Home: The Story of Maine
A Part of the Main: European Settlement of the Mainland

Lesson #3: Making a Living
For use with Module 2

Alignment with the Maine Learning Results
Guiding Principles


  1. Observes situations objectively to clearly and accurately define problems.
  2. Generates a variety of solutions, builds a case for the best response, and critically evaluates the effectiveness of this response.


  1. Knows the structure and functions of the labor market.
  2. Demonstrates reliability, flexibility, and concern for quality.

Social Studies


Students will use the chronology of history and major eras to demonstrate the relationships of events and people.

Students will be able to describe the effects of historical changes on daily life.


Students will understand and analyze the relationships among people and their physical environment.

Students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of how society changes as a consequence of concentrated settlement.


Students will understand that economic decisions are based on the availability of resources and the costs and benefits of choices.

Students will be able to identify and analyze the factors that contribute to personal spending and savings decisions.

Students will:

Timing: 5-6 class periods, with time at home to write

Background Information:

Mainers enjoy a nationwide reputation of self-sufficiency and resourcefulness. Maine’s first European inhabitants helped create this image. During colonial times, Maine was the frontier, and its people had to learn to get by with very little outside help. They had plenty of land, timber, water, game, and fish, but little cash, few neighbors, and many dangers. Yet, they survived. This lesson explores Maine’s historically inventive and resourceful character, while encouraging students to think practically about what it takes to make a living.



  1. After viewing A Part of the Main: European Settlement of the Mainland with your students, discuss what life was like for the first European settlers in Maine. How did they make a living? What resources were available to them? What obstacles did they face? Make a list on the board.
  2. Discuss with students that the primary task of most frontier families was simply to make ends meet. People today struggle with the same problem, but within a different economic system, and with different resources available to them. Tell students they will have a chance to simulate the experience of making ends meet on the frontier.
  3. Break students into groups of 3-4. Present them with their task. They will be presented with a list of information about a colonial family living on the Maine frontier. Using the information given to them, they will create a financial plan for this family for one year. What expenses will they have? How will they meet those expenses? Assign students roles such as facilitator, timekeeper, recorder, and presenter, to make their group work more efficient. See Assignment Sheet #3 and the Budget Worksheet for details.
  4. Note: You may want to coax students to be as specific as possible by estimating one category together as a class. For example, brainstorm with students how much clothing a family of eleven might need during a year. The children are growing quickly, and by the end of the year they may all have outgrown their shoes. But, instead of buying or making 9 new pairs of shoes, you can save money by having the older children hand their shoes down to the younger ones. Some shoes will still need repairs, which will either cost money or time, and other shoes may need to be replaced, so to be safe, you might estimate the need for 3 new pairs of shoes for the whole family over the course of a year. Encourage students to be specific as they think about how they will meet their expenses as well. Where will they find the shoes? Will they barter with the traveling cobbler—offering him surplus food or housing? Or will they make their own shoes—tan their own leather from deer hide? Even if students cannot answer all of these questions, this exercise encourages them to see how self-sufficient and resourceful colonial families had to be.
  5. Have each group present their budget to the class.
  6. After each group has presented their budget, ask students to compare the ways that families made ends meet in 1690 with how they make ends meet today. What kinds of resources are available to us today that were not available then? How has the economy changed? What are the reasons for these changes? How do you think the economy might change 150 years from now?
  7. For homework, have students write a brief essay comparing a colonial family’s economic decisions with those of a modern-day Maine family. How have the changes in the world affected peoples’ daily lives?
  8. Have students evaluate their group work and their individual essays using the Grading Rubric #3. Evaluate them yourself, using the same criteria.

Extension Activity: