Educational activities to do at home with children, all about regional history and culture! North Carolina State standards are included with each lesson.

History at Home 1: Conducting Oral Histories

What we go through today will be analyzed for many generations to come. One way to preserve these experiences is through Oral History. Oral history is the study of history by listening to people’s personal recollections as told through speech and dialogue. Every person in our community is a source of oral history!

History at Home 2: Making a Whirligig

The whirligig is a simple toy consisting of a flat disc with two central holes. When a string is threaded through the holes, twisted and then pulled taut, the disc spins and hums.The whirligig (buzzer, buzz disc, and whizzer) has been recovered at dig sites all over the world.

History at Home 3: Natural Egg Dyes

Natural dyes have been used by humans for many centuries. American colonists learned how to use natural plants to make natural dyes from the native Americans.

History at Home 4: The Cherokee Butterbean Game

The Cherokee of Western North Carolina have played a variety of sports and counting games for hundreds of years, including stick ball, chunkey, and the butter bean game. Help children learn about these games and play a butter bean game at home!

History at Home 5: Make a Rag Doll

Rag dolls have traditionally been made as comfort objects for small children. They have been around in America since the 1630s – World War II. Traditionally they have been made of scraps of left over fabrics and cotton. They began to be mass produced in the 1870s.

History at Home 6: Cherokee Basket Making and Materials

With these lesson plans, kids will learn about the plants historically used to make Cherokee baskets, color Cherokee basket patterns and create their own basket patterns!

History At Home 7: Clay Marbles

Marbles is one of the oldest games known to man. Clay marbles have been found in native american and colonial dig sites across America. Marbles are made of many different materials including clay, glass, stone, and plastic. Learn how to make your own clay marbles today and how to play one of the oldest games known in history!

History At Home 8: DIY Butter

Butter has been a staple in households throughout the world for many centuries. It is most commonly made from Cow’s milk. in ancient Rome it was swallowed for coughs or spread on  aching joints. By the middle ages butter was commonly found in European cooking. The pilgrims brought it with them when they crossed the sea to the America’s. Butter has played a major role in American cooking since the beginning and still plays a role in our cooking today. So make a fresh batch and celebrate butter’s history!

History At Home 9: Ball and Cup Toy

This toy was quite popular in Europe with adults and children alike throughout the time of settlement of the American colonies. In North America it was both a child’s toy and a gambling mechanism for adults, and involved catching a ring rather than a ball and cup. Some Native American tribes used it as a courtship device, where suitors would challenge the objects of their interest to a polite game of ring and pin. The object of the game is to swing the wooden ball into the cup, which is not as simple as it may appear. The task required the development of dexterity and good hand-eye coordination. The Victorian period saw many cups and balls of quite ornate design. The cup and ball is a particularly versatile toy which can be enjoyed in solitary or in the company of others.

History At Home 10: Banjo

The banjo traveled to America from Africa with the slaves. Particularly West Africa. The instrument they brought with them was called the Akonting. The Akonting is the folk lute of the Jola people, found in Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau in West Africa. It is a banjo-like instrument with a skin-headed gourd body, two long melody strings, and one short drone string, akin to the short fifth “thumb string” found on the five-string banjo.The banjos of Western North Carolina before the Civil War were made of goatskin, gourd bodies, and materials found around the home. This instrument was often played by both black and white musicians living in the Appalachian Mountain region. The banjo quickly became a staple musical instrument in Southern homes. As it gained in popularity it began to evolve in structure. Today the two most popular banjos are the resonator banjo ( Bluegrass Banjo), and the open-back banjo (Old Time Banjo). Musicians from North Carolina’s Western Piedmont and Mountain Region, Earl Scruggs, Charlie Poole and Snuffy Jenkins, are recognized as the creators  of modern banjo styles.

History At Home 11: Whittling Whimsy-Whittle an Owl

Elsie Martin:Wood Carver Of Western North Carolina

Written by Betsy Murray, Courtesy of the North Carolina Room at the Pack Memorial Library, Asheville

