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William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania

William Penn was the founder of the Pennsylvania colony. This unit will teach students about William Penn’s life and what Pennsylvania was like as a colony in the 1600s. This unit will discuss the founding of Pennsylvania, the relationship of the settlers with the Native Americans, the Charter of Privileges written by William Penn to govern the colony, and it will compare the 17th century colony to Philadelphia today.

This set of lessons is an interdisciplinary group that take students through the founding of Pennsylvania while teaching them essential Language Arts and Math skills. Students will learn about the State’s founder and will get to experience his original writing and use that writing to create persuasive pieces of their own. From there, they will learn that Penn’s original map of Philadelphia was an advanced creation which utilized a grid system, an innovation in city planning for that time. Students then will be expected to use their skills with fractions and inches to create their own grid of Philadelphia. These lessons are meant to teach history as well as make history come alive and feel more relevant to elementary age students. These lessons can be done on separate days, yet they are all designed with a different focus so they can also be completed all in one day as a history, language arts, and math lessons.


17th century

Colonial period



Big Ideas

Historical Context

Pennsylvania History

Essential Questions

How can the story of another American, past or present, influence your life?

What role does analysis have in historical construction?


  • Comprehension of the experiences of individuals, society, and how past human experience has adapted builds aptitude to apply to civic participation.

  • Methods of historical research, critical thinking, problem-solving, and presentation skills provide expertise for effective decision making.

  • Conflict and cooperation among social groups, organizations, and nation-states are critical to comprehending society in the Pennsylvania.


  • Summarize how conflict and compromise in Pennsylvania history impact contemporary society.

  • Analyze a primary source for accuracy and bias and connect it to a time and place in Pennsylvania.

  • Contrast multiple perspectives of individuals and groups in interpreting other times, cultures, and place.

Background Material for Teacher

Gross, Sandra., Jeffrey P Roberts, and Atwater Kent Museum. William Penn, Visionary & Proprietor : An Exhibit Catalog. Philadelphia: Atwater Kent Museum, 1983.

Wiener, Roberta, and James R Arnold. Pennsylvania : The History of Pennsylvania Colony, 1681-1776. Chicago, Ill.: Raintree, 2005.

End of Unit Assessment

Students will create an advertisement for a new colony of their own. It will include the rules of how their colony will be governed, a persuasive paragraph to entice other students to want to live in that colony, and a basic map so colonists can find their way around.


Preserving American Freedom


Plans in this Unit

The Founding of Pennsylvania

Charter of Privileges and the Promotional Descriptions of Pennsylvania

Compare and Contrast Maps of Philadelphia

Grade Level

Grade School

Standards/Eligible Content







PA Core Standards

CC.2.1.3.C.1  CC.1.2.5.C   CC.1.2.5.A   CC.1.2.5.F  CC.1.2.5.G  CC.1.2.5.I

About the Author

This lesson was created by Alicia Parks, Education Intern, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.


Unit Plan

William Penn's Charter of Privileges

Blog Post

History for Elementary Students: William Penn

Unit Plan

Native American- European Contact in Colonial Times

Subject Guide

Founding of Pennsylvania and the United States

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