When the American Girl dolls first came on the scene, the girls were all historically based, and the books that accompanied them were not only cute stories about the girls themselves but a great overview of the historical time period that the girl was from. Over the years, the American Girl dolls have moved away from the original history-themed dolls, and there are many more modern girls in the series now. But the historical dolls and their accompanying books still offer a great way for girls- and boys as well- to learn about various periods in American history.
Although the dolls didn’t come on the scene until I was in high school, I was a doll lover and soon had several. My favorite was Molly. Not only does she look at little like me with brown hair and glasses, but I’ve also always had an interest in the World War 2 time period- Molly’s time in history. When I learned about the Girls of American History unit study curriculum based on the original American Girl books, I was very interested to have a look at the Molly unit study. I’ve also been covering American history with my younger girls- 10 and 11 year olds- this year, and we happen to be close to the World War 2 time period. I knew they would enjoy a unit study based on the American Girl books.
About the Girls of American History Curriculum Series
The Girls of American History series is a series of unit studies based on the historical American Girl book series. There are thirteen units, covering the dolls from Kaya, a Nez Perce Native American girl all the way through Julie, who grows up in 1974. (And yes, I’m a little disturbed by the fact that a historical dolls line has a figure from the year after I was born!) The units in the curriculum series are numbered in the order of the American Girl doll releases, I believe, and not necessarily in historical order. From what we saw in the Molly series, the units are self-contained. So if you were doing a year of American history, you could choose to use the units in historical order.
Each of the units has six weeks of unit study activities. This is because the American girl book series has six books for each girl. So the unit study is set up to read one book each of the six weeks of the study. The unit study activities are multi-sensory, giving children with different learning styles the opportunity to do activities that best suit them.
The site’s Home page has information about how the unit study works and some flexible ideas about how to use the curriculum. It isn’t meant to be an all inclusive unit study curriculum, but you can adapt it to use in the way that best fits with your family and your need. The author emphasizes that, although the curriculum is based on the American Girls series, boys can enjoy it as well. There are some boy characters in the books we’ve read. But I don’t believe my son would enjoy them because they are based off of dolls and feature primarily girls. He has watched a few of the American Girl movies, but I’ve never been able to interest him in the books.
Upon purchase of a Girls of American History unit study, you’ll receive an email with your file and a password that allows access to the resources page on the site. The unit studies each have a list of required resources and suggested resources. The unit study file contains a suggested six week schedule for using the books and includes some ideas for crafts, field trips and cooking activities.
About the Molly-World War 2 Unit
We received the Molly unit study, and I began looking at how I would use this with my girls. The six week suggested schedule referenced crafts and other resources listed on the site. I logged into the password protected resources page for the Molly unit to see what resources we would use to do the suggested activities.
Within the craft resources section, there were a few broken links. There is a note from the author that says she can be contacted about any broken links, so I can notify her. With the working links, there are some fun crafts that we can make when those are suggested on the schedule- planting a garden like Molly’s victory garden, making a model airplane, and ways to recycle and compost. Some of the links- such as the model airplane- are for kits that need to be purchased.
After the crafts resource section, there is a section of suggested books. In addition to the basic series of six books which you’ll definitely need for the unit study, there are a host of suggested books, including the Molly’s Craft Book and Molly’s Cook Book, drawing books that have lessons for drawing from historical time periods, an American Girls mystery series based on Molly, and a variety of other books based in the time period. The author notes that some of these books are now out of print. There are links to purchase all of them- new or used- from Amazon or other sites.
Included in the resource section is also a compilation of field trip ideas that will coordinate with the Molly books. There were a few links that allow you to search for trips closer to your area and then a few links to specific sites and museums throughout the US.
The resource also contains links to purchase all of the Molly books, including the mystery series, the mini Molly doll and book set, other Molly-themed books, and the Molly movies.
At the end of the resource page, you can find a few lapbooking resources. The six week unit study plan suggests time for working on a lapbook on some of the days. At the bottom of the resource page is a link to a free Homeschool Share lapbook, basic lap booking information, and an Amazon link to purchase the Knowledge Box Molly lapbook.
What I Think
If you have girls who are fans of the American Girl dolls, this could be a great way to get them interested in history. Reading through the basic set of six books and doing some of the extension ideas suggested would be a good supplement to an American history study. Kids who love hands-on crafts and cooking and field trips will especially enjoy some of these ideas.
You could probably take the time to hunt up most of these links and resources on your own, but there is often value in having things laid out and easily referenced. It saves me time and keeps me from jumping on the computer to look for “one little idea” and emerging two hours later having found that one idea, pinned forty crockpot recipes, checked Facebook for thirty minutes, and posted ten pictures to Instagram. Now I have those ideas laid out for me, and I can pick out an idea quickly as we read through the books.
I was a little disappointed at the fact that most of the resource links were links to something I would have to pay for. There were a few working craft links, the field trip links, and the Homeschool Share lapbook. But it seemed as if the rest were all things I would have to pay extra to use. Some of the Molly books could probably be requested through the library. I know our library doesn’t have even all of the basic American Girl books, but I may be able to request some of these through interlibrary loan.
All in all, if you have an American Girl doll fan, you may want to look at these unit studies as you’re covering American history. It’s a quick way to find some suggested ideas and resources for using the American Girl books as you move through history.
Girls of American History Giveaway
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