Build a Time Capsule: Exploring Colonial America Project-Based Learning Unit

Build a Time Capsule: Exploring Colonial America Project-Based Learning Unit
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A Complete Lesson on Colonial American Life

Create a reverse time capsule for colonial Americans, play a simulated game of treating illnesses with colonial and modern medicine, and compare and contrast modern and colonial tools and technology with this social studies PBL unit.

Use this project-based learning lesson to help your 4th to 6th grade social studies students learn all about life in colonial America. They'll build background knowledge by researching colonial beliefs on science, medicine, and technology, play colonial games and learn about colonial tools and technology, and create a "reverse" time capsule of modern items they would like to share with colonial Americans.

What's Inside

Packed with hands-on inquiry-based activities, extensions and enhancements, cross-curricular independent and group work, and engaging and interactive challenges, this 69-page project-based unit comes complete with:

  • For the Teacher: A complete colonial America Lesson Plan with step-by-step instructions for all activities, teaching tips, assessment guidance, and inquiry questions.
  • For Students: A full-color Student Pack complete with all of the printables and instructions students need for the games, simulation, and tool activities - just print (or share) and teach!

A complete, ready-to-teach Teacher Pack that includes:

  1. Teacher versions of all the student printables with step-by-step annotations and notes for teaching colonial America;
  2. Formative and summative assessments, answer keys, and a full project rubric;
  3. Instructions and guidance for the extension activities and project enhancements;
  4. Materials and resources lists, and additional resources for lecture and presentation.

What's Included

Lesson Plan - Step-by-Step Project Guide

  • Milestone 1: Building Background Knoweledge of Colonial Times
  • Milestone 2: Tools and Technology - Comparing Colonial to Modern
  • Milestone 3: Medicine and Science - Comparing Colonial to Modern
  • Milestone 4: Recreational Activities- Comparing Colonial to Modern
  • Milestone 5: Create and Share Time Capsules

Teacher and Student Resources

  • List of Books About Colonial Times
  • Letter to Parents
  • Identifying Colonial Tools Answer Key
  • Life Expectancy Answer Key
  • Colonial Medicine Simulation Directions
  • Colonial Medicine Simulation Cards and Handouts
  • Colonial Times Quick Quiz
  • Colonial Times Quick Quiz Answer Key
  • Colonial Games
  • Oral Presentation Mini-Lesson
  • Colonial Times Summative Assessment
  • Colonial Times Summative Assessment Answer Key
  • Exploring Colonial America Project Rubric
  • Virtual Tour of Colonial Williamsburg
  • My Time Capsule
  • Exploring Colonial America Project Guidelines
  • How to Do Good Research
  • Colonial Beliefs
  • Big Ideas
  • Milestone #1 Inquiry Question
  • Identifying Colonial Tools
  • Tool or Technology
  • Milestone #2 Inquiry Question
  • Life Expectancy
  • Colonial and Modern Medical Treatments
  • Medical Advancement
  • Milestone #3 Inquiry Question
  • Comparing and Contrasting Games
  • Recreational Activity, Game or To
  • Milestone #4 Inquiry Question
  • The Parts of a Letter
  • Milestone #5 Inquiry Question
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Lesson Plan - Exploring Colonial America Project-Based Learning Lesson
Teacher Pack - Exploring Colonial America Project-Based Learning Lesson
Student Pack - Exploring Colonial America Project-Based Learning Lesson


This project-based learning lesson is designed to support and reinforce the concepts taught as part of a lesson on Colonial America. It is built around 5 inquiry-based milestones that incorporate cross-curricular hands-on projects, formative and summative assessments, independent and group activities, and extensions.


In the course of this project-based learning unit, students will:

  • Perform independent and group inquiry-based research on beliefs about science, technology, and beliefs in colonial America;
  • Use their research to report on the differences between colonial and modern approaches to science, medicine, and technology;
  • Learn about tools and technology from the Colonial era, and compare those tools with modern technology;
  • Perform a simulation of treating various illnesses using both colonial and modern medical techniques;
  • Synthesize acquired research on life in colonial America and create a "reverse" time capsule complete with modern items that would be of use to colonial Americans;
  • "Show what they know" by delivering a class presentation about their time capsule.


Students will acquire necessary background knowledge of colonial America as part of this project, and instructional materials for providing that background are included in the Teacher Pack.


This project-based unit is divided into 5 milestones. The minimum suggested duration for completing this project-based unit is 5 class periods. However, the unit is completely flexible can be lengthened or shortened as necessary or desired, based on available class time and interest level.


  • Internet access
  • Microsoft Office PowerPoint, Google Slides, or other presentation software.
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