Monday, October 27, 2008

Napoleon's World Dialectic History Presentation

We had a major costume glitch right before my parents arrived.  My son's boot busted!  I had to grab my sewing kit and sew it back together while my husband took my parents into the garage to show off his cabinetry project for the schoolroom.  Finally, the boot was fixed and the show could go on! 



My son had the idea to begin the history presentation with a small skit.  Hmmmm, I think he was inspired by the DVD we had watched the other night, Jefferson and Adams: A Stage Play
On the left is my daughter, playing Lizzy Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. She is reading the astonishing letter she has received from Mr. Darcy.  
On the right is my son.  Can you guess who he is???  No, not Napoleon as many have predicted!  lol  While in Colonial Williamsburg, he purchased a bosun whistle.  He insisted on being someone in who used this whistle in America's Federal years.  It took a few weeks to find someone, but we finally discovered a fascinating man who probably used this. 
My son portrayed Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry who won a famous naval battle on Lake Erie in the War of 1812. (And my son was elated when he learned that the  Marquis de Lafayette visited the scene of this battle on his Grand Tour of America in 1824!)  He is doing paperwork at his desk.  
I portrayed Thomas Jefferson's daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph.  She was an interesting lady.  She was homeschooled in the classics by her father, then she lived in France at the on-set of the French Revolution when her father was Minister to France.   While living at Monticello with her father, husband and children, she homeschooled her own children while running the household.  After a few moments of our skit, my son stood up and blew his bosun's whistle to announce the opening.  Then each of us introduced ourselves.  After I introduced myself, I invited everyone into the dining room to enjoy some food from the Monticello kitchen.



Jefferson had some of his cooks professionally trained in Paris.  The kitchen at Monticello was specially built to accomodate French cooking with the delicate sauces and slow cooking of meats, making them more tender than the quick cooking over an open hearth.  The kids and I spent all day Saturday cooking.  The kids got to learn lots of French cooking techniques. (I was very thankful for my training in years past from watching French cook Jacques Pepin on tv! It allowed me to understand some of the techniques.) We used a cookbook I had purchased while we were at Monticello a few months ago, Dining at Monticello

This is a French inspired recipe for asparagus marinated with herb vinaigrette.



 We pretended this was a Virginia Ham.  There is none to be found in Texas.  I had some Virgninia Ham while we were on vacation a few months ago and it is delicious. It is very salty, but a little bit of ham goes a long way in flavor.  I meant to buy an actual Virginia Ham while we were on vacation for this unit celebration but I forgot. 



 This is a salad with edible flowers.  I had my daughter dress the salad and I think she got carried away!  LOL  It looks more like a bouquet! =) There are several types of gourmet lettuce underneath the flowers!



There was fresh herbal vinaigrette to use to dress the salad.



This is baked macaroni with cheese...much different from versions of today.



We also had Vermicelli Soup.



We added homemade pasta to the soup.  Here is some extra drying for future recipes!  It is called Nouilly a maccaroni.  There is actually a copy of this recipe in Jefferson's own penmanship today. 



My daughter also made fresh lemonade.  That was delicious!  After a terrific dinner, we served the dessert course.  There was homemade chocolate ice cream, made to recreate the texture Jefferson would have known.  It was decadently chocolate!   



We also had Snow Eggs!  These were delicious!!!  The white is poached meringue with a subtle hint of orange.  They are laying in a delectable custard sauce. 



 After dinner, we were treated to an entertainment of music.  My daughter read the historical background of "The Star Spangled Banner." 



Then my son played the tune on his fife.



He was very military in his manner...



Then my son gave an introduction to the "Ode to Joy", which my daughter played on the piano.  After that, my daughter read the historical background to "Angels From the Realms of Glory", which my son played on the piano.

After enjoying the music, my son shared his Lewis and Clark journal.  He gave some background on the expedition.  He pretended to have been on the expedition as well, and wrote journal entries for the different things he saw.  He enjoyed this project immensely.  I  couldn't stop him from researching and writing! He'd say, "But Mom, I want to do this animal too!" A teacher/mom's dream!  He wrote an introduction to his journal, after he finally ran out of time for more entries.  He bound all the papers together by stitching them and then glued on a suede cover.  



He chose one entry to share, which was about the buffalo.



