Elementary Lesson on Colonial Days

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    Background

    • The Boston Tea Party came about on Dec. 16, 1773, when a group of Bostonians dressed as Mohawk Indians threw 90,000 lbs. of tea into Boston Harbor to protest the Tea Act passed by the British Parliament. The Tea Act was opposed by the colonists as being unfair taxation of the colonies, which had no elected representation in Parliament. The result of the Boston Tea Party was that Parliament passed the Intolerable Acts, which pushed the colonies closer to revolution.

    Approaches

    • There are many different ways to teach children about the Boston Tea Party and Colonial living. Reading, watching DVDs and writing reports are all effective in their own ways, but one of the most effective approaches is to let students role-play the parts of various historical figures who were involved in the Boston Tea Party. Have students research the personalities of the famous and not-so-famous, then have the children create a mock trial to deal with the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party.

    Characters

    • Many people could be involved in a mock trial about the Boston Tea Party. One of the most likely is Samuel Adams, founder of the Sons of Liberty and cousin to John Adams, who became our second president. Samuel Adams is thought by many people to have been the leader of the "Mohawks" who destroyed the tea, though it's not certain. Another famous person who may have been involved was John Hancock, who was himself a tea smuggler and whose business would have suffered if the British tea had been unloaded. Students might also look into Samuel Cooper, who was an eyewitness to the Tea Party. King George, being the aggrieved party, would also be worthy of study.

    On Trial

    • The key to a successful mock trial about the Boston Tea Party will be to have opposing parties fully express their views and personalities. The main points to bring up will be the idea of "taxation without representation," the property rights of the king and the tea's owners, and the rights of common citizens to protest. Samuel Adams, mindful of treason laws, will deny involvement. King George will assert his right to rule. John Hancock will argue about the burden unfair taxes place on businessmen. Benjamin Franklin, if he gets involved, will try to reconcile both sides in his role as ambassador. Lawyer John Adams may even be dragged in to defend his cousin. Let the students decide if Samuel Adams and Hancock deserve to be punished or to go free.

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