Lesson Plans: Grades 3-5

Early Multi-National Influences in the United States

Created September 28, 2010


The Lesson


Early Multi-National Influences in the United States: Civic Services Poster

Poster for Federal Art Project series on the history of civic services, showing water being drawn from a well outside a fort in "New Amsterdam" in 1658.

Credit: Courtesy of American Memory.

Beginning with Columbus's first landing in the New World, European nations laid claim to what would become the United States. Vestiges of that history are part of the American landscape. Spanish missions from Florida to California, the distinctive architecture of the French Quarter in New Orleans, place names like New London, Lake Bayou D'Arbonne, Harlem, Las Cruces, etc.

The lessons in this unit are designed to help your students make connections between European voyages of discovery, colonial spheres of influence, and various aspects of American culture.

Guiding Questions

How did England, France, Holland, Russia, and Spain come to make claims on territory in North America? What was the impact of these multi-national influences on the settlement of North America?

Learning Objectives

  • Map 18th-century Europe's impact on what is now the United States.
  • List remnants of European influence that remain today.
  • Connect marks of European influence with specific explorers.

Preparation Instructions

  • Review each Activity in the unit. Print out and duplicate and/or bookmark any images included in the lessons.
  • For the purposes of clearly explaining the activities, the activities below assume a class size of 25 students. Adjust the group assignments as needed to fit your class.
  • As background material on the 1482 map used to introduce Activity 1, print out and duplicate and/or bookmark the information about the World Map (In [Donnus Nicolaus Germanus] Cosmographia, Claudius Ptolemaeus Ulm, 1482. Thacher Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division), found on the Library of Congress website, a link from the EDSITEment resource American Memory. The entry is located about three-quarters of the way down the page and is the second to the last entry.
  • To create the outline map of European territories in the New World for Activities 2 and 3, use European Territories in the New World from Encarta, a link from the EDSITEment resource The Internet Public Library. Outline maps of the U.S. are also available from the EDSITEment-reviewed website National Geographic Society Xpeditions.

    Draw in the outlines of the European territories. The Netherlands' territory includes Manhattan. Though this area is small, it is significant; if necessary, mark the area solid black to increase its visibility.

Make five copies of the map. Cut apart the territories to create a kind of jigsaw puzzle and place the pieces in an envelope. If possible, include Alaska and attach it to Russia's claims in the northeastern United States.

To make the Lesson more dramatic, hang another large map on a bulletin board in class. Do not mark off the territories or cut the map. When each group makes its presentation, the students can attach their territories to the blank map. In this way, America will be put back together in your classroom!

Lesson Activities

Activity 1. What's Wrong with This Picture? A Map of the World

Share with the class the 1482 World Map from 1492: An Ongoing Voyage, a link from the EDSITEment-reviewed website American Memory. Compare the map to a contemporary world map. Ask the students to list elements that are "wrong with this picture" in comparing the 1482 map to a contemporary map. Students should note such points as:

  • There is no North or South America.
  • The Indian Ocean is shown surrounded by land.

Encourage discussion. Does the 1482 map indicate that people knew the world was round? (Yes, the rounded portions of the map are a result of the attempt to show a round, three-dimensional object on a flat map.) Why are there "wind heads?" (They indicate the dependence on the wind for travel.) What makes the date of this map significant? (Columbus's first voyage, only ten years later, would change the map of the world forever.)

Activity 2. America Divided

As a result of Columbus' voyage, Spain made the first claims to the New World, but other countries soon made claims of their own as a result of the voyages of their explorers. By the 18th century, North America had been divided on the basis of these various claims.

Divide the class into five groups. Give each group an envelope containing the "jigsaw puzzle" map of the U.S., showing the territorial claims of England, France, Holland, Russia, and Spain in the 18th century.

Have the groups remove the puzzle pieces from the envelope and put together the America of the 18th century. Tell the students that it would have been accurate in the 18th century to think of America not as one country but as separate territories controlled by European powers, as indicated by the puzzle pieces. Do the students know why those powers were in control?

