

There were many reasons people decided to move to the frontiers. Many were looking to own their own land, others hoping to find work or food more plentiful. Often, people of the same religious groups would travel together, in search of religious freedom and/or separation, and such was the case with the Galesburgers who were led by Reverend George Washington Gale, a Presbyterian minister. 1837 was the year that American Presbyterians split into “old” and “new” schools of thought. Ask your child which school of thought the group in our story is from?

Once the pioneers reached their destination, there were no stores to purchase supplies from. They would build houses out of logs from trees they cut down, usually only having one or two rooms. Beds were made of deerskin strips or ropes to make the springs, and mattresses filled with straw. Soap, candles, and fabric all needed to be made, food was hunted or grown by the pioneers and cooked over a fire, and books were read by candlelight.

Pioneer children had to work hard, with the boys hunting, bringing wood and water, and the girls spinning, weaving, and churning. Toys were rare, except for homemade ones such as the cornhusk doll that Maisie made. The children learned to read from the Bible, which was often the only book available. They also loved to play games, and dance to the fiddle music played in the evenings.

            Search your library for more books about early pioneers. It is always an interesting, enjoyable subject for children to expand upon. Some possibilities are:

            Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingals Wilder

Narcissa Whitman, Brave Pioneer by Sabin


Illinois – The Ferris family moved to Illinois. Before pioneers ventured into the vast prairies, wild buffalo and Native Americans occupied them. Prairies are vast areas of flat grassland. The fertile soil and vast prairies of Illinois were very attractive to the industrious pioneers. Much of the natural lands were then replaced with fields of grain and grazing land for livestock. Have your child locate Illinois on a United States map. Illinois is in the Midwest, among the states called the “corn belt”. It is bordered on the north by Wisconsin, on the east by Indiana, on the south by Kentucky, and on the west by Iowa and Missouri. Show your child how the state’s natural boundary line on the west is the Mississippi River. Illinois’ capital is Springfield and its largest city is Chicago.   The state has many nicknames including “Corn State”, “Prairie State”, and “Land of Lincoln”. Illinois joined the Union in 1818 as the 21st state, just nineteen years before the Ferris family arrived. Have your child do coloring page from here, or if you lapbook, use minit book from here. For further research, you can order a free travel guide for Illinois from here, which are also good to cut up and use for lapbook or notebook activities.


Map Skills – Using a United States Highway map, trace out a possible route Maisie and her father took from Illinois to New York. What direction did they need to travel? How many states were crossed? What kinds of landforms were encountered on the trip (mountains, rivers, etc.)? Approximately how many miles were traveled? Now look at a world map. What ocean did they have to cross to get from New York to England? About how many miles did they travel?


England – Maisie and her father took popcorn to England. Have your child locate England on a world map, in the continent of Europe. England is part of the British Isles, which also includes Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. London is England’s capital. Have your child examine the double page spread of Buckingham Palace. Buckingham Palace has been the official London home of the British royal family for well over 150 years. Palace guards have the important job of protecting the royal family from unwanted visitors, and are not allowed to speak or smile while on duty. Take notice that there is no flag flying over the palace. The flag is only flying when the Queen is home.  Windsor, where Maisie and her father were to meet the Queen, is the site of Windsor Castle, the primary home of the British ruling family. You may also want to discuss with your child the royalty of England, to whatever extent interest/understanding warrants. Victoria became the Queen of England in 1837 at the age of 18 when her uncle, William IV died.  She married her first cousin, Albert. Queen Victoria was a very influential figure in history, and even had an era named after her, the Victorian Era. Research and write about Queen Victoria on Queen Victoria Notebook Page. The 1939 movie, The Little Princess starring Shirley Temple (based on the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett) is a good tie in to the following themes: life in the 1800’s; father/daughter relationship; proper etiquette for royalty; England; Queen Victoria.


Relationships – Popcorn at the Palace illustrates a close relationship between a father and daughter.  We are told in the beginning of the story that “Maisie Ferris took after her open-minded father.” Explain to your child how a lot of personality (and physical) traits come from our parents, and discuss how your child may take after one of his parents. Maisie and her father also worked together (point out who is on the horse helping her father thresh), learned together, traveled together, and imagined together. Ask your child to recall a special time he spent with his father (or mother, uncle, grandparent, etc.) maybe taking a trip or just having a special daddy/child day. 




