Would You Survive in Jamestown?

When I start a unit study I reserve all interesting looking books in our library system on our topic, and sometimes I come across a gem I didn’t know I was looking for!

With this unit, I reserved a book called Hands-on-History: American History Activities by Shell Education. The book contains a larger activity/project for each period of American History. It’s designed for classroom use, but I think most of the projects adapt easily to homeschool. To go along with the project I also provided a Jamestown non-fiction text and a dictionary.

The first project in the book is a Jamestown simulation. We invited our friends over to do the simulation with us – as it’s designed to be completed in groups of 5-6 and we ended up with 4 elementary aged kids and a pre-K kid, the grouping worked out fine.

The simulation consists of five 15-minute “work periods” and five 5-minute “meetings.” First the group elects a “John Smith,” who acts as speaker for the group. We ended up with a “Joan Smith,” and actually, this position wasn’t really necessary in our own small group. It is Joan Smith’s job to interact with the “teacher”, gathering work assignments and proving completion. If there is a disagreement in the group, Joan Smith also has the final say.

Over the course of the five work periods the group has 9 tasks to complete. Four are hands on settlement building activities, four are research/reasoning work sheets, and one is a “show what you know” sheet. Tasks are purchased before the work period starts, and tasks not completed in one work period must be re-purchased for the next work period. The group is allocated a certain number of work hours to “spend” before each work period starts.

The only supplies needed were the copied work sheets, a large piece of cardboard, popsicle sticks, glue, and salt dough. I meant to put out our glue gun & sticks, which would have made the construction tasks easier, but I forgot!

The kids decided to divide and conquer, with two of them working on settlement building activities, and two working on the other tasks. During their first work period, the two working on building houses didn’t finish and had to use more work hours on the task in the second work period. I was a little worried they wouldn’t get all their tasks finished, but they actually got everything done in 4 work periods, not five!

There’s one more fun curve ball: at each “meeting” a decision question card is drawn. Based on the answer the team gives, nothing may happen, or one team member may die! If this happens the “dead” team mate fills out a birth certificate sheet. When completed, they come back to life and rejoin their team.

We had the kids work through three work periods before lunch, and their final work period after lunch. My friend brought over johnny cakes, corn, and apple pie for a nicely themed lunch!

This activity was a great way to have some fun with our friends, review knowledge of Jamestown, and have some creative fun along the way. All the projects in the book are quite different, so I will make sure I check this book out again when we get to the next topic – The American Revolution.

Don’t forget to check out the book/video list for this unit, and our other Colonial America posts – Introduction to the Unit, and Colonial Science Day!