Title: Jobs in Jamestown

Topic: Various occupations and roles of the first Jamestown settlers

  1. Recognize different kinds of historical roles and apply knowledge in writing exercise.
  2. Research the occupations of Jamestown settlers using census data in Virtual Jamestown.
  3. Evaluate data and create a bar graph and key to show numerical differences among roles of settlers.
  4. Use graph in conjunction with primary document by John Smith to discuss historical question.

Va. SOLs:

4.3 (History) The student will explain the economic, social, and political life of the Virginia colony, with emphasis on characteristics and contributions of various groups of people.
4.19 (Math) The student will collect, organize, and display data in bar graphs with scale increments of one or greater than one.
4.3 (English) The student will read and learn the meanings of unfamiliar words.
4.7 (English) The student will write effective narratives and explanations.
4.9 (English) The student will use information resources to research a topic.

Materials needed: One networked computer and printer, writing and art materials, and several dictionaries may be necessary

  • Before class, prepare students' "job assignments" Print out as many copies as necessary for the class, and cut pages so that there are enough slips with individual jobs and their descriptions on them.
  • Ask some opening questions: "If you were traveling to a far-off, wild place, what kinds of people would you bring with you? What kinds of things would you want someone to know how to do? What skills do you think would be important?" (Suggestions: grow food, build houses, make clothing, etc.)
  • Tell students to pretend that they are all going to be new settlers in the Jamestown colony. Give each student a "job assignment." (Printed out and prepared in the first step). These are now their new occupations. Students read about their "job assignments."
  • Provide crayons and art materials. Students make individual "applications" to live in the colony by making a picture of what they are going to do when they get there (as a carpenter, laborer, etc.) They write a short paragraph explaining what they are doing and why they are the best candidate for the job of "Jamestown Carpenter," etc.
  • Divide students up into groups of 4 or 5. One group will use the computer while everybody else works individually on their applications.
  • Explain that the occupations they have now were all real occupations held by the first Jamestown settlers. Students will now research the kinds of occupations at the settlement and find out how many people performed which jobs: Find Virtual Jamestown on the web, hand over the mouse to the "designated driver." Remind student group that they are looking for census information about the settlers, ("censuses"), and that they must find information about their occupations. ("Occupations of the New World.") Have them print out a copy of this form and look at total numbers.
  • Students make a bar graph which shows how many men performed each job, using different colors to show different categories. They also make a color key. (More advanced students may create a pie chart to show the percentages of men in each category)

    Follow-up questions:
  • Which jobs do you think were the most important? Why?
  • Are there any jobs not mentioned in the census that you think the Jamestown settlers should have included? What other kinds of duties do you think would be important for a new settlement? Who did the cooking and cleaning? (This was women's work in the early 17th century. But there were no women at all at Jamestown in the first year and few came afterwards. The distribution of these "women's tasks" caused much internal conflict and disruption, because many settlers were unwilling to perform these tasks. Historians believe that this was a direct cause of the colony's failure.)
  • The Jamestown settlement had a lot of problems. Captain John Smith, who at one point became leader of the colony, once threatened that if you didn't work, you didn't eat. Look at your bar graphs. Why do you think John Smith made this threat? Based on what you just learned about these different roles, who do you think wasn't working his share? Why? Encourage students to explain their answers.

    Have students write a classified ad to attract different kinds of workers and settlers to the colony (i.e. WANTED: blacksmith).