Life on the Chesapeake Bay

Students will interpret drawings by John White. These drawing are from 1585 and are considered primary resources for Natives living in the Chesapeake Bay area. After describing what is seen in these drawings, students will draw conclusions about the culture and daily lives of Natives in this region. Next students will interpret etchings by Theodor de Bry. He created these etchings from the drawings of John White. He created them in the 1600 while in England. Students will compare them with the primary resources and discuss the differences as well as determine what motive could account for the differences.

Lesson Objective

Students will be able to identify elements of culture and Native American life in the 1500s by cutting out a fact strip and match it to the primary or secondary source drawing it describes.



  1. Ask students what the term culture means. Have students come up with a definition of culture to use throughout the lesson. Begin using the powerpoint slides, reviewing the definitions of culture, primary source and secondary source.
  2. Pull up the first drawing by Jon White. Model analyzing a primary source by asking such questions as: a. Look as this for a few minutes, what do you see b. What is happening in this painting? c. What do you notice about the fire? d. Where’s the smoke?
  3. Have students work in groups to analyze the drawing. Bring back to whole group to share.
  4. Repeat for the other John White drawings, asking questions to help guide them such as: a. What is this telling you? b. How do they catch fish today? c. What did they use? d. Why would he draw fish that way? e. How are the houses organized?
  5. Ask students to return to the definition of culture. Ask them to describe early Native American culture based upon the pictures they saw. You may want to have them specifically talk about what parts of the definition they were able to observe from the pictures.
  6. Pass out the handouts of the primary vs. secondary resource.
  7. Ask the class to look at the differences between each picture, one at a time.
  8. Have a whole class discussion about the differences each time.
  9. Ask them why would they be so different?
  10. Pass out the sentence strip activity.
  11. Collect


Informal assessment – observing small group discussions and whole group discussions
Formal assessment – sentence strip activity will show understanding of primary and secondary resources, as well as, an understanding of Native American culture.


Cerino, Chris, Sari Bennett, and Patricia K. Robeson. “Native Americans of the Chesapeake Bay: Using Primary vs. Secondary Sources.” Captain John Smith Four Hundred Project Curriculum Unit. (accessed August 27, 2011).

Bennett, Sari and Patricia K. Robeson. “John Smith’s Map of the Chesapeake Bay.” Captain John Smith Four Hundred Project Curriculum Unit. (accessed August 27, 2011).