Project Ideas for Living the Civil War

The Civil War can come alive through project ideas that allow them to experience what life would be like during that tumultuous time. One activity could consist of holding the 1864 presidential election all over again. Do not tell the students the names of the candidates or the time period just yet; let them hear or read each candidate profile and the situation of the United States at that moment in time, then invite them to decide for themselves who they would vote for. You can have each student represent a state, along with that state's electoral votes.

After the election, ask each student to explain his or her vote. If Lincoln wins the student vote, discuss the impact his victory had on the country. If McClellan won, discuss what impact his victory might have had for the United States. This project idea could be used for any of the elections that were critical in the beginning of the Civil War and its outcome.

Another project idea for the history of the Civil War is to develop a graphical timeline of the war. Instead of simply learning Civil War dates, enhance the flow of events leading to the Civil War by having students record a timeline on a large piece of paper or poster board. You can go back in time as far as necessary.

Use this timeline as a reference for - or even the basis of - your Civil War lesson period, or have teams take an event and write a report or discuss its effect on subsequent events on the timeline. Make the timeline as large and vivid as possible so it will be a constant visual reminder of how the Civil War developed.

The Civil War was won or lost not just with the fighting efforts of the soldiery on the battlefield, but also by factors on the respective home fronts of the North and South. A project idea to explore these factors involves groups of students researching a particular resource and reporting on the advantage this resource gave to either side. Population, slavery, industry, and finances - these are just some of the resources that could be discussed. Then look at these factors in today's world. How do these factors currently influence the North and South?

Other Civil War project ideas could include drawing or stitching flags and uniforms, writing letters to soldiers at the front, or maybe creating maps as they would have been created during Civil War times, without the aid of our advanced technology.