Have the groups mix up the pieces and put the puzzle back together at least once more.

Activity 3. Multi-National Influences

European claims in the New World were based on the exploits of a variety of explorers. The temporary ownership of America by various European powers—specifically, England, France, Holland, Russia, and Spain—has left an enduring influence in America as witnessed through architecture, place names, music and other cultural touchstones.

Continuing from the activity in Lesson 2, have group members take one piece of the puzzle and form new groups with other students holding the same piece. (If the teacher wants to form the groups, each puzzle piece could have a number on the back. The teacher can pre-assign a specific number to each individual.)

Each group then uses the maps, images and media listed below to explain to the class what influence their assigned European nation had—or continues to have—on the U.S. Groups will complete research either in the library or online and make a presentation based on their findings.

Each group should begin its presentation by attaching its enlarged puzzle piece to the large outline map on the bulletin board (as explained in Preparation Instructions, above), so that the United States is gradually put back together again.

Groups can divide the labor by subject:

  • Geography: What are the present-day boundaries of states in the former European territory?
  • History, part 1: Tell about the explorer.
  • History, part 2: Explain how the territory became part of the U.S.
  • Archives: Discuss the images provided to the group. Show the country's influence.
  • Music: Discuss the songs/music provided to the group.

Or, groups could divide the labor by skill, for example:

  • Researcher(s)
  • Writer(s)
  • Artist(s)
  • Presenter(s)

If groups are divided by skill, a student "specialist" (or specialists) is primarily responsible for that area but depends on group members for assistance as needed. Researchers should not do all the research, but rather manage that phase of the work. Under any circumstances, the group should cover all subject areas listed above—geography, history (parts 1 and 2), archives, and music.

Instruct each group to regard the assigned images as pieces of a puzzle. How do they fit together to tell the story of the European territory in the United States?

English Influences

French Influences

Influences from Holland

  • Explorer's Voyage: Review Hudson, Map of Third Voyage, available through Discoverers Web, a link from the EDSITEment resource Columbus and the Age of Discovery. In the frame to the left, select "Third Voyage: Map."
  • Images: Find the following posters, depicting events that took place from 1656 to 1658, on the EDSITEment resource American Memory (each image can be found by searching by title):
    • History of civic services in the city of New York: Water supply No. 1: The first public well was dug opposite the fort.
    • History of civic services in the city of New York: Fire Department No. 1: Fire department founded by Petrus Stuyvesant.
    • History of civic services in the city of New York: Police No. 1: The rattle watch.
  • Additional Maps: Review the following maps available on the Library of Congress website, a link from the EDSITEment resource American Memory:
    • Manatus gelegen op de Noot Rivier, 1639 Johannes Vingboons's manuscript map on vellum in pen and ink and watercolor wash. (Background information)
    • Description of the Towne of Mannados or New Amsterdam as it was in September 1661, 1664 This map was created with writing in English, less than three years after a map written in Dutch. Why do students think this happened? (The English had taken over the territory.) The following background information is provided by the Library of Congress:

      This map of New York City was presented to James, Duke of York (1633-1701), the future James II, shortly after the English captured New Amsterdam from the Dutch in 1664. Probably copied from a map made for Dutch authorities in 1661 by Jacques Cortelyou, the map shows the town walls from which the name "Wall Street" is derived as well as the Battery.
  • Sinter Klaas Song: Read the lyrics to this traditional song from the Netherlands (For background information on Sinter Klaas, visit Encarta and Christmas.com, two links from the EDSITEment resource The Internet Public Library.):
    Hoor De Wind Waait Door de Bomen /Listen How the Wind Blows Through the Trees
    Hoor de wind waait door de bomenListen how the wind blows through the trees
    hier in huis daar waait de wind.even here in the house the wind is blowing
    Zou de goede Sint wel komen,You think Santa Claus is still coming
    nu hij het weer zo lelijk vindt?since the weather is so nasty?
    Nu hij het weer zo lelijk vindt.Since the weather is so nasty.
    Als hij komt in donkere nachten,He travels in dark nights,
    op zijn paardje o zo snel.on his horsey, oh so fast.
    Als hij wist hoe zeer wij wachten,If he knew how much we long to see him,
    ja gewis dan kwam hij wel,then for sure he will come,
    ja gewis dan kwam hij wel.then for sure he will come.
  • Place Name: Harlem (also spelled Haarlem). What is the origin of this name?

