Thursday, October 3, 2013

Deciphering fun- Decoding School


This school year Sassafras and Mr. Conductor (aka The Boy) are studying American History- 1860- the present.
Since we just started- we're studying the events that lead up to the Civil War. The Mister is a Civil War history buff and that's rubbed off on all the rest of us too. Let's just say it wasn't hard to get them back into the school groove when they get to study an era they find most interesting. The Boy has been studying the Underground Railroad and finds the thought of hidden rooms and secret tunnels most interesting.
This week Sass and The Boy created their own ciphers after reading about Civil War ciphers, which led them to remember a bit about ciphers from their favorite National Treasure Movies (which led to the watching of said movies.... it's that If You Give A Mouse A Cookie syndrome at its finest).
Anyhoo- the kiddos made ciphers and looked up some great information on them to boot.
Which I thought I'd share here for other homeschoolers.

Here's the cipher mentioned in National Treasure 2- The Playfair Cipher.
This is one tough code to crack.
The Boy also remembered that Thomas Jefferson has also created a cipher (from our reading on Jefferson last school year- Yes! Retention!).
This is an interesting video on the Jefferson Wheel:



During the Civil War there were simple cipher wheels created on both sides to send coded messages. Unfortunately, this simple wheels were simple to crack too.
Here are a few links to some great info about cipher wheels:
Civil War Cipher Disk

For us beginner cryptographers we kept things super simple and went with the regular old cipher wheel mentioned in the second link above. We stuck to the alphabet with no extra characters added.
Here are a couple of great sites where you can download and print a couple of cipher wheels.


Want to make your own cipher wheel completely from scratch, no downloading and printing?
This is a great video for that-


After creating your cipher wheel, the most important step is deciding on your code letter. To keep it easy- we decided on the first letter of our last name, W. We printed out the black and white cipher wheel pictured above from my Pinterest because it has the CODE letter line up on the smaller circle which made things easier for The Boy.
My kiddos have had great fun sending messages and even got their older sister in on it.

So using Code W- here's a message: [W] eh nlqghu wkdq qhfqvvdub.
Note: That's not a w in the last word but v v. I stumped the kids because of that!

Happy Decoding!



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