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Early U.S. History and the Thirteen Colonies

Posted on September 25 2022

Early U.S. History and the Thirteen Colonies





Dear Educator,

Last week we looked at early World History. This week, Maps101 turns its attention to the beginning of the United States, with an emphasis on the original English colonies. We even discuss an area informally thought of as the 14th colony! We have articles, maps, and an interactive Field Trip as well, to get your students where they need to be to appreciate the roots of U.S. history. And while students understandably think the colonial era of the United States was a long time ago, historically, the U.S. is a relatively young country. The 1600s were over 400 years ago, but if the average human lifespan is about 70 years, then that is a mere 6 generations in the past. That’s not many generations for a developed nation. This can be a useful mathematical framework to present to your students to help them place our history in the larger picture of the history of the world. Now, without delay, let’s settle into Jamestown, Virginia—



In 1607, a triangular fort was built on land in the Virginia colony. This was the first permanent settlement of English colonists. It was originally called James Fort, but later it was known as Jamestown. This activity provides a map of the fort and text for students to read. Then there is a quiz at the end that asks students to interpret what they read and saw.
In addition to the quiz, it would start a great discussion to ask students: Why did the colonists first build a fort? Of course, they have to know what a fort is to participate. This is an excellent opportunity to reach your ESL/ELL students or reinforce vocabulary for approaching-level learners. Beyond-level learners may want to compare forts with presidios. Take a resource in Maps101 and extend it!






It’s no surprise that we are big fans of maps. They help students visualize the content and provide historic context to what they are studying. This map shows where Jamestown was located, and it shows the names of the 13 colonies. It also shows how the colonies were grouped—New England, Middle, and Southern colonies. In addition, the map highlights territory that was settled by France and by Spain. The locator map helps students see the bigger picture, identifying where North America is. Any of the information on the map can be a springboard for discussion—further explore the story of Jamestown, ask how the colonies were grouped and why, expand on what other countries besides England had claims in the Americas, and so forth.






From England, ships sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and landed on the eastern coast of North America. Students are likely familiar with the idea that colonists left England for religious freedom; in other words, they left England so they could practice their religious beliefs without persecution. Not all of the colonists, however, went to the New World for religious reasons. Many colonists made the journey because of the potential for economic success. They had financial incentives to make the trip. The travel and provisions to set up a colony were expensive. These expenses often were paid for by investors with the expectation that the colonists would provide potential profits back to investors. And individual colonists hoped to strike a fortune by working hard. The newly discovered land was abundant with natural resources. This article explains what resources flourished in the colonies.






Project the following map on the board to extend the discussion of the economic resources available in the colonies. This map provides an opportunity for students to apply mapping skills, such as reading a map key. Have students research each of the economic activities or resources on the map from the colonial era, to help the class gain insight into the economics of colonialism. Divide the class into groups if that works better for your students.






Now is an excellent time to test your students’ recall of the colonial settlements in North America. This black outline map is a blank version of the map of the colonies. It is an ideal way to determine if your students can identify the individual colonies or the general groups of colonies known as the New England, Middle, and Southern colonies.





Field Trips are an interactive, visual tour of a topic. Each image in the Field Trip includes explanatory text and is identified on a dynamic map. The 13 Colonies Field Trip explores topics such as: England Colonizes the New World, The Original Thirteen Colonies, Provincetown, Founders of Colonies, each of the regions of colonies, Colonists’ Relationship with Native People, Trade and the Colonies, Food and Cuisine of the Colonies, and more. Field Trips can be projected on the whiteboard or used on individual tablets or computers. They can also be used for home studies. After this interactive exploration, students will have an even better understanding of the English colonies.





And finally, as alluded to, we leave you with a consideration of a 14th colony. Today, Canada is a separate country in North America, but in the colonial era, some British citizens settled north of Maine in what is today Canada. Read more about the time when most of Canada was a French colony and how the citizens of Nova Scotia could very well have become the 14th colony.





We hope you have enjoyed this mini-sample of Maps101 content about colonial America. There is so much, we couldn’t highlight everything! There is a Lesson Map on George Washington, more maps, lesson plans, a GNN article on the founding of Georgia. . . .  We could go on, but the featured resources above will give you an idea of the type of content available with your subscription. We hope your weekly tour of topics in the GeoJournal helps not just inform you of themes you can focus on throughout the year, but that it also draws your attention to content you may not have realized is available. Happy hunting for more content that benefits your class this school year. And don’t forget to favorite to save what you use often for easy access.




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