Approved by the Instructional Quality Commission November 20, 2015
Grade Five – United States History and Geography: Making a New Nation
Why did different groups of people decide to settle in the territory that would become the United States?
How did the different regions of the area that would become the United States affect the economy, politics, and social organization of the nation?
What did it mean to become an independent United States? And what did it mean to be an American?
Why did the nation expand?
The fifth-grade course introduces students to important historical questions that will be developed throughout the year-long study: Why did different groups of people decide to settle in the territory that would become the United States? How did the different regions of the area that would become the United States affect the economy, politics, and social organization of the nation? What did it mean to become an independent United States? What did it mean to be an American? And why did the nation expand?The course for grade five presents the story of the development of the nation, with emphasis on the period up to 1800. This course focuses on the creation of a new nation that would be peopled by immigrants from all parts of the globe and governed by institutions influenced by a number of religions, the ideals of the Enlightenment, and concepts of self-government. Students continue to develop the civic and economic skills they will need as citizens in fifth grade, especially as they learn about the nation’s foundational documents. Students examine the human and physical geography of the United States by studying present-day maps of the United States and identifying connections with geography and the ethnic, linguistic, and religious settlement patterns that shaped the new nation.
The content covered in grade five is expansive, and the discipline-specific skills that are to be taught are equally demanding. In order to both organize their curriculum and allow students to explore the past in-depth, teachers can frame instruction around questions of historical significance. This discipline-specific form of inquiry promotes student engagement, deepens content understanding, and develops student critical thinking.
Wherever possible, the past should be explored through the eyes of women, men, and children from a variety of historical groups. Viewing the past from the perspectives of those that lived it is best done through a variety of primary sources. Throughout the year students should be introduced to sources presented in different formats. They should begin to understand that people in the past had different perspectives, and that one goal of learning history is to understand why people in the past lived the way they lived. It is also intended for students to begin to understand why the current world is structured the way it is.
The Land and People before Columbus
How did geography, climate, and proximity to water affect the lives of North American Indians?
How were different groups of North American Indians organized into systems of governments and confederacies?
How were family and community structures of North American Indians similar to and different from one another?
In this unit students examine major pre-Columbian settlements. Teachers can frame students’ exploration of pre-contact native people by introducing the following question: How did geography, climate, and proximity to water affect the lives of North American Indians?North American Indians were diverse in their language, culture, social and political organization, and religious traditions. They adapted to and actively managed and modified their diverse natural environments and local resources. Depending on where they lived, pre-Columbian people subsisted through farming, hunting and gathering, and fishing. Their diets included grain crops, local vegetation (roots, plants, seeds), fish and other seafood, and small and large game. They also built distinct structures that adapted their needs for shelter to their stationary or nomadic lifestyles and accommodated the distinct geography and climate of their environments. For example, the Pueblo people of the desert Southwest were and remain an agricultural and a sedentary society; they built cities of stone and adobe and developed irrigation systems. By comparison, many of the indigenous communities of the Pacific Northwest were comprised of skilled fishermen who had settled along the coast. Some tribes of the Great Plains were nomads, while others established permanent villages where they grew a variety of crops. Nearly all Plains tribes hunted bison, and most relied upon the animal as their primary source of food; Woodlands people east of the Mississippi engaged in limited farming and lived in waterside villages seasonally.
How were different groups of North American Indians organized into systems of governments and confederacies?The inhabitants of North America organized varied economies and systems of government. Groups such as the Iroquois, Huron, Cherokee, Navajo, Creek, Hopi, Algonquin, and Lakota (Sioux) established pueblo-city states, tribelets, native bands, confederacies, and nations. Communal councils led by chiefs or elders formed the basis of local governance in many villages or settlements; some included female advisers. Traditional commerce involved exchanging and bartering commodities of regional significance and abundance, including salt, shells, beads, timber, agricultural products, abalone, fish, flint, and fur. Teachers may have students consider the importance of trading networks as a means of disseminating goods, and the value of information such as technology, agricultural practices, and religious beliefs (for example, animism and shamanism). This exercise will also s help students grasp the environmental geography of North America by exploring which resources and trade goods originate in specific regions and why.
