Jamestown People and Their Environment

Lesson Plan

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Upper Elementary


Virginia Standards of Learning:

VS.2, VS.3, VS.4

Using information sources, Comparing and contrasting, Making connections, Demonstrating comprehension

This lesson also meets national standards of learning for social studies.


Researching and examining historical figures is a valuable way to gain insight to their way of life, their thinking and their relationships with others.  In 17th-century Virginia, people from three cultures came together at Jamestown – the native Powhatan Indians, the English colonists and west central Africans.  Four short biographies are provided so that students can gain a better understanding of these three cultures.

In this lesson, students will research historical figures and their interaction with the early Virginia environment through the eyes of Captain John Smith, a young Pocahontas, a young Henry Spelman, and Angelo.


Jamestown People and Their Environment Sample Questions

Biography —Pocahontas

Biography—Henry Spelman

Biography—John Smith



Students will either research one of four historical figures or be assigned the role of a reporter who will interview their peers about their research.

1. The class should be divided into five groups.  There should be one group for each of the four historical individuals who lived in Jamestown or the surrounding area during the early 17th century – Captain John Smith, Pocahontas, Henry Spelman, or Angelo.  The fifth group will be the reporters.

2. Students assigned a historical person will work in small groups researching that person.  Distribute the appropriate biography to each student group. Students also may be instructed to conduct more research on their specific individual in books, the Internet or other sources.  Have students write information about their person on index cards. The reporters should also constitute a group working together.  Students assigned to be reporters will develop interview questions for all four people.  The reporter group should receive all four biographies.  Provide all students with the Jamestown People and their Environment Sample Questions to help them get started.  Ask students to focus on how the individuals lived, how they were influenced by and adapted to their environment, and how their interactions with the other cultures changed them.


After students have had time to prepare, the information that the students have gathered will be shared with the class through an interview with the reporter.  Have each group select one student to participate in the interview session.  The selected reporter will conduct an interview with the group of four students selected to speak about their assigned person from the past.  Those who have researched a historical person will portray historical experts on that person and can interact with the other experts, discussing differences in the historical figures’ experiences and adaptation to the Virginia environment.