Colonial House

Lesson Plan: Pilgrim's Progress

Long before the COLONIAL HOUSE participants began their adventures in the year 1628, teams of researchers and experts had to take on the roles of historical detectives and investigate the lives of New England colonists in the seventeenth century. Where did the colonists live? How did they wash their clothes? What type of food did they eat? Where did they go to the bathroom? Before any of the participants stepped on board the ship, these historical detectives had to answer these questions, and thousands more. It was an enormous task which required teamwork, organization, and careful planning. As a result of this work, millions of viewers can learn about what life was like at the very roots of the American experience.

In this activity, you will become a historical detective, and progress through a variety of challenges and tasks. After a step-by-step investigation, you will discover how your community, the people in your area, and the land itself has changed over the course of history. You may even be able to describe what life was like where you live in 1628!

Quill icon Grab a pencil and paper. You'll need to take some notes and consult some other sources as you progress across the sea. Whenever you see a quill, you'll want to record that information.

Click on "Get Started" above to start the colonists' journey and proceed to the first part of your investigation.

Step 1. National Map

Where Do You Live in the United States?

Click on the region where you live.

Step 1. Regional Map

Colonists came to the New World for a variety of reasons. Some came in search of wealth and riches. Others came looking for the chance to own their own homes and land, or to escape religious persecution.

Quill iconChallenge 1.

Investigate why you and your family live in this region. Ask a parent, relative, or older friend why you live where you live. Do you have other family in the area? Did a job or an opportunity bring your family to where you now live? When did they arrive in the area?

Quill iconChallenge 2.

Investigate the history of your home or school. When was it built? Did anyone live in your house before you did? Who were they? Do you know any adults that went to your school? What was there before your house or school? Who might know, and how can you find out?

Once you have completed this historical detective work, progress to Step 2.

Step 2. State History

Our nation is currently divided into fifty states. Some of these states began as European colonies. Others began with military outposts. Some began the journey to statehood with religious missions. When the earliest colonists arrived, there were no individual states. As a matter of fact, in the 1620s, the land known as "Virginia" stretched from modern-day Virginia all the way to the coast of Maine!

Quill iconChallenge 1.

Investigate the name of your state. Some states were named for Indian tribes, place names, or words. Others were named for English monarchs or Spanish phrases. What is the basis of your state's name, and who named it?

Quill iconChallenge 2.

When did your state become part of the United States? Write down the year that your state gained statehood.

Quill iconChallenge 3.

What are some important events that happened in your state? When did they occur? Who are some famous people that were born in your state, and when were they born?

You may wish to investigate other Web sites, such as, for help with this research.

Once you have completed this historical detective work, progress to Step 3.

Step 3. Your City or Town 100 Years Ago

Your town or city probably looked very different 100 years ago. Some towns and cities may not have existed in 1904. Do some historical detective work to determine what life was like in your town 100 years ago.

Quill iconChallenge 1.

Can you find houses or other buildings in your town or city that were there 100 years ago? Are there many, or only a few? How old is the oldest building still standing in your town or city?

Quill iconChallenge 2.

Interview an older friend, neighbor, or relative about your town. How has it changed during this person's lifetime?

Quill iconChallenge 3.

Can you find any old photographs, postcards, or paintings of life in your town 100 years ago? What do they show? Are the buildings still in existence?

You may wish to consult other Web sites, including the US GenWeb project States page at to discover information on the history of your city or town. Also, try checking with your local historical society or museum ... either online or in person.

Once you have completed these challenges, progress to Step 4.

Step 4. Your City or Town 200 Years Ago

You probably could probably find at least some information on what life was like in your town or city 100 years ago. But what about 200 years ago? There are large areas of the United States which may not have had permanent cities or towns in the year 1804. Where do you think that most of the cities and towns were in the year 1804? Why do you think that is?

Quill iconChallenge 1.

Determine what the population for your town or city was in the year 1804. It may be zero, or you may only be able to find an estimate of the population.

Quill iconChallenge 2.

If your city or town WAS in existence, what was happening in 1804? Who was living there? Where might you be able to find some of their names? If your city or town WAS NOT in existence, where was the closest town or city that still exists today? How might you go about finding it?

Quill iconChallenge 3.

Determine what was happening across the United States in the year 1804.

Once you have completed your detective work, progress to Step 5.

Step 5. The Founding of Your City or Town

Someone founded the city or town you live in. It may have been a colonist who sailed across the ocean from England or Spain. It may have been a pioneer who came west in a covered wagon. It may have been a railroad crew that was laying tracks across your state ... but someone came to the spot where your city or town now stands and began building.

Quill iconChallenge 1.

Determine who founded your city or town, and the date when it happened.

Quill iconChallenge 2.

Is there any memorial to the founders of your city or town ... a statue, a street name, or maybe even the town's name?