Students can explore the social and cultural diversity of American Indians by addressing this question: How were family and community structures of North American Indians similar to and different from one another?Students learn how American Indians expressed their culture in art, music, and dance. They also gain a fuller understanding of how gender roles and family life varied between different tribes by examining the multiple roles and influence of women within American Indian communities. Students are introduced to the rich legends and literature of American Indian cultures and their spiritual traditions about people’s relationship to the earth. Finally, students should appreciate the diversity of Native American communities and connect this national story of diverse natives to their fourth-grade studies of California Indians.
Age of Exploration
Why did Europeans explore?
What exchanges were established as a result of the age of exploration?
How did European explorers and natives view each other?
Students begin their study of the period by investigating this question: Why did Europeans explore? In this unit students concentrate on the expeditions of the early explorers and learn about the explorers’ European origins, motivations, journeys and the enduring historical significance of their voyages to the Americas. Several important factors contributed to the age of exploration: religious and political conflict in Western Europe, advances in nautical technology and weaponry, and European competition over access and control of economic resources overseas. The global spread of plants, animals, people, and diseases (Columbian Exchange) beginning in the fifteenth century transformed the world’s ecosystems. The exchanges spread new food crops and livestock across the world and initiated the period of European global expansion. The exchanges also had a devastating impact on indigenous populations in the Western Hemisphere, due to the spread of illnesses, such as measles and smallpox, for which the native populations had no natural immunity.
Students learn about early exchanges by examining this question: What exchanges were established as a result of the age of exploration?European explorers sought trade routes, economic gain, adventure, national recognition, strategic advantages, and people to convert to Christianity. Pedro’s Journal by Pam Conrad enlivens these journeys for students. The early explorers traveled the globe through innovative use of technological developments acquired from other civilizations: the compass, the astrolabe, and seaworthy ships. Explorers and crews embarked on precarious ventures with unknown outcomes. Teachers encourage students to imagine the aspirations, concerns, and fears of the explorers and their crews; excerpts from letters that European explorers like Christopher Columbus wrote to the sponsors of his voyages can help students understand that all historical actors have agendas and perspectives. Studying explorers is an opportunity to deepen students’ understanding of contingency in history: the acknowledgment that historical figures frequently acted without knowing the consequences of their actions. For example, What happened when Europeans encountered indigenous people? How were Europeans received when they returned home with native people, animals, plants, and even gold? Students can consider how these encounters might have changed if conditions had been different, if, for example, the Europeans, had returned home from their voyages with exotic spices and silk.
In the study of the early explorers, students trace and learn the routes of the major land explorers of the United States, the distances traveled, and the Atlantic trade routes that linked Africa, the West Indies, the British colonies, and Europe. Through mapping exercises, students record and analyze the land claims by European explorers from Spain, France, England, Portugal, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Russia in North and South America on behalf of their monarchs or sponsors. Students can also compare each country’s purpose in exploration and colonization, while noting similarities and differences in religious and economic motives.
Cooperation and Conflict in North America
How did European explorers and settlers interact with American Indians?
How did American Indians change as a result of the arrival and settlement of European colonists?
Why did American Indians fight with each other? Why did they fight with European settlers?
Students investigate the relationships by natives and Europeans by exploring this question: How did European explorers and settlers interact with American Indians?The arrival of Europeans in North America in the late fifteenth century set into motion cross-cultural interactions defined by cooperation and conflict among the American Indians and between the Indian nations and the new settlers. In what the Europeans termed as the New World, they competed with one another and the Indian nations for territorial, economic, and political control. By the seventeenth century, the French had established Nova Scotia and Quebec, the English Jamestown and Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Spanish New Spain, and the Netherlands New Amsterdam.
