Did You Know This About Our Country? (with activities for students) | Mentoring in the Middle

Did You Know This About Our Country? (with activities for students)

Do you enjoy history?  I get fascinated imagining how people, back in the day, did the things they did with the tools they had.  Do you?  I marvel at the spirit of curiosity, and how it pushes people to explore more and reach farther.

I am also a huge fan of our national parks.  I think they are one of the BEST investments this country has made in itself!  

My husband and I had the unexpected chance to travel to Colonial National Historic Park for a few days last week, to Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown.  It was eye-opening on some levels!

Here are some fun, new facts I learned that can easily be incorporated into Social Studies lessons!

Back in the day, all land claimed by the British was called Virginia.  Captain Batholomew Gosnold traveled to "Virginia" in 1602.  He was actually in Massachusetts.  He came to fish, and, discovering so much cod, he named the peninsula where they anchored Cape Cod.  He also named Martha's Vineyard after one of his daughters.  


1.  Have your students research the names of other sites along the Eastern Coast of the United States and see how they got their names.

2.  Have them research local sites and names to see where they came from.  

Jamestown, VA was settled in 1607.  Gosnold was instrumental in setting up the colony on the James River in 1607 but died three months after arriving. 

The Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts in 1620.  So, two things.  First of all, have you seen the rock?  How exactly did they land "on it"?

But the more important question:  why do we teach our students that the first settled colony was made by the Pilgrims?  The colony at Jamestown had been in existence for 13 years by then.

I don't know if this is folklore or fact but the story goes that after the Civil War ended, historians weren't happy about giving Jamestown credit for being the first colony, especially with Richmond (the seat of the Confederacy) so close by.  So they neatly forgot those facts when writing about the history of our country.


1.  Divide your students into groups, with some of the groups researching the Pilgrims settling in Massachusetts and others researching Jamestown.  Have them pull their ideas together and set up a debate.  Which settlement should get the most recognition in our history books?  Why?


And again, with the math!  The government at Jamestown was founded on democratic principles.  So, by the time the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, the country had experienced almost 150 years of democracy already.  I'd never thought about that!


1.  There had to be other settlements besides Plymouth Rock and Jamestown.  Where were they?  

2.  What democratic principles from England were carried over to the United States?  Which of those still stand?

The Revolutionary War was sort of the first world war.  Soldiers from Germany, France, England, and countries in Africa (slaves fighting to earn their freedom) all fought against the British.  Actually, Germans fought on both sides, which had to have been a little awkward when they met up!


1.  How many countries were involved in the Revolutionary War?  Should it be considered World War I?  Explain.

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