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Teacher Feature

What Really Happened?


Challenge your students to use their imagination in solving one of history's most perplexing mysteries, the disappearance of the Roanoke Island Colony.  After reading about the 1937 half dollar coin and the ill-fated settlers of Roanoke Island, students will write their own creative ending to this unsolved mystery and create a coin depicting their solution.


Read to your students the December 2003 Coin of the Month.  Then, have students read information on the "What Really Happened?" handout.

Brainstorm a class list of possible outcomes, accepting even implausible answers (i.e. the settlers went out for milk and got lost!).  Then, have students use an idea from the brainstorming list or one of their own to write their version of what really happened to the Roanoke Island Colony.  Be sure to share these with the class!

When the students are finished, they can create a coin obverse and reverse design depicting their particular ending to the story of the settlers.


Have students use class resources to research some of the actual theories about the disappearance of the Roanoke Colony.  Ask students which theory (possibly their own) is most plausible to them?  Which one is most interesting?


The project described above reflects some of the national standards of learning as defined by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), and the International Society for Technology in Education.  These standards are listed below:

Language Arts Standards

Demonstrate competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process:  After brainstorming as a class, students will use their creative writing skills to compose an original piece.

Demonstrate competence in the general skills and strategies of the reading process:  Students will need to use what they have learned from the reading portion of the handout in order to follow directions for the class activity.

Demonstrate competence in speaking and listening as tools for learning:  Students will share their stories and will hear those of their peers.

Social Studies Standards

People, Places, and Environment:  Students will read about the settlers in one of the first American colonies.

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