How did American Indians change as a result of the new settlers?In the territory that would become the United States, individual Indian nations responded differently to European settlement. In response to the European settlers, some American Indians declared war in defense of their sovereignty. Others remained neutral. Whether in conjunction with each other or through independent compacts and treaties, many of the American Indians negotiated terms for co-existence. Indian nations cooperated with Europeans and one another in the areas of agriculture, fur trading, military alliances, and cultural interchanges, especially in the Great Lakes region where French traders depended on such relationships for the success of their mission. Europeans introduced new food crops and domestic livestock that diversified the diets of the American Indians. This exchange dramatically altered the natural environment and introduced diseases that decimated many American Indian tribes. English explorers and colonists were fascinated by American Indian culture, but condemned most of their traditions and practices as savage because different from their own way of life and as devilish because they were not Christian. Historical fiction, such as Encounter by Jane Yolen or The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich, encourages students to consider the two worlds’ cultural perceptions and experiences during their first encounters.
For a time, Indian nations and European settlers co-existed. Native peoples served as independent traders and mediators. European settlement brought the American Indian population a more diverse selection of food and introduced new tools for hunting and warfare. This co-existence was short-lived, however. Broken treaties, skirmishes, and massacres increasingly came to characterize the relationship between the national groups. Students can consider this question: Why did American Indians fight with each other? Why did they fight with European settlers?American Indian resistance included armed conflict, rejection of European culture and political authority, reappraisal of native spiritual traditions, and the creation of military, political, and economic alliances among American Indian nations and tribes. Of particular concern to American Indians in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were permanent European settlements and the expansion of commercial farming on native land. The American Indians resisted encroachments to their territories for more than two centuries. Major armed conflicts included the Powhatan Wars in Virginia (1622-1644), the Pequot War (1637) and King Philip’s War (1675) in New England, and in Ohio country, Lord Dunmore’s War (1774), brought on by Chief Logan’s retaliation for the killing of his family.
Students might engage in an activity in which they collect information about how and why Indian wars developed. They can organize this information by noting: who was involved in the conflict (for example, British leaders or specific tribes); when the conflict(s) developed; what was the circumstance of the conflict (was it related to depleted resources or lack of power, for example); what kind of conflict did it become; what was the outcome of it. Once students have collected and organized this information, they can put it in a comparative context by creating a timeline or map. With this information side-by-side, students can begin to extract larger meaning and identify parallels in how or why conflicts developed and the consequences of such conflicts.
The presence of the Europeans exacerbated historical tensions among nations. Lucrative trade with Europeans altered traditional inter-Indian trading networks. This changed trade patterns that existed prior to European arrival. Additionally, land disputes among American Indians, such as the Iroquois, Huron, and Sioux, led to armed warfare (made more violent with the introduction of gunpowder and horses), involved new military alliances with European settlers, and redefined boundaries of political and economic influence. Certain military alliances proved critical. The Iroquois, for example, played a decisive role in the outcome of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), also known as the Seven Years’ War. The conflict pitted British forces against French soldiers over control of the Upper Ohio River Valley. The Iroquois provided invaluable support and knowledge of native terrain to inform the British military strategy.
Settling the Colonies
Who moved to and settled in North America and why did they choose to live where they did?
Why did English settlers choose to live on the North Atlantic seaboard? What was daily life like for those who settled in the southern colonies? Those who settled in New England?
Why did Jamestown settlers have a high mortality rate? Why did so many settlers die and how did they eventually reverse this trend?
How did people work in the colonies? Why did indentured servitude start and how did it transition to slavery?
How did the middle colonies differ from New England and the southern colonies?
Students can begin their studies of North America by examining this question: Who moved to and settled in North America and why did they choose to live where they did? A brief overview of French and Spanish colonization in the New World introduces students to the different groups of people who met on the North American continent. Unlike British colonies which were populated by colonists who made money primarily through agriculture, Spanish and French colonies were, in general, more transient, less focused on profiting from agricultural commodities, and more focused on extracting mineral wealth and hides. These different intentions for the colonies made the administration and settlement of the British, French, and Spanish colonies look different. Major emphasis in this unit is placed on the English colonies, where the settlers and colonists shaped the economic and political values and institutions of the new nation. Students chronicle and evaluate how the British colonial period created the basis for the development of political self-government and a free-market economic system.
