What did the English bring to Jamestown?

Lesson Plan

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Upper Elementary


VS.3, VS.4

Demonstrating Comprehension; Comparing and Contrasting; Determining Cause and Effect; Using Information Sources; Organizing Information; Questioning and Critical Thinking Skills

This lesson also meets national standards for social studies.



There are very few detailed records of supplies for the earliest voyages to Jamestown.   Therefore, historians have looked to later voyages, such as those in 1620 and 1622, in order to find any detailed lists of cargo.  Among these were weapons (light armor, muskets, swords), tools (axes, saws, hammers, nails), utensils (dishes, iron kettles, pans), spices (sugar, pepper, ginger), food (salted pork and beef, peas, wheat, oatmeal), garden seeds (carrots, lettuce, garlic), clothing and miscellaneous items (lanterns, candles, and books).  The very first settlers to arrive planned to barter with the native peoples for food; therefore, they must have brought items with them that they surmised would be items the Powhatans would desire.  This lesson builds on student knowledge of the Powhatan and English cultures. Students will analyze information about the Jamestown settlers in order to determine what goods might be essential for the trip to Jamestown.

Essential Question: 

What did the English bring to Jamestown?


Trading with the Powhatans period image

Bartering for Goods Period Quotes

Packing for Jamestown Activity Sheet


After studying and discussing the settlement of Jamestown, have students pretend they are preparing for their trip to Jamestown.  Students will determine what they would need to pack if they were offered the opportunity to join the colony.  These items would include personal items, as well as things to trade.

Step 1:  Divide class into small groups of no more than five to a group.  Pass out the Packing for Jamestown Activity Sheet.  Ask students to consider the following questions as they discuss what they should pack:  Based on what I have heard about the Jamestown colony, what personal items do I wish to take?  What items are absolutely necessary for me to have?   Remind students that it could be many months before a supply ship returns to Jamestown.

Step 2:  Remind students that while we do not know the exact amount of space colonists had on board ship for personal belongings, we do know that space was limited as the ships were not very large.  Have students consider the following before deciding what to pack:  They will have a trunk for their personal items which can be no larger than 12 inches wide, 10 inches deep and 2 feet long.  It should have a lock to keep it closed even if the ship may be in turbulent weather and the trunk turns upside down!  It must have a handle for carrying on and off the ship.  Have students make a list of personal items and draw them and their trunk on the Packing for Jamestown Activity Sheet.

Step 3:  Once the students arrive in the colony, there will be other things that they need.  They may be able to trade with the Powhatans.  What do the Powhatans have that they might need or want?  Have students make a list.  Next, have the students consider what kinds of things the Powhatans would most like to have?  What items might they bring with them to trade with the Indians?

For trade items, we know the English used casks and crates for larger items.  The students may bring larger items to trade than they could bring for their personal use.   Have student draw these items on the Packing for Jamestown Activity Sheet.

Step 4:  Have students share their lists and pictures with the class.  Hang their pictures on the bulletin board.


Pass out the Trading with the Powhatans – Period Image, showing the English trading with the Powhatans.  Have students identify the items being exchanged.  Compare the items they selected for trade with the ones shown in the period graphics.  Pass out the Bartering for Goods – Period Quotes.  Have students read the quotes and compare the items they selected with the ones the colonists traded.  Summarize the lesson by reminding students the English relied on trade with the Powhatans to survive.  They also traded for items that could be sent back to England for money.  The English had many items that the Powhatans wanted.  Over time, these items would change the clothes they wore, the tools they used and other aspects of their culture.