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overview prep for teachers steps: class one class two extensions


The PBS series FRONTIER HOUSE is one of the many recent "reality-based" television shows. But how do producers choose participants? What makes an ideal participant? And what are the ideal qualities for participants to possess?

In this lesson, students will examine the lifestyles of nineteenth century American homesteaders through guided and structured use of the Internet. After investigating the selection of the FRONTIER HOUSE participants via the program's online component, students will create an "ideal" family of participants, and complete the actual application that hopeful homesteaders submitted to appear on the show. This lesson can be used as a pre- or post- viewing activity for the PBS series The Frontier House. A basic knowledge of 19th century United States history is required.

Grade Level: 7-9

Time Allotment: Two 50-minute class periods (plus homework)

Subject Matter: Language Arts, Social Studies, Media Literacy

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
  • Identify the characteristics of nineteenth-century American homesteaders;
  • Describe the challenges inherent in a homesteader's daily life;
  • Describe the selection process for a reality-based television show and the outcome of that process;
  • Create a fictional family with the ideal characteristics needed to be accepted for a reality-based television program;
  • Write creatively in "multiple voices" and in character;
  • Successfully complete an application form.

From the National Council of Teachers of Teachers of English Standards, available online at

Students will read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.

Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g. conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively for a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

From the National Council for the Social Studies Standards, available online at

Teachers of history should enable learners to develop historical comprehension in order that they might reconstruct the literal meaning of a historical passage, identify the central question(s) addressed in historical narrative, draw upon data in historical maps, charts, and other graphic organizers; and draw upon visual, literary, or musical sources.

Media Components

Web Sites

The Fred Hulstrand History in Pictures Collection
This site, a portion of the Library of Congress' American Memory Web page, consists of 550 images documenting the settlement of the northern Great Plains between the early 1880s and the 1920s.

This site details the participant selection process for the PBS series FRONTIER HOUSE To play the video clips on the site, you will need the RealPlayer plug-in, available online at

FRONTIER HOUSE Historical Essay: "The Little Old Shanty on the Claim"
This site, part of the FRONTIER HOUSE Web site, contains a historical essay about the process of building a home on the frontier.

FRONTIER HOUSE Historical Essay: "It Is Very Aristocratic to Have a Bed At All"
This site, part of the FRONTIER HOUSE Web site, contains a historical essay about the process of finishing and furnishing a home on the frontier.

For each student:
  • Pen and paper
  • "Do You Wanna Be in Pictures?" Web Focus sheet Click here to download (Adobe Acrobat Reader required)
  • The Perfect Frontier Family Biography sheet Click here to download (Adobe Acrobat Reader required)
  • Frontier House Application Click here to download (Adobe Acrobat Reader required)
  • Access to FRONTIER HOUSE PBS series (for assessment activity)
For each pair of students:
  • Computer with Internet Access
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The Homesteaders
Animation of homesteaders
Media Showcase

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