Students can survey the evolution of the thirteen colonies by addressing these questions: Why did English settlers choose to live on the North Atlantic seaboard? What was daily life like for those that settled in the southern colonies as opposed to New England?The original thirteen colonies differed regionally in their economic, political, religious, and social development. As students compare and contrast colonies, teachers guide students in considering how geography and climate affected their establishment and organization. Why did seaport cities become more prominent in New England and the Middle Colonies, and what effect did this have on commerce in the regions? Why did plantations dominate in the South while family farms flourished in New England? Students study how geography affected settlement, economic development, and the political organization of the colonies. Religious orientation also contributed to the variation in the colonies’ social and political structure.
While initial ventures to the mid-Atlantic coast were not intended to establish permanent agricultural communities, over the course of the early 1600s southern colonies developed a highly-profitable agricultural-based economy. The 1607 settlement of Jamestown in the Chesapeake Bay region was a risky venture, in light of the failure of its predecessors. Students can explore the following questions as they investigate the first colony: Why did Jamestown settlers have a high mortality rate? Why did so many settlers die and how did they eventually reverse this trend?Virginia’s first immigrants included a small number of lesser gentry and laborers, including indentured servants, who made up the largest segment of the population. Virginia was at first an all-male colony, and even after women began to arrive the gender ratio remained skewed throughout most of the seventeenth century. This social structure posed significant challenges for a society that saw family as a principal agent of order, economic production, and basic sustenance. For the first several years of the Virginia’s existence, the mortality rate remained quite high.
Captain John Smith worked to stabilize the colony by directing the digging of wells, the planting of crops, and the construction of shelter. He also introduced a system of incentives, proclaiming that people who didn’t work didn’t eat. John Rolfe’s suggestion of growing and selling tobacco ensured Jamestown’s economic livelihood and led to the formation of the plantation economy. Students can explore the implications of this event. Why was tobacco grown on large plantations? What type of work force was required? What was the social life of the plantation? To develop a deeper understanding of the deprivations settlers endured, teachers can help their students analyze John Smith’s account in “The Starving Time,” 1609. Teachers may also want to supplement their students’ historical inquiries of Jamestown with Elisa Carbon’s work of historical fiction, Blood on the River: Jamestown 1607. Archaeological information from the work being done at the Jamestown site can also aid teachers in instructing students about ongoing historical research.
Students can explore the evolution of the labor system in the colony by framing their studies around this question: How did people work in the colonies? Why did indentured servitude start and how did it transition to slavery?The first Africans arrived in Jamestown in 1619. In seventeenth-century colonial Virginia, some Africans came as indentured servants, while others had been sold or traded as enslaved labor. A few gained their freedom. Changing economic and labor conditions and racial presumptions of inequity contributed to the tobacco planters’ increasing reliance on slavery as a major source of labor. Starting with Maryland in 1641 (technically a middle colony), laws spread to southern colonies that codified slavery throughout the Atlantic Seaboard. By the 1680s, the institution of slavery was firmly established as part of colonial economies. Students can study maps, ships’ logs, and other primary sources to clarify the eighteenth-century trans-Atlantic slave trade that linked Africa, the West Indies, the British colonies, and Europe.
Literature, such as To Be a Slave edited by Julius Lester and Tom Feelings and Many Thousands Gone by Virginia Hamilton, offer opportunities for teachers to engage students in many different aspects of the institution of slavery. Students can use their growing sense of historical empathy to imagine, discuss, and write about how these young men and women from Africa may have felt, having been stolen from their families, transported across the ocean in a brutal voyage, known as the “Middle Passage,” to a strange land, and then sold into bondage. This is an appropriate time to reflect on the meaning of slavery both as a legal institution and as an extreme violation of human rights. Students will also learn the different forms of slave resistance—arson, feigning illness, poison, breaking equipment, forming communities, maintaining African traditions and culture, and rebelling or running away. Primary source documents, such as excerpts from slave narratives like Olaudah Equiano’s, historical newspaper ads, handbills, and southern laws concerning the treatment of slaves, provide students with direct insights into the condition of slavery.
