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After Amerigo Vespucci realized that Columbus had found a new continent, explorers from all over Europe rushed to claim land and power in “The New World.”  Among the eager explorers were the Conquistadors—or Spanish Conquerors.  These fearsome leaders were outnumbered by the Native Americans, but used their cunning skill and greedy desires to overcome the powerful Empires of the Aztec and Inca Indians.  Cortes was helped by the fact that the Aztec Empire mistook him for a god—and, sadly, he misused his power and slaughtered or enslaved the entire tribe.  Pizarro was not to be outdone.  He tricked the Inca Empire by surrounding them at a party, even though he promised he would come unarmed.  Soon, disease and sadness began to spread across the Mexican and Southern US regions, as more and more Spanish explorers settled on Native American land.
We’ve continued to explore the question of “Who really discovered America?”  We learned about the Vikings and Leif Ericson.  Did you know that Leif Erikson actually arrived in America from Europe almost 500 years before Columbus did?  But, we don’t celebrate Leif Erikson day!  That’s probably because the Vikings had been banished to Iceland and Greenland because Leif’s father had a hot temper.  Also, the Vikings were fierce warriors, and didn’t really get along well with other countries.  So, it’s not like they’d be excited to share their discovery with their enemies.


Columbus came to “The New World” in 1492.  It was an expedition that took bravery, but NOT because everybody thought the world was flat and he’d fall over the edge.  Most people knew the world was round during Columbus’s time, but they didn’t know that a huge land mass lay to the west between Europe and Asia.  They were sure that Columbus would starve to death before he could reach Asia.  Columbus decided to try anyway, and when he arrived in the Bahamas, he thought he was in India.  Another explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, started to realize that it wasn’t India, but a whole new place.  He began adding to his navigation maps.  That’s why North and South America are named after him!
Ask any adult American the following question: “Who discovered America?”  Most will answer, “Christopher Columbus, of course.”  That’s what they learned in school.  But is it true?  That’s the question we’re asking in social studies class.  Over the past week, we learned how the First Americans (called Native Americans or American Indians) got to the Americas.  Scientists theorize that they arrived in North America by walking or migrating over a land bridge that once connected Alaska and Asia.  This land bridge is now covered by a piece of water called the Bering Strait, so you cannot walk across it anymore.  Other scientists think the First Americans arrived by boat.  Both groups base their theory on artifacts, objects from long ago that give clues to the past.

The first Americans were hunters, but they eventually learned about agriculture.  Once they learned how to farm, civilizations, villages, and mounds appeared across the continent.  The Mound Builders created huge domes of earth to bury their valuable items.  These Mounds can still be found in parts of the country today.  We created our own Mounds and “buried” artifacts about our classmates so that others could learn about our interests and personalities.  You can see our Mounds (and our “Origami Me” projects”) in the hallway outside our class.

We’ll be taking a social studies quiz on Wednesday, September 23rd.  You can find the study guide to the right in the “file library.”

This past week in social studies:

·      We discussed and analyzed the meaning of the respect.  We also dug deeper into the Vincent pledge: “I will respect myself.  I will respect others.  I will respect my environment.  I will make good choices.  We are a community of learners and we are here to learn.”

·      We spent time getting to know one another, sharing the key details of our personalities and histories, and learning how to work together as a community.

·      We set goals for the first marking period of 5th grade.