Afterwards, everyone oohed and ahhed over his other pictures too.  Here is the frisky Eastern Grey Squirrel...



a stately bald eagle...



the ferocious grizzly bear...



the abundant salmon...



and the Clark's Nutcracker, many of which we actually got to see on previous vacations to Colorado.



Then my daughter read her literary analysis paper on Pride and Prejudice.  She had never done a literary analysis paper before.  This was her favorite book of the entire unit and she fully understood the literary terms to use to describe the plot.    



After that, she gave a recitation of Lizzy's reaction to Darcy's letter.  She actually had it all memorized. She was using Darcy's letter as a prop.



Then my son gave his Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry speech.  This man was a low ranking naval officer, who felt cheated that he didn't get to sail on the open sea where all the action was.  Instead, he was stuck on the quiet backwaters of Lake Erie.  



Well, the War of 1812 came to Lake Erie.  He hoisted the flag he had made, bearing the final words of a good friend who had died in a previous naval battle. 











Even though America had a tiny navy and were fighting England, who ruled the seas, the Americans won the battle of Lake Erie against all odds.  Afterwards, Perry wrote this letter...



to Brigadier General William Henry Harrison...



and sealed it.



My daughter acted as courier and took it to Dad, who opened it and read it. 

Then my daughter explained the history of some of the art projects they did, like these silhouettes.



Then she domonstrated how to do quilling.  It is a simple matter of wrapping a piece of paper around a quill.



My daughter created this picture...



and my son made Thanksgiving dinner...



Finally, my son read his comparison/contrast paper on George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte.  At the end, my son explained that Napoleon could not come as a guest to our history presentation, because he was in exile. (sigh...what will it take to help him see Napoleon in a more favorable light?)







These books include the Dialectic history books that both kids read, in addition to the Dialectic literature books my son read.



We had fun shopping for fruits and vegetables like the ones that Thomas Jefferson grew at Monticello.  We'll be trying out lots of new vegetable recipes in the next week!  Most interesting, we discovered that Jefferson even had spicy peppers from San Antonio, Texas that had been sent to him by a captain!



While at Monticello, I had gotten some seeds from Thomas Jefferson's gardens.  We are looking forward to growing them next spring and reliving memories of our early 19th century studies. 

 

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trip: The Will of the People

We had our first Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trip last week and the kids enjoyed it immensely. We learned that the negative campaigning tactics of today are nothing new.  That surprised us!  The first bitter election was in 1800 between Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson and Federalist John Adams.  Then tensions increased when Thomas Jefferson tied with his Vice-Presidential candidate, Aaron Burr!  Because of this the 12th ammendment to the Constitution was ratified.  Although we had studied these topics a few weeks ago, we had not made the connection with negative campaigning of today. 

We began the week by reviewing this historic election in the Teacher Notes provided by EFT.  Since much of it was review, we were able to whiz through that and focus on some new vocabulary and ideas that were presented.  The notes took us through a brief history of elections in Colonial America, and I realized I had a Colonial Williasmburg Journal with great pictures of the CW actor/interpreters reenacting the election process...the very thing we were talking about.  So I pulled the journal out and we looked at all the pictures (and of course looked to see if we could recognize anyone from our previous trips.)   

Another topic of the EFT was the voting qualifications in Colonial America.  I began this by asking the kids if they remembered our trip to Colonial Williamsburg when we were sitting in front of the Courthouse. Someone came out and told us we could be part of the jury for the trials coming up.  We all stood. Then he called out the qualifications to be on the jury. We sat when we didn't qualify.  Out of our large group, only a handful were "in".   Hmmmmmm, the point was well made. Those of us who had to sit certainly felt historically excluded.  These are the same qualifications for voting in the eighteenth century: white male, property owner, Protestant, over 21 years of age.  The kids remembered and that prompted discussion.

Then we looked at two sets of original source documents, provided by "The Will of the People" EFT.  First we studied actual documents that showed  how discriminated groups of voters worked to gain the right to vote.  We also learned when the right was granted with a Constitutional Ammendment.  Then the kids got to play an interactive game at "The Will of the People" web site on their computers, about the history of voting rights.

After that we looked at another set of historical documents and analyzed negative campaign tactics.  Because we did not live in the time period  of these papers, we could easily detect the bias and slander.

Before the day of the actual Electronic Field Trip, we previewed the videos.  I am glad we did, because the kids were able to ask all of their questions and comment about everything they saw.  We also got to look over the script to answer any other questions we had.  Best of all, we got to pause and review any parts we missed because we were laughing so hard!  The script writer and actors competently took a negative topic and lightened it up with some terrific humor!  The kids tried finding some of the humorous stuff in the script but it wasn't there.  We've done a bit of theater and I know that with a group of clever people, once they get together and get on a roll, one never knows where it will go!  We wondered if this happened with the production of this video.  

The videos added a new dimension to the concepts we had studied. We recognized some of the actors from our previous trips!  (In the credits, my daughter found the name of the Patrick Henry we met in 2004.  He plays someone else in "The Will of the People" and it was fun to finally find him!  So that's what he looks like without a wig!  LOL)  



Of course, Thomas Jefferson was played by the same actor whom we got to meet in Colonial Williamsburg in 2004 (but we couldn't find him on our recent trip a few months ago).



He did an excellent job, as always!  When I saw this video, I got to thinking that this actor must like kids.  When we met him in 2004, it was at Kimball Theater at a program for kids.  Thomas Jefferson spoke specifically to the kids and answered only their questions.  He did have to raise his eyebrow a few times when parents snuck in a few questions via their kids.   And no, I wasn't one of them!  lol   Then Poplar Forest has a special program called "Conversations on Democracy" where this same actor portrays Thomas Jefferson.  He and various historical figures answer questions for students.  During this video as well, Thomas Jefferson acts with a brother and sister, teaching them about elections.  Thomas Jefferson engages well with the kids, respecting them, and patiently answering their questions, often times with humor.

On the day of the Electronic Field Trip, I tuned the computer to the video streaming and Colonial Williamsburg had beautiful classical music playing.  I kept that low and in the background while the kids knocked out some math.  When we heard the music stop, we knew it was time for the Electronic Field Trip. What a good excuse to put math to the side! 



The video is broken down into 3 parts.  After each part, the cameras went to the studio where Thomas Jefferson, a historian from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and a political science professor from nearby Christopher Newport University, answered questions that were called in from students across the country.  Some of this was funny to watch too. Thomas Jefferson acted perfectly innocent about how his supporters handled information about opponent John Adams, while the CWF historian begged to differ and told the other side of the story!  The political scientist related everything to this year's election...and some of that information shocked Thomas Jefferson!  I think they did an excellent job telling both sides of the story without bias.  

There were two sessions of the EFT, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We watched both, since the questions would be different at each one. It was so much fun to hear the various questions and the actor/interpreters' reaction and answer to them.  A few days before when we had previewed the videos, the kids told Dad about how funny the video was.  He couldn't understand how they could be learning anything if they were having fun.  Well, during the afternoon's live broadcast, he came home early and had to pull up a seat and laugh (and learn...gasp) with us! ;)

After the sessions, I called to order a DVD.  The lady was very nice and asked me what I thought of the program. We talked for a few minutes about how wonderful and unique this particular EFT was.  The DVD should arrive in about 6 weeks, since it has to go through post production.  It will include the videos, the best of the questions and answers (I hope they include all of Thomas Jefferson's funny reactions!), closed captioning, and chapter titles for easy search.  Anything CWF does is quality, so I am content (though eager) to wait for it! 

My kids also had an opportunity to e-mail questions to Thomas Jefferson.    My daughter e-mailed two questions: 

"Dear Mr. Jefferson (we weren't sure if he was e-mailing as president or after), If Aaron Burr had been chosen President of the United States, would you have minded? Do you have any foresight in how his presidency would have been like? Thank you for teaching about the elections. Sincerely, _____"

She got a reply shortly before the Electronic Field Trip.  She enjoyed not only his answer, but was tickled when he signed it, "Your most humble servant, Th. Jefferson."

After the Electronic Field Trip, my son finally thought of a question.  He asked, "Mr. Jefferson,  Were you influenced by anyone to run for President or did you come up with the idea on your own? Thank you for taking the time to answer this question.  Inquisitively yours, __________"

My son had a blast reading the answer he received from Thomas Jefferson, which began "Master __________". The answer was very interesting!  I printed out copies of the e-mails for each of the kids to have as souvenirs.  It was the highlight of their week!  We are looking forward to the next one in November...Yorktown!

