In this challenge, students examine experiences and motives around European exploration and the colonization of North America by developing questions and conducting mock interviews that reflect what is known about assigned historical figures.
Assign students historical figures or allow them to select their own from the following groups:
- key figures of British exploration and settlement; e.g., Henry Hudson, John Cabot
- key figures of French exploration and settlement; e.g., Jacques Cartier, Samuel de Champlain, Jeanne Mance, Marie Guyart de I'Incarnation, French merchants
- key figures who represented Britain and its government in the settlement of North America
- key figures of the French Royal Government and Catholic church in the social structure of New France; i.e., Governor, intendant, Jesuits and religious congregations, Madeleine de La Peltrie.
Provide some general information about Europe at the time of exploration and colonization, including:
- reasons why the French and British explored North America
- benefits of exploring and later living in North America
- reasons why the French colonized sooner than the British
- relationships between French, British and Aboriginal groups
- reasons for incentives offered to early colonizers.
Direct students to research their assigned figures, including:
- personal background
- motives for exploring or immigrating
- major obstacles or adversities
- significant accomplishments or impacts.
Consider adapting the strategies and charts in Collecting Information (Support Material) to structure and assess students' research.
Explain that students will use their research to prepare scripts, i.e., questions and answers, for a mock interview with their assigned figure. As a class, develop criteria for powerful interview questions, such as open-ended, lots of information about the topic, specific to the person. Elicit sample questions from students and invite them to assess each against the criteria. Cross out questions that do not adequately meet the criteria and revise them together. Sample interview questions may include:
- How did you hear about the opportunity to explore/settle in the new world? (open-ended because it encourages an in-depth answer rather than a yes or no answer)
- What role did your government have in helping you make the decision to explore/settle in North America? (informative because it allows for general and detailed information)
- Why did you decide to explore/settle in the new world? (specific because it allows the person to tell his or her story)
See Asking Powerful Questions (Modelling the Tools) for detailed suggestions on how to teach and assess the tools for creating powerful questions.
Encourage students to write at least six interview questions. You may have the class agree on a common set of questions or have students select their own questions.
Discuss the qualities of a good answer in an interview; e.g., offers a clear position or conclusion, is plausible, given what is known about the event/person, is supported with specific facts, is historically accurate. Ask students to script answers to their questions, using their research and these criteria as a guide. Point out that the answers will be different, depending upon who is being interviewed. For example, Cartier's answers will differ from Cabot's. Encourage students to base their answers on their research of the person and his or her actions and the political, social or cultural circumstances of the time.
Have the class conduct mock interviews by asking and answering questions the student prepared for his or her character and/or questions other students prepared. Encourage students to dress and perform in role. Alternatively, create a mock talk show and invite other classes to serve as the audience. If you select this option, caution the class about confusing history with current day reality; e.g., they did not have talk shows in the 17th century. To avoid stereotyping, encourage students to pay close attention to detailed and accurate information when they develop their assigned figure's responses.
In debriefing the experience, draw attention to the diverse motives and experiences for European exploration and colonization of North America.
Adapted from Critical Challenges for Primary Students, by Tami McDiarmid, Rita Manzo and Trish Musselle. Richmond, BC: The Critical Thinking Consortium, 1996, pp. 5759 (ISBN: 0864911475).
Adapted from Snapshots of 19th Century Canada, edited by Roland Case and Catriona Misfeldt. Richmond, BC: The Critical Thinking Consortium, 2002, pp. 3136 (ISSN: 12059730).