Home: The Story of Maine

A Part of the Main: European Settlement of the Mainland

Lesson 2: Mapping With Words

Alignment with the Learning Results:
Guiding Principles:

Uses oral, written, visual, artistic, and technological modes of expression.

Recognizes and understands the diverse nature of society.

Students will know how to construct and interpret maps and use globes and other geographic tools to locate and derive information about people, places, regions, and environments.

Middle Grades (5-8):

  1. Visualize the globe and construct maps of the world and its sub-regions to identify patterns of human settlement, major physical features, and political divisions.
  2. Develop maps, globes, charts, models, and databases to analyze geographical patterns on the earth.
Students Will: Materials: Background Information:
There are five major Indian tribes represented in Maine today: the Penobscot Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Maliseets, the Micmacs, and the Abenakis. As we study the history of Native Americans in Maine at the time of European contact, the naming and location of tribes becomes very complex. In the interests of simplicity, we are referring to all Indian tribes in Maine and the Maritimes as Wabanaki Indians. This term includes the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, Micmac, and Abenaki tribes. Wabanaki tribes speak distinct languages, all of which derive from the Algonquian language family. The place names used in this lesson derive from these four Wabanaki languages: Penobscot, Passamaquoddy/Maliseet, Micmac, and Abenaki.

Timing: 3-5 days in class, with time at home to complete the project


  1. Before watching A Part of the Main: European Settlement of the Mainland with your class, ask students to brainstorm what they know about Maine Indians. Make a list on the board together. Then, as students watch the video, ask them to look for information about the culture of Maine Indians. Do a second brainstorm after they have seen the video. Ask students some of the following questions:
  2. Tell students that one thing that distinguished Wabanaki culture from European culture was the fact that it was an oral culture—the Wabanaki had no written language. But they did have several rich spoken languages that can teach us a great deal about their culture.
  3. Ask students: how do we find our way around today? Generally, with maps. But if there were no maps to use, nor any paper and pencil to create maps with, how would we give directions? In most Wabanaki languages, place names served as a kind of map of the landscape. Places were named descriptively, for their characteristics and their usefulness. Read them a few names from the Place Names Chart to give them the idea.
  4. Give students the Place Names Chart and the Getting to Know Wabanaki Place Names worksheet. Have them complete the worksheet alone or in pairs.
  5. Put a good map of Maine on the overhead projector, or have students examine copies at their desks. Can they match the places named on their chart with their locations on the map? What is the journey that the place names listed on the chart follow?
  6. Tell students they will be drawing their own detailed maps of this journey down the Penobscot River. Go over the characteristics of a good-quality map by studying the map of Maine. Review (or teach) the following topics:
    Direction (N, S, E, W)
    Latitude and longitude
    Using an index and/or a grid to find a location
    Scale (how the distance on the map corresponds to the distance on the ground)
    You might also want to have your students visit web sites on the Internet that have examples of well-made maps. Some suggestions are:
  7. Give students Assignment Sheet #2. Go over the assignment together, as well as the expectations listed on the Grading Rubric. Students should work on their maps individually. Give them enough time (1-2 weeks) in class and at home to finish. When they have completed their maps, have them evaluate their own work using the Grading Rubric. Then, use the same criteria to grade them yourself. Display student maps in the classroom.