Seeds – Olmsted Ferris was excited by the beautiful wild prairie flowers, and he grew mustard, canary grass, and corn. These are all plants that start out as a single seed. A seed is a little package of plant life. A seed coat protects the inside embryo, which is the baby plant. Explain to your child how not all seeds will grow though. They need air, plenty of water, and the right temperature and amount of light to begin to grow, or germinate. After the seed germinates, the root grows down into the soil, and the shoot grows up towards the sun. The leaves, buds, and flowers grow from this new shoot. The more rich and fertile the soil is (like that of Illinois), the healthier the plant will be. If possible, show your child a mustard seed (can be found in spice section of grocery store), a canary seed (in bird food), and a corn seed (the kernel that you eat is the seed), as well as some wild flower seeds. Let him plant a seed in some soil, water and watch it. Extend your study of plants into how seeds travel, the process of photosynthesis, the foods that come from seeds, and plant life cycle. Some go along books include:

The Magic School Bus Goes to Seed by Joanna Cole

The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds by Patricia Rief

From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons

A Weed is a Seed by Ferida Wolff


Inventors and Inventions – Olmsted Ferris was an inventor. He invented a machine for threshing the seed out of the mustard and canary grass. He was always thinking and tinkering, trying to come up with the next great invention. Many people didn’t understand Olmsted and his adventurous, open-minded attitude. That is, until he was actually successful. Fill out an Inventor Trading Card for Olmsted Ferris.  Many inventors throughout history were treated the same way. They were ostracized for thinking outside the norm. Discuss with your child how to think like an inventor. Inventors take the time to dream, relax and tinker. They take chances, overcome failures, and learn from their mistakes. A fun book to read about inventions is Mistakes That Worked by Charlotte Foltz Jones. Encourage your child to come up with an invention of his own. To decide what kind of item he would like to invent, have your child ponder these questions: How will it work? Are there any others like it? Who needs your invention? What is your goal (make people’s lives easier, save lives, advance science, make money, etc)? What will it be named? How much will you sell it for? After going through the brainstorming process, let your child construct his invention and demonstrate how it works.

The people of Galesburg, Illinois did come around to Olmsted’s way of thinking, and started dreaming up their own inventions and enterprises. Your child may be interested to know that it was the nephew of Olmsted Ferris, George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. (1859 – 1896) who invented the Ferris Wheel!


Blushing – When Olmsted introduced Maisie to the queen she blushed crimson. Sometimes when we are in a situation that is embarrassing or uncomfortable, we blush. Ask your child if he can recall a time when he blushed. Blushing causes your face, ears, and neck to turn red, and sometimes you get a tingle over your body. Young people blush more often than older people. When you blush, your heart rate goes up and you start to breathe faster. The blood vessels that go to your face open up (dilate) so more blood than usual flows to your face, changing it to a red color.   Blushing is a normal, involuntary action that happens to everyone at one time or another.


Corn/Popcorn – Corn is a species of tall cereal grass, which is grown for its seed and used as food for people and animals. The Native Americans were the first to introduce corn to the early pioneers, but archaeologists have found ears of corn in New Mexico that were nearly 5,600 years old! There are numerous different kinds of corn but only one kind that pops. Popcorn grows on a cob, just like the sweet corn you eat in the summer, but popcorn farmers let the corn dry before they take it from the plant. Americans consume 16.5 bilLion quarts of popped popcorn annually. Only 70% of that is eaten in the home, the rest is consumed at theaters, ballparks, and the like. Popcorn is nutritious too. One cup of popcorn provides 1.3 grams of dietary fiber, and also has more protein, phosphorus and iron than most other snacks.

Does your child know what makes popcorn pop? While a kernel of dried corn does not seem wet, inside there are tiny drops of water. As the dried corn is heated up, the drops of water turn to steam and expand. The steam bursts out and flies out into the air, leaving a fluffy white jacket behind. Use

How Popcorn Pops Notebook Paper for your child to describe how popcorn pops.

Other than popcorn, what products do we get from corn? Have your child make a list. Some possibilities are corn oil, cornstarch, corn meal, and ethanol. Foods from corn could include corn flour tortillas, corn chips, corn bread or muffins, corn fritters, Corn Pops, etc. Corn Notebook Paper


Language Arts –


Vocabulary –  Discuss these vocabulary words with your child as you come upon them in the story. Child may do Vocabulary Word Search if desired.


