Activities to Teach Students About New England Colonies: Economy and Conflict

As one of the earliest regions to be colonized by European settlers, New England played a crucial role in the development of the United States. The unique culture, economy, and conflicts of this region offer many opportunities for educators looking to teach their students about the early history of America.

In this article, we will explore some activities that teachers can use to teach students about the economy and conflicts of the New England colonies during the colonial period.

1. Role-play: Trade Between Colonies

In this role-play, you can divide students into groups representing different New England colonies. They will be responsible for discussing what goods their colony produces and what goods they need to import. Students will also have to decide which colonies they should trade with to make the best deals.

This activity is an excellent way to introduce students to the concept of mercantilism, which was the primary economic system used during the colonial period. It allows students to explore the economic interdependence of the colonies and how they needed to work together to survive.

2. Town Meetings: Conflicts in Early America

At the heart of every New England town was a town meeting, which was a democratic assembly where citizens could discuss and make decisions about local issues. To explore this concept and teach students about conflicts in early America, you can have a town meeting simulation in your classroom.

You can divide your class into different factions, each with their interests and goals. For example, one group can represent the wealthy merchants who want to increase trade with other colonies, while another group can represent farmers who want to protect their land from being taken away.

At the meeting, groups can debate and vote on issues, and students can get a sense of how people in early America made decisions and resolved conflicts.

3. Life as a Colonial Farmer or Merchant: A Role-play

To bring history to life and give students a sense of what life was like for colonists, you can have them play the role of either a farmer or a merchant. This activity will help students understand the different responsibilities and challenges faced by people in different economic roles.

For example, farmers had to grow their crops, manage their livestock, and deal with harsh weather conditions. Meanwhile, merchants had to manage trade with other colonies, navigate complex trade laws, and search for new business opportunities.

By playing the role of a farmer or merchant, students can get a sense of how economic roles shaped the lives of people during this time.


By using these engaging and interactive activities, teachers can help their students learn about the unique culture, economy, and conflicts of the New England colonies. These lessons can help students understand the early history of the United States and how the decisions made during colonial times influenced the country’s future.

Ultimately, these activities can help students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills while providing a deeper understanding of our nation’s past.


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