Coquina: The Mighty Tiny Shell
- Grade Level:
- Fourth Grade
- American Indian History and Culture, Colonial History, Hispanic or Latino American History and Culture, History, Mathematics, Social Studies
- Lesson 1 hr 15 minutes or each activity can be done separately.
- Group Size:
- Up to 24
OverviewIn this lesson, students will learn about coquina and why the material was chosen to construct the fort.
The students will understand the importance of historical documents, how they are used to decipher history. Students will practice using historical documents, summarizing and synthesing information. Students will also practice unit conversions and solving real world problems using volume and area formulas.
Florida's position on the life line connecting Spain with her colonies gave this sandy peninsula certain strategic importance. Spain knew
that Florida must be defended to prevent enemies from using the harbors as havens from which they could spread their sails against Spanish commerce.
Besides, Florida's lee shores and deadly reefs combined with hurricanes in the narrow Bahama Channel to wreck many a good ship. Scores of mariners were cast ashore on the inhospitable coast. Florida had to be made safe for them, as well
as unsafe for enemies.
It was a sizable defense problem. The French triggered the solution in 1564 with Fort Caroline, a colony named for their teenage King
Charles, near the mouth of Florida's St. Johns River. The French settlement drew Spanish Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Aviles to Florida in 1565. He
established the St. Augustine colony and forthwith removed the Frenchmen, some of whom had already begun piratical careers. Now, with this small fortified settlement on one side of the Bahama Channel and growing Habana on the other, Spanish ships could normally pass safely from the ports of Nueva España to those of the Old Country.
Although the real construction was not even started, great obstacles had already been overcome. Very little masonry had ever been done in the presidio and, with the exception of the imported artisans, the workmen had to be trained. Even the imported ones had much to learn about coquina, the natural shellstone peculiar to this part of Florida. Coquina consists of broken sea shells cemented together by their own lime. Where a shelly stratum was under great geological pressure, the stone is solid and relatively hard;where conditions were less favorable, it is
coarse and easily crumbled. The men had to become expert in grading the stone, for only the best of it could go into the walls.
There was also a shortage of common labor. When there should have been 150 men to keep the 15 artisans
working at top speed-50 in the quarries and hauling stone, 50 for gathering oyster shells and helping at the kilns, and another 50 for digging the
foundation trenches, toting the excavation baskets, and mixing mortar-it was hard to get as many as 100 laborers on the job.
Indians from three nations, the Guale (coastal Georgia), Timucua (Florida east of the Aucilla River) and
Apalache (between the Aucilla and the Apalachicola), were tapped for manpower. True, they were paid labor, but some had to travel 80 leagues to reach the presidio, and many served unwillingly. The Spanish levies for labor caused serious domestic problems, for the draftees had either to bring their families
along or else leave them in the home villages to eke out their own living. In theory each complement of Indian labor served only a certain length of time;in
practice it was not uncommon for the men to be held long past their assigned time, either through necessity or carelessness. In some cases, not even the chiefs were exempt from the draft.
Introduction Activity 1 (15minutes):
Show students the picture Why did Spain Build the Fort. Ask students to use what they know about reading text features and their inferencing skills to answer the title of the picture, "Why do you think Spain Built the Fort? The picture shows the need to protect the Spanish fleet from pirates. They wanted to protect their trade route (Gulf Stream) that they used back to Spain. Also, England's settlements were encroaching on the Spanish territory.
Teacher to explain and use information for questioning: There had been nine other wooden forts built but were burnt by raids or suffered from natural elements. (Students to give ideas of what kinds of natural elements may have affected the fort?)
One fort was destroyed in 1586 by a raid lead by Sir Frances Drake to avenge the deaths of fellow French hugonets that had been killed by order of Pedro Menendez. Another wooden fort and the town of St.Augustine was destroyed in 1668 by pirate Robert Searles. After burning the town down, it was apparent to Queen Marianna that the settlement needed better protection. Construction of the Castillo was granted.
Reading Activity 1 (30minutes):
Read passage What is Coquina? Teacher to either assign reading passages a close read, partner read or students may read independently. After reading, have student summarize the sequence of how Coquina is formed. Have students draw illustrations for each sequence.
Reading Activity 2:
Reading Passage:The Castle Has Begun The reading is Affidavit Recording the Groundbreaking Ceremony for Castillo de San Marcos, October 2, 1672 by JN MORENO YSEGOVIA.
After reading whole group, independently or with apartner ask students to complete the following journal response.
Journal Response: Imagine yourself standing as a citizen of St. Augustine over 340 years ago, watching the first coquina brick being laid for your new fortress. How do you feel? What are you thinking? Why is this an important day for you? Justify your response. Students to share their responses.
Arana, Luis Rafael and Albert Manucy.The Building of Castillo de San Marcos. Philadelphia:Eastern National, 1977.
Manucy, Albert C. The History of Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas from Contemporary Narratives and Letters. Washington D.C.:United States Government Printing Office, 1955.
Weitzel, Kelley. Coquina Queries Archaeology Lessons for Northeast Florida. www.coquinaqueries.org
Activity 3 Math (30 minutes):
Use the Castillo Solving Word Problems WS.This worksheet may be used individually or with partners to have students apply what they know about area and volume to solve real world problems. Prerequisites: Students should have prior knowledge on how to find area and volume of both a rectangular prism. Students should have an understanding of the difference between cubic and square feet. Students should know how to find the area of trapezoid and triangle. Students should be able to multiply by 3 digit by 3 digit numbers.
The summary students construct after reading What is Coquina will allow the teacher to know if the student can summarize and sequence correctly. The students' journal response for the Castle has Begun may be used to informally assess the students' understanding of how life was like in St. Augustine at the time of the construction of the fort, 1672. Teachers may use the math problem solving with area and volume worksheet as an assessment.
To teach students about the importance of historical documents, understanding primary sources and the construction of the Castillo de San Marcos. This lesson uses primary sources such as the Affidavit Recording the Groundbreaking Ceremony for Castillode San Marcos,October 2, 1672 by JN MORENO Y SEGOVIA. By analyzing this account, students will better understand need to build the Castillo de San Marcos and the overall tone of the event. Also, students will understand the rare and expensive nature of coquina and the process in which it forms.
VocabularyFrom Readings: Coquina, acidic, calcium carbonate, mortar
Important People: Sir Frances Drake, Robert Searles, Pedro Menendez
Last updated: April 14, 2015