Russian Influences

Spanish Influences

Activity 4. Picturing the Events

Native Americans were greatly affected by the arrival of Europeans in the New World. In the Codex, available through a link from the EDSITEment resource American Memory, the people of Huejotzingo told the story of their encounter with the Spanish. Background information about the Codex is also available through a link from American Memory. See the fourth segment on the page, titled "Testimony from Huejotzingo."

Share one or more pages from the Huejotzingo Codex with the class. The first page illustrates the products and services provided as tribute to the Spanish. Judging from the Codex, what were these products and services?

Challenge the students to use images, as the people of Huejotzingo did, to illustrate the information previously presented by the groups (England, France, Holland, Russia, Spain). Using pictures as much as possible, students should be sure to:

  • Identify the territory claimed by the European country.
  • Illustrate the influence of the Europeans in the U.S., such as in architecture.
  • Provide information about an explorer from the European country.

Extending The Lesson

  • Students interested in learning about other explorers should check out Discoverers Web, a link from the EDSITEment resource Columbus and the Age of Discovery, for an alphabetical listing of explorers and many useful related links.
  • The EDSITEment unit On This Day with Lewis and Clark discusses the Louisiana Purchase, a major step in "putting America together again." The EDSITEment unit What Was Columbus Thinking? discusses the effects of European exploration on Native Americans and, to a lesser degree, the effect of Native American culture on the Europeans.
  • Sprocket Works, a link from the EDSITEment-reviewed website The Internet Public Library, features an interactive timemap showing the U.S. borders at various points in history.
  • Students can research place names in their own state that appear to be from a language other than English. Students also can research place names beginning with "New." Where is the "old" place?
Selected EDSITEment Websites

Other Resources

Recommended reading from The Library of Congress, a link from American Memory, from Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site, and from The Reading Corner, a link from The Internet Public Library.

  • Winchester, Faith. Hispanic Holidays. Mankato, MN: Bridgestone Books, 1996.
  • Costabel, Eva Deutsch. The Jews of New Amsterdam. Atheneum, 1988. ISBN: 0-689-31351-9. Grades 2+
  • Fradin, Dennis. The Thirteen Colonies (series). Children's Press, 1990. ISBN: 0516003852. Grades 2+
  • Fritz, Jean. The Double Life of Pocahontas. Putnam, 1983. ISBN 0-399-21016-4. Grades 3+
  • Lobel, Arnold. On the Day Peter Stuyvesant Sailed into Town. Harper, 1971. ISBN 0-06-443144-4. Grades 1+
  • McGovern, Ann. If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620. Illustrated by Anna DiVito. Scholastic, 1991. ISBN 0-590-45161-8. Grades 2+
  • Sewall, Marcia. People of the Breaking Day. Atheneum, 1990. ISBN 0-689-31407-8. Grades 2+
  • Sewell, Marcia. Pilgrims of Plimouth. Macmillan, 1986. ISBN 0-689-31250-4. Grades 2+
  • Sewall, Marcia. Thunder From the Clear Sky. Atheneum, 1995. ISBN 0-689-31775-1. Grades 2+
  • Fritz, Jean, Katherine Patterson, Patricia and Frederick McKissack, Margaret Mahy, and Jamake Highwater. The World in 1492. New York: Holt, 1992.

The Basics

Time Required

4 class periods

Subject Areas
  • Art and Culture > Medium > Architecture
  • History and Social Studies
  • History and Social Studies > Place > Europe
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)
  • History and Social Studies > U.S.
  • History and Social Studies > World
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. History
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Exploration & Discovery
  • Art and Culture
  • Analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
  • Oral presentation skills
  • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
  • Using primary sources