LESSON 2: THE FIRST EUROPEANS

Prepare the class by discussing life in Europe in the early 1500's: crowded cities, poor sanitation, disease; farmers who worked hard with little chance of ever owning their own land; a class system that recognized heredity rather than ability, etc.

Lead the class to the realization that comfortable people don't generally go charging off into the unknown.

Talk about the emigrants, how they probably felt about leaving . . . optimistic, sad about leaving friends, probably a little scared. Discuss the hardships of the voyage: weeks at sea, poor food, crowded conditions, illness, etc. Help the class feel the excitement of the first sighting of land . . . crowding the ship's rail, straining eyes to the west, watching the dark line on the horizon slowly develop into an unbroken wall of forest.

To the first settlers, the forest was a threatening, alien environment. Steeped in the folklore of Europe, the colonists saw the forest as the lair of trolls, witches, ogres, werewolves, and demons.

In reality, it harbored dangerous animals and Indians, and it was especially frightening to a people accustomed to towns and farm life. The forest was an obstacle to their familiar lifestyle; it was simply in the way. As do most "civilized" people, the Europeans set about modifying the environment to suit their needs and desires.

Trees were cut to build houses, land was cleared to grow crops, towns began to develop, roads were built to connect farms and towns. More and more people arrived from Europe, and settlements began appearing farther and farther inland. Despite all this, the forest seemed to go on forever.

Gradually, the settlers learned to use the forest. They learned to hunt and fish; from the Indians they learned which plants were good to eat and which were medicinal. Their iron tools enabled them to cut and shape trees into things they needed. Trees, in and of themselves, had little value since they were abundant and available to almost everyone.


Reference Resources / Education

Contents / Lesson 1 / Lesson 2 / Lesson 3 / Lesson 4 / Lesson 5 / Lesson 6 / Lesson 7