July 14th, It’s More Than Just A Date

Vive la France! Vive la République!

It’s July 14th, and although we might be on summer vacation, I’m sure our students are wondering why buildings are lit up in red, white and blue, and why after the Euro has ended we’re talking about France.  Well, that is because July 14th is a national holiday and the start of the French Revolution in France.  Just like July 4th is America’s Independence Day, so is July 14th to the French.  So in order to help your students understand the background of July 14th next summer, why don’t you take one of the last few days of the school year to have a lesson on the importance of the day.  

You do not have to be a history teacher in order to teach about July 14th 1789.  Below are a list of fun facts and examples of ways you can incorporate Bastille Day into your lesson.

Math and Science:

  • 100 of the 300 revolutionaries who stormed the Bastille were killed.

    • If you are in elementary or middle school, have your students convert that to a fraction.

    • There were only 115 soldiers in the Bastille at the time, have you students do a ratio of soldiers to revolutionaries

  • The revolutionaries had stolen 28,000 riffles and went to the Bastille to get gunpowder.

    • If there were 250 barrels of gunpowder in the the Bastille, how many grams could each gun receive? (1 barrel = 158987 grams)

  • The storming of the Bastille was the beginning of the French Revolution, and during the Revolution, the Reign of Terror occurred.  During the Reign of Terror, the revolutionaries used the guillotine to execute people.

    • What is the physics behind the guillotine? Why is the blade at an angle?

    • In 15 months, 40,000 people died during the Reign of Terror, how many was that a day?


  • Read excerpts from A Tale of Two Cities

  • When the King found out about the Bastille, he asked if the event was a revolt, and his advisor responded, “No Majesty, this is a revolution.”

    • What is the difference between a revolt and revolution?

  • Questions and discussion prompts:

    • What was the impact of the storming of the Bastille? How did it lead to future events?

    • What was it like living in France before, during and after the Revolution?  Look at the lives of different types of people – peasants, working class and royalty.  

    • Who were Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette?  What happened to them?

    • Why did the French Revolution start?  What were the philosophies of the time that led to the Revolution?  What happened just prior to the French Revolution in a different part of the world?

Now that you have a few examples and discussion prompts on July 14th or Bastille Day, at the end of next school year or maybe in September when the kids minds are not quite on topic yet, pull out a few of the facts or questions on the French Revolution in order to engage the students, get them talking to one another teach them something new.

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