Devout – religiously devoted. They were a devout and enterprising band of pioneers.


Enterprising – energetic, bold, venturesome. They were a devout and enterprising band of pioneers.


Scriptures – The Bible. They lived according to the Scriptures.


Parlor – A room for reception of callers. They had only the Bible in their new parlors.


Intrigued – Fascinated; Aroused curiosity; Stories about the royal family intrigued Maisie.


Threshing – Beating stalks of ripened grain to separate the grain from the straw or husk. He invented a machine for threshing.


Standoffish – Coldly reserved. The children were standoffish with Maisie.


Faring –Doing; Getting on. They reported on how the pioneers were faring.


Civilly – Properly; Politely; They could hardly speak civilly to him.


Proportion – Size; It was all out of proportion!


Relented – Become more gentle. Olmsted relented.


Hence – From this time. Be at the Palace three days hence.


Etiquette – Rules for polite behavior. There is an etiquette to be presented at Court.


Lady-in-waiting – A lady appointed to attend upon a queen or princess. A lady-in-waiting is here to teach you.


Page – A male servant or attendant. A page announced that the Queen would receive them.


Consort – A spouse. The Queen and her Consort.


Crimson – A deep red color. Maisie blushed crimson.


Footman – A male servant. A pot was provided by the footman.


Peculiarly – Particularly; Exclusively; This is peculiarly American.


Ahem – An exclamation similar to the sound of clearing a throat. Ahem,” said Prince Albert.


Beckoned – Signaled or summoned.  The Queen beckoned to Maisie.


Sensation – That which produces great interest or excitement. It was a sensation.


Figures of Speech – A figure of speech is a literary device used to create special meaning through the use of chosen words. Review or introduce these figures of speech to your child:

Simile – A comparison using the words like or as. “The Queen clapped like a child.” The Queen is being compared to a child, using the words like or as.

Metaphor – A comparison not using the words “like” or “as”. “It’s corn that turns to snow!” and ”Albert asked to see the corn turn to snow again” are two uses of metaphors where the author compares popcorn to snow.


Choosing Names for Characters – One decision an author of fiction stories needs to make is choosing names for the characters. While Olmsted Ferris was a real person, we are told in the Author’s Notes that his daughter is fictional. Why do you think the author chose the name Maisie for the daughter? Well, maise (also spelled maize) is another word for corn! The author creatively chose a name that was very fitting for a girl who helped introduce popcorn to the Queen of England.


List Making - How did people get around in the mid 1800’s? There were quite a few different modes of transportation mentioned or pictured throughout Popcorn at the Palace. Can your child recall them all? Have him make a list, using Transportation List worksheet, if desired. Print out and use Transportation Cards as you see fit.  You can also discuss each mode briefly:

Covered Wagons – Most pioneers used covered wagons to travel west. These wagons were also called Conestoga wagons, after the town in Pennsylvania where they originated. They had large, wide wheels to get over all kinds of terrain. The sides were built up high so that items would not fall out when going up and down hills. Maisie’s family had traveled to Illinois by covered wagon.

Stagecoaches – Stagecoaches were like taxis of today. They were large, horse drawn four wheeled vehicles that had regular routes from town to town. Maisie and her father took stagecoaches to get to New York.

Canal Boats – Because land was so hard to travel on, canals were designed to be man made waterways on which people could travel more easily. Your children may have heard of the most popular canal, the Erie Canal, which is 360 miles long. Canal boats are boats that travel on these waterways, often pulled by mules that walk on the land alongside the canals. Maisie and her father used canal boats for part of their journey from Illinois to New York.

Sailing Ships – For centuries, before the invention of steam engines, ships used wind power to travel the seas. Wind would collect in the sails to propel the wooden vessels forward. Maisie and her father traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to England by sailing ship.

Carriage – A carriage is a wheeled, horse drawn vehicle for carrying people. It is more formal and comfortable than a stagecoach. Have your child look at the cover of Popcorn at the Palace and describe what he sees. Maisie and her father traveled to Windsor by carriage.