Quill iconChallenge 3.

Determine why your city or town was founded. What brought settlers to your area?

Once you have completed your detective work, progress to Step 6.

Step 6. First Europeans in Your Area

There may have been Europeans in your area long before your city or town was built. These Europeans may have been sailors, trappers, explorers, or prospectors. Many Europeans visited the New World long before 1628, the year in which COLONIAL HOUSE takes place. Who were the first Europeans in your neck of the woods?

Quill iconChallenge 1.

Determine who the first Europeans were in the area of your city or town, and the year when they first arrived.

Quill iconChallenge 2.

Determine why these first Europeans came to your area. What were they doing?

Quill iconChallenge 3.

Determine what else was happening in North America at the time the first Europeans arrived in your area.

Once you have completed your historical detective work, progress to Step 7.

Step 7. Native Inhabitants of Your Area

Before the Europeans arrived, North America was home to a wide variety of Indian tribes, who lived, thrived, and built up societies for hundreds -- and in some cases, thousands -- of years. Remember your region from the beginning of this activity? Below are some of the names of Indian tribes that resided there.

Southeast: Catawba, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole

Northeast: Shawnee, Mohawk, Mohegan, Cayuga, Huron, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, Tuscarora, Chippewa, Winnebago

Plains: Arapaho, Arikara, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Crow, Kansa, Mandan, Osage, Pawnee, Sioux

Plateau and Basin: Bannock, Cayuse, Coeur d'Alene, Kalispel, Kootenai, Nez Perce, Paiute, Shoshone, Spokane, Ute, Wishram, Salish

Southwest: Apache, Hopi, Navajo, Papago, Pima, Pueblo, Zuni

Northwest Coast: Bella, Coola, Chilkat, Haida, Kwakiutl, Makah, Nootka, Wakashan

California: Chumash, Diegueno, Hupa, Karok, Maidu, Mission, Miwok, Nisenan, Patwin, Tolowa, Wintu, Yurok

Quill iconChallenge 1.

Determine which Indians lived in your area prior to the arrival of Europeans.

Quill iconChallenge 2.

Research the history and culture of these Indians. Where did they live? What did they eat? How was their society organized?

Quill iconChallenge 3.

Do these Indians still have a presence in your community? How? Are Indian names used? Is there a reservation nearby?

You may want to consult other Web sites, such as the Index of Native American Resources on the Internet at to meet these challenges.

When you have finished your historical detective work, progress to Step 8.

Step 8. Native and European Interaction in Your Area

At some point, interaction began between the Indians and Europeans who were coming in to your area. At times, these relationships were peaceful, and the Indians and Europeans depended on each other for trade and commerce. However, at other times and other places, this interaction resulted in bloody and violent conflicts.

Quill iconChallenge 1.

Determine the date (or an approximate date) when Indian-European reaction began in your area.

Quill iconChallenge 2.

Determine if the relationship between the Indians and Europeans was peaceful or violent. How did contact impact the Indians?

Quill iconChallenge 3.

How did the relationship between the Indians and Europeans change over time?

When you have completed your historical detective work, progress to Step 9.

Step 9. Life in Your Area in 1628

In 1628, the year in which COLONIAL HOUSE is set, there were a number of European colonies in North America, as well as thousands of Indian villages and camps.

Quill iconChallenge 1.

Based on all of your historical detective work, write a brief paragraph about what life was probably like in your area in the year 1628. Who lived there? What were their lives like?

Once you have completed this challenge, progress to the New World.

Step 10. The New World

Congratulations! You have safely guided the ship of colonists across the Atlantic to the New World, and completed a sizable amount of historical detective work along the way.

You should now know:

- What life was like in your area of the country in 1628;

- Who the native people were in your area of the country;

- When the first Europeans arrived in your area, and why they came;

- What the interaction was like between Indians and Europeans in your area;

- When the area your city or town is in became part of the United States;

- The derivation of your state's name;

- How life has changed in your city or town over the past 200 years;

- How your family and your life fit in to the history of your city or town.

Now that you've got all of this information, construct a timeline that begins in 1628 and ends in 2004. What information from your detective work can you include on the timeline?

Share your voyage of discovery with your family and friends. And send your completed timelines to COLONIAL HOUSE by emailing us at

About the Author:
Christopher W. Czajka is an Educational Consultant for COLONIAL HOUSE, and served as a Historical Consultant on Thirteen/WNET's FRONTIER HOUSE. He is also the Associate Director of the National Teacher Training Institute (NTTI), an educational initiative that teaches educators across the country strategies for incorporating PBS programming, instructional media, and emerging technologies into the classroom. To learn more about NTTI, and to explore more media-rich lessons, visit NTTI Online (

Thirteen / WNET New York PBS Online Colonial House is a production of Thirteen/WNET New York.
© 2003-04 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
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