Title: Fractured History 205

Key Words: physical map

National Standard: 18 (apply geography themes to interpret the past)

State Standard: 15 (apply geographic concepts to interpret the past)

Teaching Level: Middle School

Introduction: This lesson is based on the fictitious scenario of early settlements taking place on the west coast of North America instead of the east coast. It will give students the opportunity to combine creative problem solving with the ability to ask and answer questions based on a knowledge of geography.

Objective: Students will speculate about the size and spatial distribution of the first thirteen states if they developed on the west coast on North America instead of the east coast.

Materials: Atlases, including a physical map of North America.
A physical and political wall map of the USA.
Handout: West Coast Settlement Plan
Outline map of North America, one for each group of students prepared ahead of time. On the back of one outline map, put a star to identify the person who will play the role of Emperor of China (do not tell the student this is happening).

Procedure: Point to the east coast of the USA on a wall map. Ask students to visualize the first colonists coming to North America from Europe. Then, ask them to visualize the first colonists as coming from Asia instead of Europe. Continue to build on the visualization: "It is the year 1607. The Emperor of China is sending a group of people to the west coast of North America so that they can claim it for China and divide it into thirteen territories. He expects each person to devise a settlement plan and submit it to him upon their return from North America. After reviewing the plans, he will select the best one and appoint the winner Governor of the new thirteen colonies.

Use leading questions to explore this idea. Samples are: What was their reason for claiming territory in North America? What cultural ideas will they bring with them? How did they hear about the continent of North America? Will their religious beliefs have any influence on how the colonies will be set up?
Have students get into groups of two or three to complete the task described on the handout, West Coast Settlement Plan.

Students will then present their one minute reports in class. The role of the Emperor will be played by the student whose outline map is marked on the back with a star. That person, as Emperor of China, will be the sole judge on which plan is best.

Draw conclusions. Some examples are: Spatial distribution of colonies is influenced by topography. Size of colonies is not always determined or defined by natural features. Patterns of settlement are influenced by future vision of the planners.

Evaluation/Assessment: Students will explain what the west coast of North America would be like if China had colonized it.

Extension/Enrichment: Students will describe the North American continent's settlement patterns as they might appear in the present, considering the Chinese origins from 1607.

Reflection: How successful was this lesson? Did all students benefit? Were there any surprises? What might you do differently another time? Please note any changes that will make this lesson more effective and useful in the future and pass them along to the NHGA. We appreciate your comments.
Thank you,
The authors

Handout: West Coast Settlement Plan

Use a physical map of North America as your reference. Make geographically informed decisions about each item. Record information about your settlement plan on the outline map. Be ready to explain your reasoning for the various elements of your plan in a one-minute oral presentation.

Location of major population centers.

Location of ports.

Boundaries of the thirteen colonies.

Location of government center(s).

Settlement pattern for expansion into the interior.

Boundaries of agricultural regions.

Location of natural resources.

Route(s) for a major road(s).

Other data of your choice.


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