Magazines – The Ferris family had at least two magazines that they would read. The first one mentioned is a literary magazine that was published in New York called The Knickerbocker Magazine, founded in 1833, and published until 1859. The articles featured writers such Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and James Fenimore Cooper. You can view an example of the magazine here. The second magazine mentioned was Godey's, the highest circulating and most popular women's magazine of the era. Each issue contained poetry, articles, and engravings created by well known writers and other artists of the time, as well as an illustration and pattern with measurements for a garment to be sewn at home and a  sheet of music for piano provided the latest waltz, polka or galop. Sarah Hale was its editor for forty years (1837-1877) and is credited with having a great influence over the reading, learning, and even political consciousness of women across America. If your family subscribes to any magazines, discuss with your child why you choose the ones you do. There are various reasons the Ferris family may have chosen the magazines they did. Some are educational, while others may be entertaining. Also discuss the difference between monthly and bi-monthly subscriptions, show your child how to fill out a subscription card, and decide together what a good magazine may be for your entire family. 


Journalism – One day a journalist came to the Ferris farm to report on how the pioneers were doing. A journalist is someone who writes for newspapers and/or news magazines. Have your child write or narrate a brief article about how the pioneers are doing. Keep in mind that journalism is information in a hurry. Not only do journalists have to meet deadlines, they also need to write in a way that can be read fast. So a good article will be on time, well researched, will have a good headline to attract a reader’s attention, and will be interesting enough to hold the readers attention without being too wordy.  Your child may have fun doing this assignment on the computer, being able to add graphics and change fonts.


Poetry – In her Author’s Notes, Emily Arnold McCully makes mention of Carl Sandburg. Carl Sandburg was a poet and biographer who was born in Galesburg, Illinois in 1878. Try to obtain some of his works to introduce this poet to your children. He often wrote poetry in an un-rhymed, free verse style (no pattern), using a poetic device called imagery (words and phrases are chosen to bring forth a certain image in the mind of a reader).  Use this poem for copywork or dictation exercise (see

Poetry copy work notebook pages-- cursive and manuscript), discussing the mental image that the poem evokes.


The prairie sings to me

In the forenoon,

And I know in the night

I rest easy,

In the prairie arms,

On the prairie heart.


Charles Dickens – Maisie met and spoke to Charles Dickens, the great English author, while she was sailing to England. Your child is probably familiar with some of the Dickens’ classic stories such as “The Christmas Carol” or “Oliver Twist” which was a best seller in 1838. At the time Charles Dickens was on the ship, he was the editor of the first cheap English newspaper, “Daily News”. You may want to read some of the stories by Charles Dickens during this unit to whet your child’s appetite for great literature.  A nice book for children is Charles Dickens and Friends by Marcia Williams.





Measurement (Time) – It took Maisie and her father three weeks to get from America to England. Ask your child to figure out how many days that would be. Remind your youngest children that there are seven days in a week. Use this as an opportunity to drill the seven times tables using Seven Times Tables Worksheet, if desired.


Measurement (Volume) – Olmsted and Maisie showed the queen how a handful of popcorn kernels can turn into a pot full of white snow. Discuss and demonstrate volume with your child using popcorn, showing how it expands and the volume increases.  Volume is the amount of space that matter occupies. It is measured in cubic units such as cubic inches, cubic yard, etc. You can explain to your older child that a cubic unit is measured by height X width X depth, so a cubic inch would be an area one inch high, by one inch wide, by one inch deep. For the purposes of this experiment, we will use a measuring device most children are familiar with. First, have your child measure out an amount of unpopped popcorn (a ½ cup measuring cup will do the trick). Using Popcorn Volume Worksheet, have your child write down measurement of popcorn kernels. Then have your child try to guess how much volume the popcorn will be after it is popped. Have him record his guess. Pop the corn, and again measure the amount of space occupied. (How many ½ cups does it fill now?) Was his guess close? Have him record the outcome. Have him draw a picture of the experiment. Make mention of the fact that mulch and firewood is sold by volume. Also mention the packaging on some cereals that say “sold by weight, not volume”.


Measurement (Square Measure) – Olmsted planted sixty of his best acres in popcorn. Does your child know how much land an acre is? There is a standard table of square measure, which is measured by multiplying width x length. Introduce this table to your children, using Graph Paper to demonstrate the various measurements if desired. 


