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Lesson Plan
Jamestown Legacy: Creating a Symbol

Elementary, Middle

Students will identify legacies of Jamestown and describe some of the successes realized and challenges faced by the Englishmen, Powhatan Indians and Africans in early Virginia.

Standards of Learning:
Virginia SOL: VS1b, d, e, g, h; VS3a, b, c, d, e, f, g; VS4a; USI. 1b, d, e
National Standards of History: Historical Comprehension

Materials Needed for Activity:
Alternate Link: http://content.jwplatform.com/players/nZ06Hy48-FaSAPBTu.html

Other Helpful Resources:
See background materials and lesson plans under Curriculum Materials.

Teacher Background:

Vocabulary Words:

Protestantism – Christian religions other than Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic; derived from the word “protest”

free enterprise – a private business system with a minimum of governmental intervention and control

common law – the unwritten law based on custom or court decision, as distinct from statutory law

symbol – a material object representing something else, often an idea or belief

legacy – anything handed down from the past, as from ancestors or those who have gone before

In 2007, America recognized the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in North America. The founding of Jamestown was characterized by hardships, sacrifices and cultural encounters which helped shape our nation and the world.

The first settlers at Jamestown came looking for wealth for Virginia Company shareholders and a better life for themselves, as well as an increased global presence for their country. Additional motives, expressed by the Virginia Company’s first charter, were to prevent the spread of Spanish colonies and to spread Anglican Christianity by converting the Virginia Indians. After many years of experimenting with different industries, the colonists found little profit for the colony until John Rolfe began to experiment with a new brand of tobacco. In 1614, after he shipped several containers of tobacco to London where it was in great demand, Rolfe met with immediate success. Colonists then began planting tobacco everywhere, and the face of the Virginia colony began to change. In 1618, the Virginia Company gave colonists the right to own land.

In 1619, the first meeting of a representative legislative body in North America met in the church at Jamestown. This meeting gave birth to what eventually would become representative democracy in America. 1619 also witnessed the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia. These Africans were from the kingdom of Ndongo in Angola and were captives of the Portuguese from a war which had been fought with the kingdom. They were taken from a Portuguese ship by an English privateer that took them to Point Comfort in present-day Hampton, where they were traded for supplies. They became part of the workforce for the colonists without whom the tobacco economy could never have prospered as it did. By the mid-seventeenth century, the enslavement of Africans was becoming more common in the Virginia colony.

The Indian wars of 1622 and 1644 were the last major resistance on the part of the Powhatan Indians to move the English from their lands, and eventually, the Indians were forced to reservations. Jamestown continued as Virginia’s political and social center until 1699, when the seat of government was moved to Williamsburg.

The Jamestown colony left powerful legacies that have influenced America and still endure today. America’s system of free enterprise and the right of individuals to own land are essential to our way of life. Our system of representative government is considered a basic American institution and has had a profound influence on nations and people throughout the world. The interaction and struggles of diverse cultures contributed to our country’s rich cultural diversity and grew from the sacrifices and relationships forged by the Powhatan, English, and Africans cultures that come together during those early years at Jamestown.


Step 1: Review with students the role of Europeans during the age of exploration, especially the Spanish and the Portuguese. Remind them that England was eager to share in the wealth available around the world and that King James I granted the Virginia Company of London its charter to start a colony in the Chesapeake Bay area as a means to realize this goal. Remind students that the Spanish had been eager to establish missions to promote Catholicism in their colonies and that when the English reached the Chesapeake Bay, they were quick to plant a cross, a symbol representing the introduction of Protestantism into North America. They named the point of land Cape Henry after Prince Henry, the eldest son of King James I.

Step 2: Ask students if they can name other symbols. The flag and the eagle are symbols of our country today. Remind them that the Jamestown fort is a symbol frequently used to represent the experiences of the people at Jamestown. Ask students why they think the fort is often used as the symbol. Remind students that symbols mean different things to different people. What are some examples of things it might represent? Examples might include ideas such as struggle, bravery, or permanence.

Step 3: Have students watch the video, Discovering Jamestown: Legacy.
Ask students to listen for some of the ideas, practices or institutions from Jamestown that still exist today.

Step 4: Ask students to list the legacies they learned about in the video– free enterprise, private land ownership, representative government, and cultural diversity. Are there other legacies from Jamestown that were not discussed in the video? If so, they should be prepared to explain why they believe it is a legacy of Jamestown. Examples might include such things as the rule of law or Protestantism. Ask students to create a symbol that they think represents one of the legacies of Jamestown. Students may make a rough drawing of the symbol they wish to use or they may write a description of it.

Summary Activity: Have students share their symbols and explain why they chose what they did. Have the class discuss what difficulties they had in deciding on their symbols. Why do they think it was so difficult or not so difficult? Optional: you may wish to vote on the symbol(s) students feel best represents the legacies of Jamestown.

The “Discovering Jamestown” electronic classroom was made possible
by Dominion & Dominion Foundation and John and Dorothy Estes.


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