The Big Idea Activity

What happens when different cultures first meet?

Write a Speech About Meeting Strangers

Students working on Activity

Speak about what happens when different cultures meet. You will write a speech for a member of a Native American or European group. Your speech will tell of this person's meeting with strangers. California Standard 5.2 Students trace the routes of early explorers and describe the early explorations of the Americas.

Research RoadmapPrint the Research Roadmap. Use it to take notes and hand it in to your teacher when you make your presentation.


Topic Finder

Need help finding a topic? Explore these ideas for research...Discovery and Exploration.

Case Study

Here's an example of a topic you could choose for the Big Idea Activity: Did you know that the Aztec ruled a mighty empire in the 1400s? Spanish explorer Hernando CortÚs was dazzled by the Aztec riches. Emperor Moctezuma II offered CortÚs gifts of gold and precious stones. But the explorer wanted more treasure. He took the Aztec emperor as his prisoner. In a riot, Moctezuma was killed. The Aztec drove the Spanish out of their city. But it was a short victory. The Spanish returned with a large army and destroyed the Aztec Empire. Do you think these two cultures could have met more peacefully? Why or why not?

Fun Facts Legend has it that nine omens foretold the fall of the mighty Aztec Empire.


How has meeting people from different cultures changed your life? Have you tried new foods? Have you learned new customs? Write about the good things you have learned by meeting people from different cultures.

How Pizza Came to America

Explore an Immigration Timeline


The Growth of Trade

Europe Faces Change

The Middle Ages were a time of little change. The Renaissance saw a rebirth of culture and new ideas.

Trade in Asia and Africa

From about 100 B.C. to 1,300 A.D., the Silk Road brought Chinese silk to western Asia and Europe.

Europeans Seek New Trade Routes

In the 1400s, explorers began to use better navigation tools. The compass and astrolabe helped sailors to better chart their course.

Two Worlds Meet

Spaniards Reach the Americas

On August 5, 1492, Christopher Columbus left Spain on an expedition to find a new trade route. He discovered the New World instead.

Spanish Exploration and Conquest

Spanish armies used guns, horses, and metal armor to defeat the mighty Aztec and Inca empires.

Spain's Overseas Empire

By 1600, Spain controlled a large amount of land in the Americas. Called New Spain, this territory spanned present-day Mexico, most of Central America, and parts of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

The Spanish Frontier

After several failed expeditions, the Spanish landed on the Florida coast in 1565. The new settlement was named St. Augustine.

Europeans in North America

The Northwest Passage

In the late 1400s, Europeans began to search for a water route across North America. Explorer Henry Hudson made several voyages to find a Northwest Passage that connected the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

The First French Colonies

The French colonies had a thriving fur trade. Hunters and trappers traded animal skins for supplies in New France.

The First English Colonies

The settlers at Jamestown were mostly treasure seekers, not farmers. When the colony ran out of food, Captain John Smith told them, "Those who don't work, don't eat!"