Now for those who would like to know how I organized our EFT information... 

In preparation for the Electronic Field Trip, I felt a little overwhelmed!  lol  There were many details to note, to see if my computer was set up properly for the live stream, remembering the time for the test stream,  remembering the time for the actual EFTs, correctly converting from Eastern Time to Central Time, and remembering how to access all the parts of the EFT.  I printed out the different pieces of information and put them in a general Electronic Field Trip binder for handy reference at any time.  To help me remember what this notebook is for, I got some scrapbooking paper that reminded me of some of the prints I saw in Colonial Williamsburg.  



Then I printed out "The Will of the People" pdf file of Teacher Notes and Student handouts and activities, phone numbers in case we called in a question, etc.  I put that in a seperate binder.  I also included my own copies of the e-mails between Thomas Jefferson and my kids!  ;)  To decorate this binder, I chose a French Toile since part of the contension the Federalists had with Thomas Jefferson was his love for France!









Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Napoleonic Perspective

We have been doing an in-depth study on Napoleon Bonaparte for the last several weeks, learning lots of details from his birth to his rise to power to his Waterloo.  When we were first discussing Napoleon, the kids and I suggested to the kids that the actor/interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg, who portrayed Lafayette and dubbed my son "the young historian", would do a good job portraying Napoleon. The kids didn't believe me. Oh well. I was reaching to figure out how to make Napoleon interesting to the kids. and I knew they liked that actor quite well. Napoleon was the first figure in history they did not want to learn, primarily because of how our history curriculum and suggested books were portraying him. Deep inside I felt there was more to the story and that there were somehow inaccuracies.  After all, why would he have such a huge following, especially from people I've met from Europe, to this day?



Anyway, in the course of our studying Napoleon's numerous battles as his empire increasingly spread across Europe, I thought it would be interesting to see some actual pictures of his campaign.  Of course there was no photography then, but there are reenactors today.  And reenacting has been in the forefront of my mind since visiting Colonial Williamsburg last August. After all, one of Colonial Williamsburg's goals is to make history come alive through experience. I decided to research Napoleonic reenactments.  

Wow!  I found some interesting stuff to show the kids!  Reenactors in Europe have been in the middle of the 200th anniversary of Napoleon's various campaigns. Men from all over Europe arrive in costume, with artillery to reenact the campaigns. And who should they invite from America to portray Napoleon?  None other than the actor who portrays the Marquis de Lafayette from Colonial Williamsburg, who we thought could do Napoleon.  Apparently this actor/interpreter/historian enjoys portraying Napoleon in his free time!  My kids especially enjoyed one piece of trivia we had read about these reenactments.  According to the European news sources, the actor/interpreter does an excellent job portraying Napoleon (we can believe that) and is an excellent horseman (we can believe that from seeing him gallop his horse through CW), unlike Napoleon, who was known to fall off of  horses during his campaigns.  I don't know how much validity there is to Napoleon falling off of his horse since we haven't read about it in any of our books.  But it was certainly amusing! 



Apparently this actor/interpreter has also portrayed Napoleon on the History Channel.  I know my kids would really enjoy seeing him portray Napoleon, and a teacher/mom uses anything at her disposal to inspire learning and maintain the interest. (Especially when my kids quickly decided they didn't like Napoleon after reading about him and I feared that any future lessons were forever doomed.  It's only been this actor/interpreter who has livened things up a bit!) I've been checking the tv listings at the History Channel for anything Napoleonic.  If I find any shows to tape my kids will have fun looking for him, and perhaps learn more about Napoleon!

Here are some great Napoleon reenactment photos and videos.  My kids enjoyed seeing these as they made the battles they had read about more realistic.

Photos from the Battle of Austerlitz-Napoleon's greatest victory

Video from the Battle of Borodino-great epic music!

Then at Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson's other home, I discovered a great on-line video of Thomas Jefferson (whom we met in 2004 at CW)



and Napleon (portrayed by Colonial Williamsburg's Lafayette).  My kids loved this since they had enjoyed previously meeting both actors.  During the hour long video, Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon answer various questions from a group of middle school students.  It was priceless to hear not onlyThomas Jefferson's perspective of Napoleon's style of leadership, but also to see his reaction to Napoleon's opinions! The expressions on my kids' faces were classic too! The actors' interpretations of Jefferson and Napoleon brought to life the pages my kids had read in their books.  Even though we had already discussed the Louisiana Purchase, the Declaration of Independence, Code Napoleon, democracy vs dictatorship, etc, my kids were able to view these ideas as through different lenses. 

After the video, my kids poured forth their reactions to Napoleon's view points.  They were incredulous how he justified everything.  That gave us fresh opportunity to approach his dictatorship from the perspective of various peoples of Europe. Specifically we focused on the lower class of France.  Napoleon claimed he was not a dictator.  For proof, he said the people were happy.  For the first time in their history, the chains of feudalism were gone and they had equality and liberty. Also they had "chosen" him to be their leader. My son was bothered by this because Napoleon was really a dictator who didn't offer a lot of choices to his people.  Their rights were not as free as Americans had in the United States.  I asked him who brought an end to the French Revolution and stabilized France?  Reluctantly, he admitted that it was Napoleon. What were the living conditions of the lower class prior to the Revolution? For generations upon generations, feudalism mandated allegiance to the nobles, no say in government, heavy taxation to support the king (and Marie Antoinette), poverty, hunger which led to the storming of the Bastille, the French Revolution, the guillotine, many temporary governments who could not bring control to the terror...at long last the people were supportive of this man who brought peace, control, and made their quality of life better than they or their ancestors had previously known.  
We talked again about Code Napoleon, the civil law Napoleon put into effect for all people under his rule. We compared that to America where we have local laws, state laws and federal laws. But under Code Napoleon, all the people of France were under the same law as the people across conquered Europe, and for a time, Louisiana.  Even today, some countries and Louisiana continue to use parts of Code Napoleon for their law.  Isn't that interesting?  

Sunday, October 5, 2008

San Antonio Riverwalk

Before we went to the IMAX last week, we ate Mexican food on the riverwalk. 

 We had two types of waiters:  the ones on my left who patiently served us food and drink at Casa Rio...and the feathered ones on my right who impatiently waited on us to give them our food. 



Here is a greedy duck hogging a tortilla all to himself (obtained from a nearby table).  There was quite a bit of ruckus and chasing going on but the duck managed to keep the tortilla all to himself.



The San Antonio Riverwalk almost never existed. Because of constant flood issues and city mess with the San Antonio River in the early 1900s, the city nearly paved over it. After all it was no more than a mere trickle of garbage, that during heavy rains, flooded downtown.  Impassioned citizens set out to save the river and convinced the city with a play called "The Goose that laid the Golden Egg" that the river could become an asset.  An architect envisioned a recreation of Venitian canals with gondolas.  The WPA employed workers to build the riverwalk with local stone from a nearby quarry (by the zoo).  The original stonework can be seen in many of the walkways and bridges today.  However, the riverwalk was still a scene of crime and pollution, with the backdoors of businesses facing the river.  Eventually store and restaurant owners were convinced to open their businesses with access on the river side.   The first restaurant to open facing the river was Casa Rio, where we had lunch.   Today there are ongoing extensions and improvements to the river, with access to the streets throughout most of downtown. Floods are now controlled with flood gates and an underground tunnel for overflow.  Big name hotels and restaurants abound on the river. Whenever we have visitors, the one city trip I usually recommend is the river, which is quite unique. The plants and flowers are huge because of the unique ecosystem.  Located below street level, it is warmer than the city streets in the winter and not affected as much by the rare frost.  Also it is usually a bit cooler than the street level in the summer.








Having tediously made their own mosaics when we studied Ancient Rome a few years ago, the kids can appreciate more intricate craftsmanship when they see it.



Across from the Riverwalk is the Alamo. 






Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Resources for Lewis and Clark and Zebulon Pike

Last weekend we went to the IMAX theater to see Lewis and Clark: Great Journey West.  The only problem with this movie was that it wasn't detailed enough.  Although we saw everything we had read about, there was more to the adventure.  Of course, they could only squeeze in so much into 45 miniutes.  Nevertheless, it was great to see what we had read about, like the dangerous rapids. 

