The Fourth of July is about more than just fireworks, hot dogs and watermelon. Go a little deeper this Independence Day with these fun learning ideas for parents and kids.
Explore the Roots of the Day
Ask a kid or even an adult about why the Fourth of July is celebrated and you may receive a blank stare, followed by a stammering mumble about the United States’ birthday. Most people understand that it’s a patriotic holiday, but they don’t know exactly what the day means. The Fourth of July was the day that the founders of our nation signed the Declaration of Independence, the document that told England that the American colonies no longer wished to be under British rule. It took seven years of the Revolutionary War to truly gain this independence, but July 4, 1776 is when the concept called the United States of America truly began.
John Trumbull’s iconic painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence is an interesting way to bring up the history behind this important day. To reinforce this concept, you can help your kids make a quill pen out of a large feather according to these instructions from education.com.
Fireworks, Chemistry and Physics
It can be hard to draw older kids into summer learning activities, but everyone loves fireworks. Creating fireworks combines chemistry, combustion, and physics. Legend says that a Chinese cook accidentally created gunpowder when he combined saltpeter, charcoal, and sulfur and created an explosion. Historians often credit Marco Polo with bringing gunpowder to Europe, although the Crusaders probably brought some back too. Once in Europe, gunpowder was used for military purposes, but the Italians figured out how to use the gunpowder to create fireworks.
Different chemicals burn different colors and one way that chemists test chemicals is to see what color a substance burns. Fireworks use this information to create the multicolored displays that we all love. These learning activities from PBS can guide high school aged students through activities about fireworks. Be sure to supervise even older kids if they do hands on fireworks experiments.
John Phillip Sousa was a conductor of the Marine Band in the late 1800s and composed iconic American music for the band to perform. Although many people associate Sousa with bold brass band music, his first love was the violin. Sousa resigned as leader of the Marine Band in 1892, and created his own civilian band afterward, touring the world, performing distinctly American music. Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever” was designated as the national march of the United States of America. As you grill out this July 4th, listen to John Phillip Sousa’s music. You and your kids can learn more about Sousa from the Marine Band’s website; and on the PBS site, you can listen to original recordings of Sousa’s band playing patriotic music from before the turn of the century.