Using each block to represent 1”, have child color in 12 blocks by 12 blocks on the graph paper to demonstrate a square foot. There should be 144 total blocks colored. Explain that:

1 square foot  =  12” x 12” = 144 square inches


Using each block to represent 1’, have child color in 3 blocks by 3 blocks on the graph paper to demonstrate a square yard. There should be 9 total blocks colored. Explain that:

1 square yard  =  3’ x 3’ = 9 square feet


To represent an acre you will have to tape four pieces of graph paper together. Using each block to represent 1 square yard, have child color in 70 blocks by 70 blocks (this is a little over an acre, as we don’t want to confuse the issue using fractions at this point). There should be 4900 blocks colored, if you feel like counting.  Explain that:

1 square acre  =    4,840 square yards  or  43,560 square feet


Have child figure out how to show other square measurements using the graph paper.



Measurement (Dry Measure) – Olmsted filled up 20 barrels with popcorn kernels. A barrel is a standard dry measurement in the United States. With your older students discuss standard dry weight measurements:


2 pints              =          1 quart

8 quarts           =          1 peck (mention a “peck of pickled peppers”)

4 pecks           =          1 bushel

3.28 bushels    =          1 barrel


Have your child figure out how many bushels in 20 barrels? (20 x 3.28 = 65.6 bushels)

How many pecks in a barrel? (4 x 3.28 = 13.12) So how many pecks in 20 barrels? (13.12 x 20 = 262.4)


Younger students can work out word problems such as:


Olmsted had 20 barrels of popcorn. If 4 barrels were lost at sea, how many would still make it to England?


Olmsted had 20 barrels of popcorn, 6 more barrels than he thought he would have. How many barrels did he think he would have?


Olmsted could carry two barrels on to the ship at a time. How many trips did he have to make to get all the popcorn on the ship?


Prince Albert ordered 15 barrels of popcorn. Olmsted only had 7 left. How many more barrels did Olmsted need to fulfill Prince Albert’s order?


Encourage your child to make up word problems to challenge you with.


Basic Skills – Unpopped popcorn makes wonderful manipulatives to reinforce any of the math skills you are currently working on. Use Corny Math Riddle Worksheet, if desired.


Economics – Introduce some terms of economics to your child as you read through Popcorn at the Palace. Mr. Ferris was an enterprising man. He would play with ideas, and invent capital resources (machines and tools used in producing a good or service). He invented a threshing machine that would increase productivity (when more can be produced with fewer resources), but even so, there was no demand for the mustard or canary seed. Introduce to your child the law of supply and demand. Mr. Ferris had a supply of seed, but there was no demand, therefore he could not sell it. Did he have any more success with his popcorn plan? Well, the supply was definitely there, as we are told in the story that he filled even more barrels than he expected. But would there be a demand in England for a food that they never heard of? Mr. Ferris and Maisie needed to create a demand. There are different ways to create a demand for a product. As the price decreases, the quantity demanded increases. So offering many of the products for a low price will increase the demand. Or you can entice people to buy your product by offering incentives, or, as Mr. Ferris and Maisie did, good advertising and free samples.  Have your child brainstorm how he would convince a group of people to buy a product they never heard of.   




Silhouettes – Have your child look at the illustration of Mr. Ferris sitting in a chair next to a table, with a picture hanging on the wall in the background. This picture is called a silhouette. A silhouette is an outline of an object or person against a contrasting background. While the art of creating silhouettes dates back thousands of years, the term silhouette wasn’t used until the 1700’s. The art of silhouetting grew very popular during the Victorian Era (see social studies lesson), and silhouettes of family members often adorned the walls of many homes. Have your child pose for a silhouette.

~ Hang a piece of white paper on the wall.

~ Set up a light source that can be aimed at the piece of paper.

~ Pose your child between the light source and the piece of paper, sitting sideways.

~ Shine the light so that the child’s profile is shadowed onto the paper, and trace the profile.

~ Cut out the profile, and trace it onto a piece of black paper. Cut out.

~ Glue black profile to a white background paper and place in picture frame.

Note: Silhouettes also make wonderful cards to give to family members. Scan silhouette onto computer, and resize and print as many a needed.   


Stencil Patterns – Have your child take notice of the patterns painted on the walls of the Ferris home. These patterns were painted with stencils, a popular decorating technique in the 1800’s. Once pioneers had settled and had started to establish themselves, they often had extra money to beautify their homes. Traveling painters would come through town and offer up their services. The stencils were made of an oiled heavy paper, leather, or sometimes tin, unlike the plastic stencils of today. They used whatever paint materials were available to them; sometimes oil-based, and sometimes water-based mediums were used, such as milk. The pioneers’ homes were dark and cold, so the colors chosen were usually vibrant and strong. Typical pre-1850 colors were lamp black, yellow ochre, red ochre and Prussian blue. You can make your own stencils, cutting a design out of cardboard with a sharp knife, or you can buy pre-cut stencils at craft stores. Obtain some stencils, and encourage your child to try his hand at stenciling.

