Pushing Through: The Colonies

Pushing Through: The Colonies

It’s Tuesday morning and I am teaching history to six 3rd and 4th graders in our homeschool co-op. We have been studying history chronologically, starting with the nomads back in kindergarten through all the ancient civilizations. We’ve studied about peoples all over the world and we’ve covered enough history now to land in the early 1600s.

Today, to review the chapters that the kids studied at home, I mapped out the journey that the English colonists took to the new world. The five months of their journey are numbered on construction paper, taped across the carpet. As the kids answer questions, they advance to the next square.

If you remember history, you might know that about half of the settlers that left England never made it to Virginia. To make that point, I ask for three volunteers to step out of the game, to represent the settlers who died on the way to America. I ask the remaining children how they smell. I ask them to open their mouths and show me their teeth.

The kids giggle, but I remind them of the hardships the settlers faced.

By the time the Susan Constant, the Discovery, and the Godspeed landed in what would later be named Jamestown, the people were smelly: they hadn’t bathed at all during the months of their journey; many had lost their teeth: a result of scurvy and other illness after poor nutrition for months. Though they felt relief to step on dry land again, many carried the sorrow of the loss of friends and family along the way.

In the early months and years of the colony, the hardships continued with low food supply, attacks from Indians, and disease. Within a year, two thirds of the settlers died. Three years later, after the deaths of many more settlers, Jamestown was almost completely abandoned.

Farther north, Samuel de Chaplain and fellow Frenchmen struggled to establish a French colony in Canada. During the first winter in his initial settlement on Saint Croix Island, barely half of the 79 colonists survived the harsh conditions. Later, when he and about 30 others settled on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, only 8 people lived to see the spring flowers bloom.

Early settlers in North America persevered. Chaplain’s settlement on the St. Lawrence River is now Quebec, where the people speak the language of their founding father.

As I wrapped up the lesson with the kids in our co-op, we read these words from 1607: A New Look at Jamestown by Karen E. Lange:

Most of all, Jamestown is a story about not giving up — about persevering. The settlers could have quit. But instead they stayed on through sickness, hunger, war, and death…Jamestown is a story of what can happen if people keep trying. From Jamestown, a colony that nearly failed, grew a great nation.

It is difficult for the kids — difficult for me— to understand how the early settlers continued in the face of such challenging circumstances. Yet this is what I want them to take away from our morning lesson: our legacy in America is a legacy of perseverance, pushing through even through the most deprived and desolate times.

This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is re-posted with permission. 

Filed As:  LeaderTalk, history

About Becky Robinson

I am the owner of Weaving Influence and the leader of the Weaving Influence team. We help authors and thought leaders grow their online influence. I am also a wife and mom of three daughters, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, a good cup of coffee, and dark chocolate.

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What People Are Saying

  • Jamestown is a story of what can happen if people keep trying. Nice point!
    Keep in touch
    greatings from Buenos Aires!

  • The lesson for leaders in this might go something like this: be intentional about what you start. Once something is started, there is a point where it is often impossible to stop.
    I’m sure, in some ways, that the settlers felt this way. Things got really tough for them at a point when it was almost impossible to turn back. They started with a dream, with an intention to finish, and possibly with little knowledge of the extent of the hardship.
    Someone said “Everything feels like a failure in the middle.” Leaders feel that way sometimes, yet the true test is making the effort successful and finishing well.
    Thanks for the great reminder.

  • I think there is another thing this teaches – Don’t hesitate to make BIG goals. I’ve never heard any stories about the settlers saying “Let’s make a pilot test trip to the nearest island first.” Their goal was the new world and they were willing to give their all to get there.
    Commit to big goals that mean something to you and then be willing to give everything you have to achieve them!

  • Cool story, Becky. Made me google to find out more. Here is a cool link to leadership lessons from Jamestown. https://www.historyisfun.org/Leadership-at-Jamestown.htm

  • I believe a lesson leaders might take from Jamestown is about change. What must we, and our followers, be prepared to abandon for the sake of change? How will we prepare our team to meet change with such dedication?
    A thought from Peter Drucker, Organizations must be prepared to abandon everything they do to survive in the future.

  • Great Post Becky! I’m glad Jennifer pointed me your way. Perseverance is definitely something we all need right now. Although, when you compare our lifestyle in these “tough times” it almost seems silly to complain when we look at what our ancestors did when they came to North America.

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