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Two worlds: Educator's guide
Lesson plans and activities to be used with "Two Worlds: Prehistory, Contact, and the Lost Colony" -- the first part of a North Carolina history textbook for secondary students.
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Related pages

  • The De Soto expedition: Hernando De Soto’s expedition through the southeastern United States in 1539–43 was one of the earliest of the early contacts between Europeans and native peoples. While historical documents tell the story of do Soto's journey, advances in both history and archaeology have enabled researchers to reconstruct the de Soto route.
  • Museum of the Cherokee Indian: Official site of the museum of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina.
  • Spanish empire failed to conquer Southeast: Juan Pardo’s expedition erected six forts in the Southeastern interior, including one at Guatari. Most of them seem to have fallen in short order. That result wasn’t surprising. The forts were isolated, lightly garrisoned in most cases, dependent on the Indians for food, and prone to trigger Indian resentment.

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In this lesson students will evaluate the effectiveness of the De Soto expedition through the interior of the southeastern United States in the years 1539-1543. They will examine the impact of that trip on the Native Americans. Students will engage in historical empathy as they put themselves in the place of the Native Americans and the Spanish soldiers who encountered them on the expedition.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • Learn factual information about the De Soto expedition of 1539-1543.
  • Discover the impact that archaeological research has added to the historical knowledge of this expedition
  • Examine the impact of the journey on the native cultures
  • Develop historical empathy as they put themselves into the place of the characters of this expedition

Teacher planning

Materials needed

  • Computer with internet access for each group of students or one computer with an LCD projector
  • De Soto expedition worksheet [The number of copies will depend on how you choose to conduct the activity. You’ll need one copy for each student or group of students if you have students complete the worksheet, or just one copy if you use the questions to frame a discussion of the article.]
  • Materials for students to use to make props — construction paper, scissors, glue sticks

Time required for lesson

One class period

Procedure

  1. Students should have read the article The De Soto Expedition. They should have access to this page as they proceed through the lesson.
  2. You may choose to either use the worksheet or to ask the students the questions to frame a discussion of the article. If you choose to use the worksheet, pass it out. You may have the students work together in small groups or individually. Tell the students that they will review the article in order to answer the questions. Explain that several of the questions are not answered directly in the article. Some will ask for their opinions. Give them time to complete the questions.
  3. Allow the students or groups to share their answers with the class.
  4. After discussion about the article, explain that the students will now design a series of tableaux about several of the incidents described in the article. You may need to explain that a tableau is a living picture.
  5. Students will work in groups of four or five to set up a tableau of one of the following scenes. You may want to copy these and have each group pick one randomly. They should review the article as they develop their scene.
    • De Soto and his army land in La Florida in May of 1539
    • De Soto’s army winters in Apalachee in the winter of 1539-1540
    • De Soto and his army meet the Ichisi in 1540
    • De Soto dies of a fever in spring of 1542
    • The remainder of the army attempts to find a way through what is now Texas into Mexico
    • Survivors of the expedition enter boats to travel down the Mississippi in June 1543
  6. The students will freeze into a scene that shows the relevant aspects of the event. You might want to encourage students to make appropriate props to use from available materials. Each group will make a title for their scene on a piece of construction paper or posterboard. Students will need to describe who they are and explain their feelings about the event as you “activate” each of them individually. They need only say a few sentences.
  7. Have each tableau group set up their scene in the front of the room one at a time. You will activate each member of the group. If time is an issue, you may want to only activate a few of the students in each tableau.
  8. As a class, debrief the tableaux and discuss the De Soto expedition from the perspectives of the native cultures and the De Soto soldiers.

Assessment

While the tableaux are an indication that the students have internalized the story of De Soto, you may want to follow up this activity with a writing assignment. Students can write:

  • An explanation of the De Soto expedition from the viewpoint of a Native American that was enslaved by the army
  • An oral history, repeated 50 years after the event, by the remainder of one of the native cultures that had met the De Soto army in a battle
  • A journal entry of one of the De Soto soldiers
  • An obituary of Hernando De Soto
  • A letter from one of the survivors back to his family in Spain

De Soto expedition worksheet

Date Place Other information
About 600 men, a few hundred horses, packs of dogs, and a large herd of pigs
Apalachee, near Tallahassee, Florida
Meeting between the Ichisi and De Soto
Spring 1542
Down the Mississippi River
311 survivors
  1. In what ways have archaeologists and historians teamed up in researching the De Soto expedition?
  2. What do you think the Ichisi may have thought when they first saw the De Soto soldiers?
  3. How do you think the Spanish could have replied to the following Ichisi questions?
    • Who are you?
    • What do you want?
    • Where are you going?
  4. What evidence from the article can explain why the Native Americans would have resented the Spanish very early on in the expedition?
  5. What evidence has convinced some archaeologists of the authenticity of two of the De Soto sites?
  6. Why do you think that the author of the article states that “De Soto’s men were the first, and possibly the last, Europeans to see the great Indian chiefdoms of what archaeologists call the ‘Mississippian period’”?
  7. Why do you think that the Spanish exploration in the Southeast had such a disastrous impact on the native cultures?
  8. Put yourself in the place of the Spanish soldiers that accompanied De Soto. What would you have been thinking about and feeling during the years of the expedition?

De Soto expedition worksheet: Teacher’s guide

Date Place Other information
May 1539 Near what is now Tampa Bay, Florida About 600 men, a few hundred horses, packs of dogs, and a large herd of pigs
Winter of 1539-1540 Apalachee, near Tallahassee, Florida Group wintered in this place
March 1540 Near what is now central Georgia Meeting between the Ichisi and De Soto
Spring 1542 Not mentioned directly in this article De Soto died of a fever
June 1543 Down the Mississippi River Survivors loaded into seven boats and sailed down Mississippi
July 1543 Gulf of Mexico 311 survivors
  1. In what ways have archaeologists and historians teamed up in researching the De Soto expedition?
    Students should explain that the archaeologists have been excavating sites to find traces of the Spanish expedition. Historians are examining the five documents, three of which were by members of the group.
  2. What do you think the Ichisi may have thought when they first saw the De Soto soldiers?
    Answers will vary, but students should include various emotions perhaps including fear, wonder, anger, concern.
  3. How do you think the Spanish could have replied to the following Ichisi questions?
    Answers will vary to these questions.
    • Who are you?
      Students may conclude that the Spanish may have tried to explain that they were from across the sea.
    • What do you want?
      Most students will write or say that the Spanish were interested in gold and other riches.
    • Where are you going?
      This question will the most ambiguous as the students may conclude that the Spanish were interested in any riches and where to find them, or that they may have been looking for a land route to Mexico.
  4. What evidence from the article can explain why the Native Americans would have resented the Spanish very early on in the expedition?
    Students should have noticed in the article that natives were taken as slaves by the Spanish. They may also say that violent battles took place.
  5. What evidence has convinced some archaeologists of the authenticity of two of the De Soto sites?
    A pig jaw — earlier expeditions did not have pigs. Also, there were early 16th century Spanish artifacts. According to the article, “Archaeologists have found Spanish pottery and jars, links of chain mail, copper coins, colored chevron beads, and one tubular blue glass bead known as a “Nueva Cadiz” after a town in Venezuela where identical ones have been found.” At the second site, “the discovery of two bones with evidence of wounds inflicted by an edged metal weapon…”
  6. Why do you think that the author of the article states that “De Soto’s men were the first, and possibly the last, Europeans to see the great Indian chiefdoms of what archaeologists call the ‘Mississippian period’”?
    Answers will vary. Hopefully, students will recognize that the De Soto expedition went to areas of southeastern United States that had never been explored by Europeans. But they also helped to cause the end of many of the native cultures by bringing disease to the Native Americans. This information will be more fully explained in the last section of the “Two Worlds: Prehistory, Contact, and the Lost Colony” module of the digital textbook.
  7. Why do you think that the Spanish exploration in the Southeast had such a disastrous impact on the native cultures?
    Answers will vary, but once again, hopefully the students will think that the Europeans brought disease to the native cultures.
  8. Put yourself in the place of the Spanish soldiers that accompanied De Soto. What would you have been thinking about and feeling during the years of the expedition?
    Answers will vary. Students should understand that the attitudes of the soldiers would have changed greatly during the five years of the journey. They may have started out feeling hopeful and curious with some fear of the unknown. There may have been anger as they had violent encounters with the Native Americans. When De Soto died, the soldiers could have felt fear and despair, particularly as more members of their expedition died along the journey. From about 600 members at the beginning of the trip, nearly half died before the 311 survivors floated into the Gulf of Mexico.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 5

        • 5.H.1 Analyze the chronology of key events in the United States. 5.H.1.1 Evaluate the relationships between European explorers (French, Spanish and English) and American Indian groups, based on accuracy of historical information (beliefs, fears and leadership)....
      • Grade 8

        • 8.C.1 Understand how different cultures influenced North Carolina and the United States. 8.C.1.1 Explain how exploration and colonization influenced Africa, Europe and the Americas (e.g. Columbian exchange, slavery and the decline of the American Indian populations)....
        • 8.H.1 Apply historical thinking to understand the creation and development of North Carolina and the United States. 8.H.1.1 Construct charts, graphs, and historical narratives to explain particular events or issues. 8.H.1.2 Summarize the literal meaning of...