Ask any 5th grader what life was like in our country during the 17th and 18th centuries and they’ll tell you: it wasn’t easy! Students recently wrapped up their Colony Project, a unit that immerses students into the lives and struggles of colonists trying to make a new life in the New World all the while trying to figure out how to survive in a new land. Students learned that colonists were forced to solve a variety of problems—from feeding themselves, to building homes, to coping with the presence of indigenous peoples. As part of the unit, students conducted research, wrote journal entries from the perspective of a colonist, and came up with a solution to one of the five major problems colonists faced. On the final day of the unit, students presented their ‘solution’ in a final “marketplace” simulation, demonstrating how their creation solved a problem. Students devised a wide range of products, including an insulated hunting backpack to keep game fresh after a hunt, a more efficient plow for farmers that included a platform on the back sturdy enough to hold two men who would plant seeds as the plow moved through the fields, and a rowboat to be put on the side of the ships coming from Europe.
The Colony Project not only immerses students in a different time and place, but it invites them to think creatively in order to solve problems of that time and place.