It is exciting that the first permanent English settlement in North America was started in the state where we live! Even though Jamestown eventually grew into a thriving colony, its early history is full of hardship. Students are always fascinated by the challenges the Jamestown settlers experienced, making this a great unit to get students excited about Virginia Studies. Here are 8 Jamestown activities you can use to help build that excitement!
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Voyage to Jamestown Mobile
Any Virginia Studies lesson that starts with a deadly voyage at sea is sure to catch students’ attention!
To help students learn about the ships and the reasons for English colonization, have students make a ship mobile. Each of the ships hangs from the mobile. On the back of each ship, students write one reason for English colonization.
Jamestown Map Activity
I am always looking for ways to integrate math and Virginia Studies. One way to do this is to have students create a map of the historic Jamestown settlement.
Give students grid paper and instructions. They must create the map by locating and connecting points on a coordinate plane. This is one of my favorite Jamestown activities because it helps students work on a challenging math skill in a fun way.
Fort STEM Challenge
Constructing and discussing the triangular Jamestown fort is another way to integrate math and Virginia Studies. Have students build a model or create a diorama of the fort. You can also have students construct the Jamestown fort as part of a STEM challenge.
After students have constructed their forts, use the models to start a discussion. Ask students why they think the Jamestown settlers built the fort in the shape of a triangle instead of a square or circle. What were the advantages and disadvantages of the triangular shape?
Books about Jamestown History
Did you know several works of historical fiction provide accurate accounts of the Jamestown settlement? One of my favorites is A Lion to Guard Us by Clyde Robert Bulla. In the story, three siblings travel to Jamestown, hoping to find their father. The book details the challenges the settlers faced, both at sea and when they arrived at the Jamestown settlement. Using this book as a read aloud or as part of your guided ELA instruction is a great way to integrate ELA and Virginia Studies.
Historic Jamestown Field Trips
As residents of Virginia, many of us have easy access to the actual location where the original Jamestown colony was founded. While visiting Jamestown, students get to explore a life-size replica of the fort and see activities that would have been performed by the settlers. Best of all, most tours can be aligned with the Virginia Studies SOLs. If you are interested in visiting Historic Jamestown, make sure to call and book your tour at least 30 days in advance.
Don’t let distance or money stop your class from taking a trip to Jamestown! If visiting Jamestown is not an option for your class, you can also take a virtual field trip to the Jamestown colony. The Historic Jamestown website provides a variety of images and videos that can be shared with students virtually. This is a fun way for students to still experience the sights and sounds of Jamestown without leaving the classroom.
Jamestown Board Games
Project-based learning is one of my favorite ways to make Virginia Studies hands-on. I try to incorporate a project at the end of each Virginia Studies unit.
I always end my Jamestown unit with a board game project. Students work in small groups to create a game, using the information they have learned. The objective is for students to successfully get the settlers from England to Jamestown and have them survive the first year. This is one of my students’ favorite Jamestown activities!
After they have finished, we keep the games in the classroom. Students then use them as a review activity throughout the school year.
Jamestown Games for Students
Towards the end of my Jamestown unit, I always incorporate some fun review games. Students especially enjoy my task card games and escape room activity.
One of my favorite task card games is a scavenger hunt. I hide 28 Jamestown task cards around the room. Each card has a question about the Jamestown colony that resembles the types of questions used on the SOL test. Students search for each card and respond on their answer key.
In my Jamestown Escape Room, students pretend to travel back in time to study life at Jamestown. While time-traveling, their time machine malfunctions. The only way to fix the time machine and return home is to complete several puzzles and challenges that incorporate math, ELA, and critical thinking skills. As soon as this escape room activity ends, students are always begging to do another one.
Both my Jamestown task cards and escape room activity include a PDF version and a self-checking digital version that students can complete virtually.
These are just a few Jamestown activities you can use to engage students and get them excited to learn about history. With these activities, your students will be excited to learn more about Virginia Studies each day!
If you’re short on time or could use some help planning your Jamestown activities and lessons, everything listed here and more can be found in my Jamestown Unit and my Virginia Studies Curriculum Bundle. I also have pre-made Jamestown Task Cards and a Jamestown Escape Room that are great for an end-of-unit review or as a way to review before the Virginia Studies SOL test.
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