Students will watch two videos to gain a better understanding of what Amerigo Vespucci has done and why two continents are named after him. They will then be able to map out Vespucci’s voyages themselves and use free geographic tools on the internet to explore other places, such as their family’s own countries of origin, to learn more about their own immigration past and how Vespucci has impacted their lives today.
45 minutes, Grade 6, Ages 10-12
DISCUSS VESPUCCI’S VOYAGES: Talk to the entire class as a whole about Vespucci’s voyages. Ask them if they know anything about Vespucci or the voyages already before giving them the information. Then show the video “Amerigo Vespucci and the Founding of America - Drive Thru History”.
DISCUSS HOW AMERICA GOT ITS NAME: Ask the class if they know how America got its name. It is important to also discuss Christopher Columbus. If he was the first one to discover America, why isn’t it named after him? Answer the question by showing the video “How America Got Its Name”.
USE MAPMAKER: Bring up National Geographic’s Interactive MapMaker for the class using a projector or a SmartBoard. Use the freeform line tool to draw out Vespucci’s voyages at the direction of the class. Be sure to explain what you’re doing and how in detail so the students can replicate it on their own later. Also fool around with various other functions, especially the layers. Keep in mind that your students may or may not know anything about GIS or cartography when giving your explanations.
DISCUSSING GEOGRAPHIC TECHNOLOGY: Now that you have shown the class how MapMaker works, discuss with them the benefits and uses of such geographic tools. How do they help us gain a better understanding of the world? Use Google Earth (or Maps) as another example. Show aerial and street photography of the damage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti from the 2010 earthquake. Since it is now 2013 and there is still damage, what does that say about life in Haiti?
HAVE THEM USE MAPMAKER: Now that you have discussed how to use MapMaker, it is time for your students to do it themselves! Each one should have their own computer with access to the internet. Direct them to the website where National Geographic’s Interactive MapMaker is located. Review how to use the layers before handing out the worksheet. After completing the worksheet, they are allowed to use MapMaker however they see fit and share some of their discoveries with the rest of the class.
You may look at the worksheets if you choose, but the real assessment comes from the students’ appreciation for geography. Get them to share some of their independent discoveries using MapMaker.
EXTENDING THE LEARNING
Have students use MapMaker to learn about their ancestral countries of origin. Have them think about what factors may have led their families to America. If Vespucci never went on his voyages, how would their ways of life be different today?
Teacher’s computer hooked up to projector or SmartBoard
BACKGROUND & VOCABULARY
Geography is an important field of study that helps us understand the world in spatial terms and there are many tools available to study it. The voyages of Amerigo Vespucci are a great example of how we can use space to analyze the world both in the past and the present. For example, what led to Vespucci coming to America and what were the lasting effects of his voyages? These can be answered simply by looking at a map. National Geographic’s MapMaker can tell us the conditions of 15th century Europe that led to the age of exploration and immigration to the New World.