Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

The American Revolution on the Frontier

The American Revolution on the Frontier

Spring 2015 Television
Ages: 10 - 16 yrs.
Rating: TV G

Teaching the history of the American Revolutionary War most often focuses on major battles and important personalities along the emerging nation's eastern seaboard. But another conflict, largely overlooked though of significant historical relevance, was unfolding at the same time along the frontier just to the west of the mountain ridges of the original colonies.

From Vermont to the southernmost colonies westward, numerous factions-including Native Americans, French traders, and British and American colonists-claimed those territories as their own. At the outset of the Revolution, all of them faced life-changing decisions about whether or not to join the fight between England and the American colonies, and which side to join to protect their best interests.

One of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's latest in the series of Electronic Field Trips, "The American Revolution on the Frontier" (premiered Nov. 6, 2014) tells that compelling, if lesser-known, story of the strategies, negotiations, betrayals and violence in the American frontier during The War for Independence.

The program effectively sets the stage with images of old prints and documents before examining history "first-hand" through three chapters of vignettes with actors in colonial costume-including characters such as White Eyes, a member of the Delaware Indian tribe who advocated in 1776 that Congress create a 14th state for Native Americans; Shawnee warriors whose translator and negotiator was a freed African-American slave; and four children in the Illinois territory, each affected in different ways by the war.

The broadcasts also feature segments with experts and historians that get high marks for their interactive opportunities during the initial broadcast with viewers via Twitter posts, phone calls, and instant feedback polls, but aren't as compelling or polished even as the vignettes. In an era when students have grown up with technology and expect dazzling on-screen graphic presentations, some of this Electronic Field Trip production suffers from rough edges. But, for students in grades 4-8, the program might open a doorway into the past that extends a fascination with history beyond textbooks and classrooms.

Don Oldenburg   ©2015 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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