Death on Board La Belle: Finding Clues from Old Bones!
Subjects: Science, Math, Social Studies, Technology Applications
Grade level: 4th-7th
Rationale:This lesson introduces students to the different types of scientific inquiries used to analyze human skeletons and learn about life in the past. Students will complete an illustrated online interactive based on the actual analysis of the skeleton found on La Salle’s shipwreck, La Belle, to determine what the French sailor’s life was like.
Lesson Duration: One or two 45-minute class periods
Science, 4th Grade
Social Studies 4th Grade
Science, 5th Grade
Science 6th Grade
Science, 7th Grade
Social Studies 7th Grade
Technology Applications, Grades 3-5
Activity - Part 1
Step 1: Introduce the La Belle shipwreck as one of La Salle's ships that was wrecked off the coast of Texas in 1686. The French explorer La Salle had been trying to locate the mouth of the Mississippi in order to establish a French colony there. His ship hit a sandbar during a storm, and later sunk in Matagorda Bay midway between present-day Galveston and Corpus Christi, Texas. At least one sailor went down with the ship. About 300 years later, archeologists excavated the shipwreck, including the skeleton of the sailor. Explain that by using different types of scientific inquiry to analyze skeletons and other evidence, a great deal can be learned about life in the past, including a personís age, physical appearance, and health. Students will do an online activity based on the analysis of the skeleton to determine what this sailorís life was like.
Step2: Distribute a copy of the Skeletal Report Form and the Skeleton Chart student handouts to each student. Have students go through the Internet activity: "Death on Board La Belle! Finding Clues from the Bones" at www.texasbeyondhistory/belle/kids.html.
Step3: Students will fill out the forms based on what they learned in the activity.
Step4: Have students discuss their findings with the class, and share their answers to the "thought" questions on the student handout. The Skeleton Chart-Teacherís Guide (included) from the activity may be used as an overhead projector prompt.
Student Product: Completed Skeletal Report Form and Skeleton Chart student handouts.
Assessment: Students will correctly complete the answers to the handout questions and discuss their findings with class.
Extension: Have students view the Texas Beyond History webpages on La Belle www.texasbeyondhistory.net/belle/index.html and www.texasbeyondhistory.net/stlouis/index.html to learn more about La Salle, the shipwreck, and his temporary colony at Fort St. Louis near Victoria, Texas.
Carol Schlenk and Laine Leibick
Texas Beyond History
University of Texas Archeological Research Laboratory
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