In their study of Virginia, students understand the importance of the House of Burgesses as the first representative assembly in the European colonies. How did Virginia’s status as a royal charter and government affect the political rights of the settlers? Who was allowed to vote? Who was excluded?They also learn the meaning of the established church as Anglicans in Virginia understood it. This period is rich in opportunities to deepen students’ understanding of American democracy through role plays and simulations. For example, students can list the basic “rights of Englishmen” claimed by colonists and create brief dramatizations of the ways colonists sought to preserve these rights. Students can also participate in a mock town hall meeting in which they take and defend positions on an issue in eighteenth-century colonial America.
Beyond Virginia, the founding of southern colonies ranged in purpose and organization. Teachers assist students in determining how geography and climate affected the southern colonies’ agricultural production. For example, tobacco cultivation dominated in Maryland; in Georgia and North and South Carolina, humid, swampy fields were conducive to rice farming.
Life in New England.
New England provided a dramatic contrast with the southern colonies. Two groups of Christians sought to live on the basis of their religious beliefs: the separatist Pilgrims, who broke with the Church of England, and the reformist Puritans, who sought to purify the church from within. The following question can frame students’ initial explorations of New England: Why was New England settled as a religious refuge? How did New England compare to Virginia in terms of economy, political organization, and social groups?
The story of the Pilgrims begins with their flight from England and religious dissent from the Church of England, their temporary haven in the Netherlands, and their voyage to the New World aboard the Mayflower. After an arduous trip, 41 male “saints” organized and joined in signing the Mayflower Compact to “covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politick.” Led by William Bradford, the Pilgrims settled Plymouth in 1620. In keeping with the times, they did not ask women to sign. This is a powerful opportunity to discuss the meaning of self-government, gender norms within society and religion, and to reflect on the importance of political rights. Teachers may also lead their students in a discussion of the Pilgrims’ religious beliefs, oppression in England, and how they differed from the Puritans. Nathaniel Phillbrick’s historical fiction, The Mayflower and the Pilgrims’ New World could supplement students’ examination of the Pilgrims.
Initially upon the settlers’ arrival in North America, American Indians aided them. Over time, relations between the colonists and American Indians grew violent over land rights and trade alliances. Increasingly outnumbered, outgunned, and ravaged by diseases, the native population declined.
As students examine the era, teachers help them to analyze the work of men, women, and children to get a sense of every family member’s function in the colonial home. In a preindustrial environment, most married men worked on the family farm and spent much more time with the children, especially sons, than in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when more men spent time working away from home. Women were also actively involved in economic production: not only did they learn, practice, and pass on to the next generation skills relating to the production of food, clothing, and medicine, but they often did farm work and were expected to step into their husbands’ roles if they were ill or away from home. Women were also active and influential in their communities and church congregations.
The Puritans had an enduring influence on American literature, education, and attitudes toward life and work. Inspired by their religious zeal, Puritans sought to establish “a city upon a hill,” where they might live out their religious ideals. Led by John Winthrop, they founded Boston and within ten years had opened Harvard College and the first common school in Massachusetts. They valued hard work, social obligation, simple living, and self-governing congregations. Their religious views shaped their way of life, clothing, laws, forms of punishment, education practices, gender expectations, and institutions of self-government. Puritans believed that God created women as subordinate companions to men. Women who challenged male authority or, because of their practical situation were free from male control (through widowhood, for example), could end up being identified with Satan’s rebellion against God’s authority; four-fifths of those accused of witchcraft in colonial New England were women.
Although they came to Massachusetts to escape religious persecution, the Puritans established a society intolerant of religious dissent and diversity. An examination of the experiences of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson reveals the Puritans’ intolerance of religious dissent and their insistence that women firmly conform to their gender expectations. At the same time, the stories of Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams are milestones in the development of religious freedom in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Avi’s Finding Providence: The Story of Roger Williams, offers students the perspective of Williams’ daughter, Mary.Teachers may wish to teach a lesson that highlights Puritan society and its lack of toleration for dissent by focusing on the trials of Williams and Hutchinson. Teachers can ask students to investigate the question: Why did Puritans banish Hutchinson and Williams?By introducing excerpted trial testimony that highlights how different members of the community viewed the offenders, students can begin to understand what dissent meant to colonial governments and churches. Students can re-enact either or both trials by having students read testimony, serving as attorneys, and having other serve as jurors. Collectively, the class can develop an answer to the investigation question.