The Search for Wealth


Social Studies American History Colonial America The Search for Wealth
Students read a section from the poem “In 1492” by Jean Marzollo and reflect on the role of gold and wealth in the journey undertaken by Columbus. Then they examine the 3 Gs—gold, God, and glory—as motivation for European exploration of the Americas, and they identify the Spanish colony of St. Augustine. Next they learn about the French and early British colonies and examine the significance of Jamestown. Finally, they learn about mercantilism and explain it in their own words.

This learning experience is designed for device-enabled classrooms. The teacher guides the lesson, and students use embedded resources, social media skills, and critical thinking skills to actively participate. To get access to a free version of the complete lesson, sign up for an exploros account.

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Overview

In this experience, students read a section from the poem “In 1492” by Jean Marzollo and reflect on the role of gold and wealth in the journey undertaken by Columbus. Then they examine the 3 Gs—gold, God, and glory—as motivation for European exploration of the Americas, and they identify the Spanish colony of St. Augustine. Next they learn about the French and early British colonies and examine the significance of Jamestown. Finally, they learn about mercantilism and explain it in their own words.

If you have access to leveled readers that include biographies of European explorers or stories of Jamestown, assign them to the students in parallel to this experience.

Estimated duration: 35–45 minutes

Vocabulary words:

  • motivation
  • mercantilism
  • empire
  • convert
  • continental
  • cash crop
  • natural resource

Objectives

  • Describe the economic motivation for exploration and colonization of the Americas.
  • Explain mercantilism.


Engage


Scientists believe that the North American continent is over 200 million years old. They do not know for sure when the first humans arrived, but they think it was sometime between 13,000 and 23,000 years ago. There were many native people living in the Americas, including the great civilizations of the Aztec, Inca, and Maya. But the Europeans did not know that the Americas existed. So when they began exploration in 1492 and landed in the Americas, they claimed that they had discovered a New World. In this lesson, you will learn about one reason that the Europeans explored and settled the Americas.

Objectives

  • Describe the economic motivation for exploration and colonization of the Americas.
  • Explain mercantilism.


American postage stamp showing the First Voyage of Christopher Columbus, captioned “Crossing the Atlantic”

You may be familiar with the poem “In 1492” by Jean Marzollo. The poem describes the journeys of Christopher Columbus. Read a few lines from it:


In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.


Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he’d been told.
He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.


According to the poem, why did Spain support the trips made by Columbus?



The poem mentions the word gold twice. In the next scene students will learn about the 3 Gs that motivated European exploration and colonization of the Americas: gold, God, and glory.

You can enrich the literary experience by reading the entire poem with students. If you do not have access to a leveled reader that includes the poem, you can find a copy of the entire text in your school library or on the Web.

Use the poem as a springboard to discuss further the fact that there were already people living in the Americas when Columbus and the other explorers arrived. These people would pay a heavy price for the Europeans’ activities in the Americas.


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