We read some great books while studying about this great adventure.  How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark  was a colorful, information packed book that gave us the big picture.  My favorite part of Of Courage Undaunted: Across the Continent with Lewis and Clark was the letter written by Thomas Jefferson, "Of Merriwether Lewis, of courage undaunted..." and then continued to list his qualities for the expedition.  Meriweather Lewis was not only a cousin of Jefferson's but also like minded in goals and attention to detail.  Part of the job of Lewis and Clark was to make maps and meticulously describe the new flora and fauna they would find on their journey west.  I can apprecite this since I've been to Monticello.  When Thomas Jefferson retired from public life, he returned to his beloved Monticello and gave his full attention to details of architecturegardening, "science" and inventions.  Jefferson had a very specific daily schedule that surrounded the details of his various hobbies.  Therefore, Jefferson's choice of someone like minded and detail oriented to lead this expedition west, to be his eyes and ears, became clear. In fact, Lewis prepared for the expedition by reading from Jefferson's extensive library at Monticello. Additionally, while at Monticello, one can see the Lewis and Clark discoveries in the foyer of the mansion.  If interested, here are some lesson plans from Jefferson's other home, Poplar Forest.



Author Kate McMullan, who wrote My Travels with Captains Lewis and Clark by George Shannon, is a descendant of the youngest member (sixteen years old) of the Lewis and Clark expedition, George Shannon.  My son enjoyed reading this for literature. Additionally, we used Lewis and Clark: Voices from the Trail that has beautiful color photographs of the places they had been to, with excerpts from the journals of Lewis and Clark.  I got this on the clearance rack at Barnes and Noble a few years ago.  It is now out of print, but I often see similar books like this around.  

My son was so taken by the adventure, that he is doing a fun writing project.  He is pretending that he was on the expedition and writing journal entries of some of his favorite events.  I'll print them in old timey font of his choice onto parchment paper and then he'll sketch a drawing underneath each description.  After the entries are done, we'll bind them to look like a journal of the men on the expedition would have carried.  I'll show pictures when he's done!

One lesser known explorer is Lieutenant Zebulon Pike.  In 1806, Pike was commissioned to find the source of the Arkansas and the Red Rivers, which took him into the dangerous Spanish Territory (today's Colorado).  He was amazed by the majestic blue mountains in the distance (the Rockies).  One of those majestic snow capped peaks was closer than the rest. 



 He and his men attempted to climb to the top of the mountain, but failed to do so, since it was November and the snow and frigid winds impeded the ascent. (The top of a 14,000+ foot mountain duplicates conditions of the North Pole.) Pike said that no man would ever be able to climb that mountain.  Well, we have taken 3 vacations to that mountain named after him...Pikes Peak!  We have successfully gone to the top...once in June and again in August. Even in the summer, the peak is 40 degrees on a sunny day!  brrrr In fact, in the late 1800's, Katherine Lee Bates road a wagon to the top of the mountain.  Inspired by the view, she wrote "America the Beautiful."



After Pike descended the mountain, he explored further in Colorado, heading south.  He and his men were captured by the Spanish.  He was accused of spying.  He claimed that he had no idea he was in Spanish territory. The Spaniards traveled with him on El Camino Real (the King's Highway which was the primary Spanish Road through the Spanish provinces from Mexico to Louisiana), through Santa Fe, Mexico and eventually spending time in San Antonio de Bexar (San Antonio), seat of the Spanish province in Tejas. (Texas) Finally arriving at San Antonio de Bexar (pronounced Be-har, today pronounced Bear), the group rested at Mission San Jose  on the San Antonio River. 





Then they proceeded to the Governor's Palace (today in downtown San Antonio) to meet the Spanish Governor.  (Not as fancy as the Governor's Palace in Colonial Williamsburg, is it?)





Eventually he was taken to Louisiana where he was released.  He died in 1813 as a brigadier general, during the War of 1812.   

Zebulon Pike and the Blue Mountain is an interesting documentary that I got in Colorado a few years ago.  I also got The Southwestern Journals of Zebulon Pike 1806-1807.  (This is a rhetoric level book.)  I had known that he had been to present day Colorado Springs, but until I read this I didn't realize he had been to San Antonio under Spanish guard! 

Zebulon Pike: Soldier-Explorer of the American Southwest is an easier version that my kids have read on trips to Colorado. The link above is to Amazon and quite frankly I am surprised at the expense of the book.  I get most of my extra resources from Half Price Books and my copy was only about $4.  A good children's biography could likely be found in the local library.  I did like this book though as it had great illustrations and simple yet informative text.