~ Lay out lots of newspaper over the work area.

~ Put a small amount of paint on a paper plate.

~ Place stencil on piece of paper (a paper bag makes a nice effect) and hold firmly in place.

~ Using a sponge, gently dab the sponge into the paint, then over the cut area of the stencil.

~ Too much paint may run under stencil and cause it to smudge.

~ Let paint dry before repositioning stencil to create a pattern.


Horizon – Examine the illustrations throughout the story that show the horizon. The horizon is the line as far as your eye can see where the land and water meet the sky. Have your child fold a piece of paper in thirds long ways, like this:






Unfold and flatten your paper. The top line will be your horizon. One the bottom section, draw grass and dirt for the land. On the middle section, draw trees or mountains, some of which are poking up beyond the horizon. The top section is where you would draw the sky, including some clouds or the sun if you like. Color in your picture with crayons, colored pencils, or as Emily Arnold McCully did, use watercolors. 




God’s Laws - The Galesburgers are said to have “lived by the Scriptures”. This would indicate that they strived to follow God’s laws in the ways they carried out their lives. Use this as an opportunity to review the Ten Commandments with your child. He may have fun using this poem to memorize the Ten Commandments:


Ten Commandments in Verse


1. You shall have no more gods but me.
2. Before no idol bend your knee.
3. Take not the name of God in vain.
4. Dare not the Sabbath day profane,
5. Give both your parents honor due.
6. Take heed that you no murder do.
7. Abstain from words and deeds unclean.
8. Steal not, though you be poor and mean.
9. Make not a willful lie, nor love it.
10. What is your neighbor’s dare not covet.


Also discuss with your child the new commandment given by Jesus in John 3:34 – “That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” Ask your child if he thinks the Galesburgers were carrying out this commandment regarding the Ferris family. Remind him of how they were “stiff”, “standoffish”, and “could hardly bring themselves to speak civilly to him”.  Explain that even when people try to live by the Scriptures, they will sometimes slip up. Encourage your child this week to reflect on this verse and do his best to carry it out.


Using a Concordance – Learning how to use a concordance is an important skill that should be learned right along with learning to use a table of contents, index, or dictionary. Have your older child practice using a concordance this week by looking up and recording some of the Biblical references to mustard, corn, thresh (thresher, threshing), sowing (sow, sowed, sower), or seed.


Just for fun –


Field trip – If you happen to be using this unit in the summer or fall, go for a trip to a cornfield or corn maze. Collect up some dried husks to make dolls with, just like Maisie.


Taste Test – Have your child do a blind-fold taste test, trying numerous items made with corn– corn tortillas, corn chips, popcorn, Corn Pops cereal, corn muffins, corn syrup, corn chowder, etc. and see if he can identify each one.


Pioneer Living – Try to live like a pioneer for a day using no electricity (including tv, computer, electronic games, etc). Make it into a contest to see who can go without the longest.


Pioneer toys – Give your child scraps of wood, leather, and/or fabric and have him create fun toys the pioneer children may have played with.


Playing Royalty – Your child may have fun acting out the parts of the royal couple, or of Maisie upon meeting the royal couple. Practice proper etiquette, bowing, and curtsying.


English Tea Party – Maisie and her father most likely attended tea time while they were in England. Four o’clock in the afternoon is observed as tea time, where they would serve tea along with small sandwiches, pastries, and biscuits. Let your child practice his Royal Etiquette during an English Tea Party.


Popcorn! – You of course will want to make some popcorn to eat during this unit. For an extra special treat, make some caramel popcorn:


Heat together in large pot, stirring constantly:

            ½ cup corn syrup

            ½ cup packed brown sugar

            ¼ cup butter

            ½ teaspoon salt

Add 8 cups of popped popcorn, stirring until popcorn is well coated. Mix in 1 cup pecan halves and ½ cup slivered almonds. Spread mixture onto buttered cookie sheet. Bake at 300° for 15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, loosen mixture from cookie sheet, and let stand for 1 hour to harden (if you can wait that long!)


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