A group of 117 English men, women, and children landed on Roanoke Island off the coast of present-day North Carolina in August of 1587. Under the leadership of Gov. John White, houses were built, and what was intended to be a permanent colony was established. The first English child born on American soil, Virginia Dare, was born to John White’s daughter and son-in-law shortly after their arrival. After it became obvious that the colonists were unprepared for life in the New World, John White and a group of sailors returned to England to get more supplies and food. Because of the war between England and Spain at the time, three years passed before a return trip to Roanoke could be arranged. Upon his return in August of 1590, John White discovered that not one trace of a person or building remained at the settlement.
After receiving an overview of the situation, students working in groups form a hypothesis giving their explanation of what happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke. The students then receive three sets of clues, one set at a time, to help them solve the mystery. They analyze the physical evidence that remained at the colony. They examine the thoughts of Gov. John White as recorded in his writings. They evaluate the effects of weather conditions at the time that were discovered during core sample studies of ancient trees in the area. They use maps to determine possible locations where the colonists may have relocated. They review writings of settlers in Jamestown who encountered people and other evidence with connections to Roanoke. They read the various theories held by historians who have studied the mysterious disappearance down through the years. They learn about the most recent clue discovered during the analysis of a map in a British Museum in 2011. During the lesson students use critical thinking skills and collaboration to revise their hypotheses based on new information contained in the clues. In the end each group presents its final explanation of what happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke.
This lesson contains instructions detailing the procedure of this mystery lesson, a graphic organizer, three clue sets with a total of 25 clues, possible student answers, and a complete reference list.
These other Mystery from History Lessons are also available at my store:
Link-The Sinking of the U.S.S. Maine
Link-The Dark Day of New England
Link-The Kennedy Assassination Conspiracy Theories
Link-Pearl Harbor - Did U.S. Leaders Have Advance Knowledge of the Attack?