Looking at Jamestown

From a Geographic Perspective

Elementary, Middle


Using the Five Themes of Geography as guidelines, make a visual representation of Jamestown in the 17th century.

Standards of Learning:

Virginia SOLs: 3.5; 3.7; VS 1i; VS 2 a, b, c, d, e; VS 3b, f, g; VS 4a; US 1.4 a, b, c

National Geography Standards: Spatial Relationships, Places and Regions, Physical and Human Systems; Environment and Society

Materials Needed for Activity:

Jamestown Geography – Period Images
Cultures at Jamestown – Essay

Teacher Background: Five Themes of Geography

Absolute location and relative location are two ways of describing the positions of people and places on the earth’s surface.  Using absolute location, one might say that the city is located at 48 degrees North latitude and 2 degrees East longitude, or the house is located at 115 Main Street.  Using relative location, the school is located across the street from City Park, or it is 10 minutes from the beach.

Place is a description of what a location is like.  Physical characteristics include such things as landforms, bodies of water, climate, soils, natural vegetation and animal life.  Human characteristics refer to human actions or ideas that shape the character of a place, such as buildings, roads, lifestyles or cultures.

Humans will modify or adapt to their environments in many ways.  In what ways have the people changed their environment?  Cutting down trees, polluting rivers.  How have people been changed by or adapted to their environment?  Types of housing built, types of clothing worn.

Movement includes the movement of people, things and ideas.  People interact with each other in many different ways through communication and transportation of goods and ideas.  How do people transport themselves and their goods?  By foot, ship, wagon, bicycle, airplane, train, etc.  How do they communicate with one another and with other groups of people?  Conversation, public gatherings, letters, newspapers, music, television, etc.

Some areas on the earth’s surface have similar characteristics but differ from other areas around them.  These characteristics may be human or physical.  In a human region, people may have the same government, which is different from those in the areas around them.  People within a region may speak the same language, but that language may be different from that spoken by the people around them.  Religion may be another characteristic of a region.  On the other hand, the region may be a physical region and have the same physical characteristics, such as a rainforest or dessert.


Step 1:  Explain to students that as they begin their study of Jamestown, they will look geographically at the site of Jamestown where all three cultures came together – the Powhatan Indians, the English and the Africans. TheCultures at Jamestown background essay provides information on these three cultures.

Step 2:  Review the Five Themes of Geography with the class, giving specific examples of each.

Step 3:  Explain to the students that they will be responsible for making a class or school bulletin board about Jamestown in the 17th century, using the Five Themes of Geography.  Remind them that others will learn from their work.

Step 4:  Divide the class into five groups with approximately five students in each group.  Each group should have a leader who is responsible for organizing the material produced.

Step 5:  Assign each group one of the Five Themes of Geography as a focus for the group’s work.  Guiding questions and information about each theme should be given to each group.  Examples of guiding questions:

Human Interactions with the Environment: 

Step 6:  Tell each group that they can use many different ways of addressing their questions but they must produce visual representations such as maps, pictures, drawings, primary sources such as journals.  Students may wish to create these themselves, find visual representations on-line or locate graphics from other resources, as directed by the teacher.  The Jamestown Geography- Period Images are available for students.

Step 7:  Once the deadline for work has arrived, have each group leader report briefly to the class, showing examples of work from the group.  Each group should create a label for their assigned theme with large letters to go on the bulletin board over their work.

Summary Activity: 

Place students’ work on the bulletin board with the labels for each of the five themes prominently placed over their work.

Lesson plan materials made possible by Archibald Andrews Marks.