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Teacher Edition


Opening the Door West


As exciting as the early pioneer history of Ohio and the Northwest Territory can be, it is often difficult to make it engaging for fourth and eighth grade students.  Now a two hour PBS television documentary has captured the story of the official opening of the Northwest Territory in a highly visual way that brings the story alive for young viewers.


“Opening the Door West” was produced by Shelburne Films and WOUB-TV (Athens) to tell the story of the founding of Ohio by the Ohio Company of Associates, led by Revolutionary War hero, Rufus Putnam, who made the first legal American settlement in the old Northwest Territory at Marietta, Ohio in 1788.

6.5 minute preview of "Opening the Door West

After airing on all Ohio PBS stations as part of the Ohio Bicentennial, “Opening the Door West” was immediately recognized by many teachers and educational professionals to be perfectly suited to classroom use, not only to teach history, but also government, economics, cultural relations, math & science, art and music.


Shelburne Films and WOUB’s Center for Public Media teamed up with the educational professionals at eTSEO (Educational Technology of Southeast Ohio) in Athens, Ohio, to develop an extensive Teacher Resources Guide for the show.  After more than a year of work, facilitated by a grant from eTech Ohio, the team produced a complete guide with activities and teaching topics on five Social Studies areas plus Mathematics, Art, Music and Science. The guide lists the topics with reference to the appropriate Ohio standards and indicators.  It also includes a complete subject matter index of the documentary by chapter and timeframe. Since “Opening The Door West” is divided into 12 chapters, it is easy to access different subjects quickly and fit the lesson into class time.


In addition to the teachers guide and the 2-hour documentary itself, more video, audio, text and print materials have been added to form the two disc Teacher Edition “Multimedia Kit”


The expanded DVD contains an additional 56 minutes of carefully selected interviews with the historians, plus a 15 minute re-edit of the animated computer graphics to bring all the visuals of each settlement together with additional fresh narration.


The second disc is a CD-ROM which contains the Teacher Guide plus additional materials.  It contains four full-length music tracks representing the wide variety of music heard in the formative years of the nation.  A large collection of printable PDF files make available the original documents and art seen in the documentary so that students may explore various subjects more deeply.  These documents, including original scale drawings, historical documents, and writings of primary and secondary sources, go beyond those used in the documentary to add even greater depth.  Most of the original artwork of people, places and events seen in the documentary are available to view in still form with additional captions.

This two-hour documentary brings to life the struggles and hardships faced by the early pioneers in the Ohio lands as well as the struggles of the Native Americans against these white invaders.  The Ohio Company was formed by Revolutionary War officers and soldiers seeking to trade worthless Continental Script for land in the west and a new start to their lives.


Ohio Company men like Rev. Manasseh Cutler and Gen. Rufus Putnam played major roles in the creation of the Ordinance of 1787 that laid out principles of government for the new Northwest Territory.  Many fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of religion, trial by jury, due process of law, and the outlawing of slavery, were first guaranteed in the Northwest Territory. The associates of the Ohio Company brought to the frontier a high standard of social organization that eventually would influence the entire nation, and set the tone and pattern for how the country would grow westward to the Pacific.


“Opening the Door West” includes interviews with eminent historians and authors.  Writer Allan W. Eckert is famous for his many historical books such as “The Frontiersmen.”  Louise Zimmer is well known to many Ohioans for her “Pioneer Stories.”  Henry Burke is well respected for his writings on the Underground Railroad.  Historians John Briley, Dr. Andrew Cayton, Don Hutslar, Dr. James O’Donnell, William Reynolds, and Dr. Ray Swick add fascinating and colorful perspectives on the period.  Don Secondine, who belongs to the Delaware Tribe of Oklahoma, and Lea Ann Sterling, a descendent of the first woman settler, Mary Owens, add personal insight.


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