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Washington Crosses the Delaware

In the cold and ice George Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware River in 1776 in Durham boats to surprise the sleeping Hessian soldiers in Trenton, New Jersey. This act helped raise the spirits of the Continental Army. Make a replica of this boat complete with General Washington at the helm.

  • Grade 2
    Grade 3
    Grade 4
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Before starting your lesson try to find a copy of the famous painting by Emanuel Leutze “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” This will help students understand the size of the boat and the conditions of the river.
    2. Share with students George Washington’s role during the American Revolution, particularly when he led his troops to battle against the German Hessian Soldiers on Christmas Day. This allowed Washington to capture 1,000 Hessian soldiers.
    3. The boat used to cross the river was called a Durham boat. Invented by Robert Durham, these large flat bottom boats were used to haul cargo. These vessels were capable of carrying 20 tons of goods to the towns along the Delaware River.
    4. To make a replica of this boat use the lid of a shoe box or paper egg carton. Cover surface with recycled newspaper. Use Crayola® Tempera Paint and paint the boat black. This was the color of the original boat. Allow the paint to dry before gluing objects to it. Wash hands and brushes after painting with water and soap.
    5. Make figures for your boat using Crayola® Water color and marker pad. Use craft sticks to make the body. Cut out round heads and clothing for figures. Color these pieces with Crayola® Classic Markers and use a Glue stick to adhere them to the craft stick. Cut out and color an American flag and glue it to a craft stick. Cut out some jagged pieces of ice to glue to boat. Add craft stick oars to figures. Allow pieces to dry before assembling your boat.
    6. To make your figures stand up cut small slits in the lid. Assist students with this process as needed. Place a small amount of glue into slit and push craft stick in. Allow glue to dry before using.
  • Standards

    LA: Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    SS: Compare and contrast different stories and accounts about past events, people, places, or situations, identifying how they contribute to our understanding of the past.

    SS: Analyze a particular event to identify reasons individuals might respond in different ways.

    SS: Identify and describe examples in which science and technology have changed the lives of people, such as in homemaking, childcare, work, transportation and communication.

    VA: Students will initiate making works of art and design by experimenting, imagining and identifying content.

    VA: Students will investigate, plan and work through materials and ideas to make works of art and design.

  • Adaptations

    The painting by Emanuel Leutze is called a tableau. Often actors will strike a pose to portray an event silently. Have your students reenact this famous scene. Once they are assembled tell them to stay in that position. If you like, take a photo. Have students move and change places becoming different people in the boat. Ask students to describe what they were doing, thinking or even feeling.

    Compare and contrast how we live today with the lives of the colonists in 1776. What if Washington and the Hessians had the technology we have today would the outcome be the same?


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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