Thursday’s Tip: Another Way to Teach Colonial America

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As we all know, America was once the new frontier, a land marked for colonization by our European ancestors. Like any real estate or development venture, it has to be sold to potential investors or customers. Of course, in those days, this may have been a flier posted in a public square or an entrepreneur selling his ideas to the King.

What would happen if we had to sell the idea of building settlements and harvesting a new continent’s resources with today’s marketing tools? How could we convince people to pack up their belongings and move across the ocean to begin a new life? This is the angle I would take in teaching colonial America.

Advertising, marketing, and public relations firms would be chomping at the bit to sell a clean slate North America to colonial-era Europe. Advertising would focus on the many attributes the “New World” had to offer. A marketing team might consider strategies for different audiences. They would prepare presentations for kings that played on their desire to expand their global reach while selling a chance at riches for entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, PR firms would be concerned with ways in which to spin mysterious natives, harsh treks across the sea, and the constant threat of illness.

Creating marketing and advertising strategies would encourage students to learn more about colonial America than typically possible by simply reading a text book. They would have to fully explore Europeans’ motivations for colonizing the Americas as well as the many obstacles they encountered.

Through these roles, students could create some pretty creative products to demonstrate what they learn. Such a project provides opportunities to create advertisements in various forms, including but certainly not limited to fliers, TV and radio ads, promotions, celebrity endorsements, or all the the tactics modern advertisers use to sell products and services. This is where a suspension of reality must happen so that students can create freely.

Some resources that might make this unit doable:

Other topics that might fit this model:

  • Promote the Freedom Riders
  • Advertise the settings and events in novels
  • Create ad campaigns promoting creation and evolutionary theories
  • Market an investment strategy

What some other topics that you could have your students advertise? How would you structure such a lesson idea? What’s another idea you have for teaching students about Colonial America?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. Be on the lookout for future “Another Way to Teach…” features.