Elsie Martin’s life began in a time of change in the lives of the men and women of rural Appalachia. Her mother could have been one of the characters depicted in her husband’s carvings (Wayne Martin). Elsie and her many siblings lived as children on their grandfather’s large farm in Fairview, NC.
After high school Elsie hoped to attend Berea College, but her mother became ill, and Elsie stayed home to take care of her. World War II opened up a new world of experiences and opportunities. Mrs. Martin was proud that she traveled alone to New York to visit her husband Wayne before he was shipped out to war. Wounded in battle, Wayne came home unable to do the backbreaking physical labor his father had done. But Interest in Appalachian crafts was growing, and Wayne found that he could earn a living carving figurines and musical instruments. He and his brother Wade both sold figurines at the Appalachian Craft Shop on Wall Street.
As children, Elsie Martin and her siblings picked berries to sell before going to school. After marriage she did factory work for many years. Seeing that people were eager to buy her husband’s carvings, she decided to try her hand at whittling. She taught herself to carve flowers after buying one from someone selling them on the Parkway. Soon she was selling the flowers she carved, as well as Christmas trees and cocky little roosters in singles and pairs.
She obtained the wood for her carvings by combing the nearby mountainsides for the perfect twigs: maple for the flowers, poplar for the trees.
Elsie Marlowe and Wayne Martin grew up in the same community, and Elsie was close to the Martin family. After Wayne’s death, Elsie married his younger brother Edsel. They worked together well, marketing their crafts and demonstrating their work through the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild and other outlets. Elsie Martin’s second husband Edsel Martin was known primarily for his bird carvings.


History At Home 12: Independence Day

Independence Day

On July 4, 2020 the United States of America will be 244 years old.Each year Americans celebrate the Continental Congress’s passage of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776. The Declaration of Independence proclaimed the 13 colonies independence from England, an event that led to the formation of the United States of America.
On July 8, 1776, the first public readings of the Declaration were held in Philadelphia’s Independence Square to the ringing of bells and band music. One year later, on July 4, 1777, Philadelphia marked Independence Day by adjourning Congress and celebrating with bonfires, bells and fireworks.

History At Home 13: Pollinator Garden

A pollinator garden is planted with pollinating insects in mind. Nectar and pollen producing plants attract pollinating insects known as pollinators. Pollinator gardens should provide the following types of plants, various nectar producing flowers, and shelter providing plants.


Pollinators, such as most bees and some birds, bats, and other insects, play an important role in flowering plant reproduction and in the production of most fruits and vegetables.

Examples of crops that are pollinated include apples, squash, and almonds. Without the assistance of pollinators, most plants cannot produce fruits and seeds. The fruits and seeds of flowering plants are an important food source for people and wildlife. Some of the seeds that are not eaten will eventually produce new plants, helping to maintain the plant population.If these crops are not pollinated they will no longer be able to produce the fruits and vegetables we rely on for nutrition.


Pollination results when the pollen from the male part of the flower (stamen) is moved to the female part of the same or another flower (stigma) and fertilizes it, resulting in the production of fruits and seeds. Some flowers rely on the wind to move pollen, while others rely on animals to move pollen.

Animals visit flowers in search of food,shelter,and nest-building materials. Bees intentionally collect pollen.While butterflies and birds, move pollen because the pollen sticks to their body while they are collecting nectar from the flowers. All of these animals are considered pollinators.

History At Home 14: Rocks of the Swannanoa Valley

There are many different kinds of rocks that can be found throughout the Swannanoa Valley. These rocks represent the history of how the Swannanoa Valley was formed over the centuries. When you drive to lake Tomahawk or look up at the seven sisters you may notice the many folds that form our Valley. Buncombe County sits in the center of a fold and thrust belt known as the “Blue Ridge Thrust Complex”. This means the group of rocks in our area represent the result of millions of years of compression and collision between continental plates. A fold and thrust belt is a series of foothills and mountains that develop from extensive folding as rocks compress and thrust on top of each other as compression persists. The Blue Ridge Thrust Complex records a complex history of mountain building throughout hundreds of millions of years.  All of this activity forms rocks and minerals that can be commonly found on the ground in our valley. These rocks can be classified as igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary. 

History@Home 15: WNC Expansion 1784

Many Whites passed through the northwestern mountains and became permanent residents of the Watauga settlements (now in Tennessee) in the 1770s. By 1784 the earliest known permanent White settlers in the North Carolina Mountain Region came to the Swannanoa area, what is now known as Buncombe County.Among these early settlers were the Davidsons, Alexanders, Gudgers, and Pattons.

As more Whites immigrated into the area just west of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the late 1700s, the Cherokee who were living there were forced to move west. As a result, White migration into present-day Buncombe, Henderson, and Transylvania Counties grew rapidly for a while. The settlers who came to the Mountains were primarily of English, Scotch-Irish, and German descent. They came to buy, settle, and farm the cheap, fertile bottomlands and hillsides in the region. Some migrated from the North Carolina Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. They came by foot, wagon, or horseback, entering the area through gaps such as Swannanoa, Hickory Nut, Gillespie, and Deep Gaps. Other English, Scotch-Irish, and German settlers came from Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. They traveled down the Great Wagon Road to the Piedmont Region of North Carolina and then traveled west to reach the mountains.