“When the Spanish reached the valley of Mexico in 1519, they were amazed at what they saw.” – Wood, Tim. The Aztecs. London: Hamlyn, 1992.
Next semester we will begin to look at the Spanish Conquest of the Americas in history at Year 8. The starting point for all resources is, of course, the Victorian Curriculum. But you would be forgiven for looking for something more interesting or approachable. Alternatively, you can go straight to the source as RZI intends to do and wade into 420 pages of primary material. Whichever way you start, there are ways that the library can help you in regards to resources and skills.
The Spanish began visiting the Americas many hundreds of years before ClickView. I don’t even think YouTube was a thing back then. And even though our compactus was probably already full by 1492, I don’t think anything about the ‘conquest’ has made it in there since. So where to start?
On the shelf
The library has a small collection of books on the Americas that are mainly located on the shelf at 972 (History of the Middle Americas). This includes books that cover pre-Columbian life, the Aztecs and Tenochtitlan.
Because there are so few of these, we can’t rely on each student getting their hands on one. But we can provide them with photocopies on relevant chapters (under copyright, we are allowed to make copies of one chapter or 10 per cent of each work).
The next best thing (because we pay for access to it) is Britannica Online. Students can access this from school or home using the link in Simon. The good thing about Britannica is that you can select the level (Primary, Middle or High) of information being retrieved.
Our kids will be way ahead of us in googling this. They will search for ‘the Spanish Conquest of the Americas’ or they will jump right in with the assignment question or some keywords (probably names).
We will need to come up with some clever tasks that will require them to do something with the information that they find if we are to avoid ctrl+c, ctrl+v answers. Once again, the curriculum can be of help here, along with Bloom’s question stems.
To get the kids interested and give them some background information, as well as to teach skills throughout their journey, we can provide them with content that they can watch from home. This allows them to chill out with their headphones on after school with a legitimate excuse and makes us on hand to help out while they do their homework in class.
Aside from the huge amounts of content on this topic on YouTube and the Khan Academy, there are videos on the subject available on ClickView. Check out this video on the Waldseemüller map, for example. Skip to Chapter 10 to begin at Columbus’s big mistake.
Blood and guts
While elements of this story are undoubtedly gory, there are many ways to interest the students without labouring this side of it – they were real people who were sacrificed after all. Pre-Colombian societies had some marked similarities and differences between other indigenous cultures including Australia’s. This can be an opportunity to explore where the came from and when and how they got to the Americas as well as an opportunity to explore: the notion of ‘civilisation’, myths attached to indigenous lifestyles and the way these came about.
The subject of how to manage first contact between societies is also still very much an issue. Finally, the way that we are explaining and contextualising colonisation is a big news item in Australia today but is it an issue in the Americas?