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        6-8, 13+

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        New Netherland: The Early Years

        In this lesson students identify the economic, political and social roots of Dutch New York.

        Lesson Summary


        Using segments from the film Dutch New York, students learn about the early years of the New Netherland colony and identify economic, political and social objectives of the Dutch West India Company, the settlers of the colony, and the native population. Then, they role play a scenario from the perspective of each of these three groups.


        Students will:

        • Identify economic, political and social objectives of Dutch exploration and settlement in New Netherland;
        • Recognize the interconnected roles of the Dutch West India Company, settlers and indigenous people in the development of New Netherland;
        • Dramatize the perspectives of multiple groups in a given scenario;
        • Recognize the impact of Dutch exploration and settlement on the indigenous people of New York.

        Grade Level:


        Suggested Time

        (2) 50-minute sessions (with additional time for student research)

        Media Resources


        The Lesson

        Part I: Introductory Activity

          1. Check for prior knowledge by asking students what it means to be a colony. Take student responses.
          2. Next ask students to read the following sentence and explain its meaning:

        The Netherlands, a small country in Europe, was the “mother country” to the New Netherland colony in America.

        1. Continue by asking:
          • What does the expression “mother country” mean? 
          • What was the relationship between the Netherlands and New Netherland?
          • How do you think a country establishes a colony? What steps might be involved?
          • What would be the reasons for a country to establish a colony?  
        2. Take student responses and discuss. Next, ask students what they know about the early colonies in what is now New York State. Ask students, “Who do you think arrived in New Yorkfirst, the English or the Dutch?” You may choose to tally the answers on the board.
        3. To introduce the topic of Dutch New York, begin by showing a map of the world. Outline the Netherlands and the area that was New Netherland. Explain that the Netherlands was one of the earliest European nations to successfully establish colonial settlements in the northeast area of what is now the United States. The Dutch settlements were in areas that are now parts of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware. New York City, or Manhattan, was known as “ New Amsterdam.”  They also had a settlement in what is now Albany, New York called “Fort Orange.” The Dutch governed settlements in the New Netherland colony from 1624 until the English invaded in 1664 and claimed the Dutch territory for England.
        4. Explain to students that most colonies are influenced by the country that established them so that their roots are connected to the values and customs of the “mother country.”  For example, ask students why English, and not French, Spanish or Dutch, is the main language spoken in the United States. The correct response, of course, is that the United Stateswas once a colony of England so we speak the English language.

          Next, ask students if they can think of other ways the influence of the “mother country” can be seen in a colony.Encourage a variety of responses, making sure that economic, political and social influences are all addressed. Possible responses include: how goods are exchanged or traded, money, taxes, laws, government, rulers, occupations, schools/education, types of buildings, clothes people wear, what people eat, religion.  Write the responses on the board.

        5. Break students into groups and give each group a dictionary. Ask students to look up the words economic, political and social, and to copy the definition into their notebooks. Tell them to make sure to look for the adjective form of the word and not the noun—that is, "economic" and not "economics". Give groups 15 to 20 minutes to look up and discuss the definitions amongst themselves.
        6. Complete the exercise by having a whole-class discussion to enhance the students’ general understanding of the topic and the definitions.  
        7. Return to the responses in step #6 and ask the students to work in groups to organize them into three separate columns, one for economic influences, one for political influences and one for social influences.  Review student responses and discuss the reasons why each response was categorized as economic, political or social.  Ask students to copy the three labeled columns in their notebooks. 

        Part II: Learning Activity

        1. Tell students they're going to watch three videos about Dutch New York.  Ask them to think about the economic, political and social objectives of the Dutch settlements as they watch the videos.  
        2. Tell students the first video is about the Dutch West India Company.  Distribute the Dutch New York Focus Questions to each student. Review the first set of questions with your students before watching the video:
          • What does medieval mean? Why does historian Barry Lewis describe the Dutch West India Company as both medieval and modern?
          • When it came to the exploration and settlement of new lands, how did the Netherlands differ from other European countries? Who owned the land in the Dutch colonies?
          Play the Dutch West india Company (1621) QuickTime Video. If necessary, explain the meaning of "quasi-military" and "medieval." Then, give students a few minutes to jot down their answers to the questions and discuss. Then, ask students if they think the objectives of the Dutch West India Company are economic, political, social, or a combination, and to explain their answers.
        3. Before playing the next video, first make sure students understand what the words "trade" and "commerce" mean.Then, review the next set of focus questions:
          • What was the original exploitable resource in New Netherland?  What was its importance?
          • What role did the Native Americans play in the fur trade with the Dutch?
          • Why was it necessary for the Dutch to acquire Manhattan?
          • What made the Dutch acquisition of Manhattan different from other European conquests?

          Play the Trade and Commerce QuickTime Video. Give students a few minutes to complete the second set of questions on the handout and discuss. For each question, ask students if the answer has to do with social, political or economic objectives.

        4. Tell students the last video they're going to watch is called New Amsterdam: The Early Years. Review the associated set of focus questions before playing the video:
          • Describe the political system that the Dutch West India Company set up in New Amsterdam.  What were the advantages and disadvantages of this system?
          • What did the directors of New Amsterdam have to do when they wanted to pass a new law or implement a new policy?
          • Do you think William Kieft was qualified to be the director of New Amsterdam? Why or why not?
          • What are some reasons for the tension between the settlers and the Native Americans that eventually led to war?
          Play New Amsterdam: The Early Years (1621 - 1647)QuickTime Video.

          Have students answer the last set of questions on their handouts and discuss. For each question, ask if the answer has to do with social, political or economic objectives.

        5. After watching the videos and addressing the focus questions for each segment, summarize and review with students the new ideas they have learned about Dutch New York.  
        6. Next, distribute the Dutch New York Video Summary . Tell students to read the statements from each video and indicate whether they describe social, political or economic objectives. Remind them that some statements may represent more than one objective. Allow students to complete the chart individually or in groups.

        Part III: Culminating Activity

        1. Tell students they are going to participate in a role playing activity. The scenario is this: a group of settlers in New Netherland have petitioned the Dutch West India Company for permission to give up fur trading and become farmers and owners of their own land. A special magistrate, or judge, has been appointed to hear all sides of the argument and make a decision in the case.
        2. Divide students into groups representing the Dutch West India Company, the colonists and the native people. Ask students to work together in their groups to come up with a response to the question "Should the settlers of New Netherland be allowed to give up fur trading and become farmers and landowners?" Students may use the completed handouts from this lesson to help them prepare their response, or you may choose to have them do additional library or Internet research. As students prepare for their roles, remind them to think about economic, political and social advantages and disadvantages of fur trading to those of farming and land ownership from their group's perspective.
        3. Let each group select one or two representatives to present their case to the class.
        4. For homework, students prepare a written position paper that details the perspective of their assigned role, and a short reflection that addresses what they would have decided in the case if they were the magistrate and what they learned about the colony of New Netherland from the role play.


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