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The following activities explore why log cabins have a special place in American culture.

Activity 1: Folk Housing
The homes of ordinary people of the pre-railroad era are called folk housing. They were built of available materials, such as wood, earth, and stone, and differ markedly by region of the country and cultural traditions of the first groups of settlers. Have students research the most common type of folk housing found in their region. Find out if there are examples of these houses that the class might visit. If the houses are log buildings, have the students examine them closely to see if they find any Finnish influences. If the folk housing is of another type, ask students to compare the structures to log cabins. What are the similarities and the differences? How much space do the buildings have compared with a typical one-pen log cabin? How might those houses have been enlarged? (Your State Historic Preservation Office can usually direct you to appropriate sites.)

Activity 2: Role Play
Have the students pretend that they are early settlers in the community in which they reside. They are to make their living by farming. Have them draw a sketch of their first home and of the outbuildings they will need for the farm work. Although they may base the sketch on what they know of log-built structures, encourage them to take into account their own ethnic heritage and the predominant pre-railroad building type of the area. The point is to acknowledge not only the important role the Finns played in establishing the log cabin as a practical and popular form of housing, but also the vital role that folk housing of all ethnic groups played in establishing American values and continuing ways of life.

Activity 3: Modern Log Housing
Some students might enjoy rereading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie to examine the techniques used by the Ingalls family to build their log house and then to compare that construction with what is used locally today. A good source for finding loghome builders in most states is the Annual Buyer's Guide, Log Home Living, found in most public libraries or on newsstands. In that publication, students will learn that companies in 49 of the 50 states, including Hawaii, can provide kits for owner-built log houses or can build a log house on site. The log cabin retains its appeal.

 

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