Lesson 301: ABC Islands: The Dutch legacy in the Caribbean

The last vestiges of the once-mighty Dutch empire live on the Caribbean in the ABC Islands-Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. Islanders speak four languages, on of which is their own, as they explain. We visit Curaçao, now independent, and wander the streets of Willemstad, its capital city. In its colonial buildings we find hints of a past glory made possible by slave trade. After a short flight be puddle jumper, we land in Bonaire, still a colony, where we don Scuba gear to mingle with its incomparable marine life and hunt down the Lionfish intruders. Then we witness the extraction of uncountable tons of salt from Bonaire’s tidal flats. Finally, we trek into a national park where dense groves of tall cacti are home to hordes of lizards and lagoons harbor tranquil flamingos.

Learning Objective

Students will learn about the political history and the environment of the Dutch islands, Bonaire and Curaçao.

Social Studies Standards

Culture: A, B, C

Discussion Prompts

  • Why do people speak four languages in the Dutch Islands? Explain the history behind this and give examples of how residents choose which language to speak.
  • What are the pros and cons of where you live versus the Dutch Islands? Discuss how your lifestyle would be different if you lived in the Dutch Islands.
  • Why did the Spanish think Bonaire was useless and what proved them wrong? Compare the perspectives of how the Spanish felt about Bonaire versus the Dutch and why.
  • What happened to the Dutch Islands in the 16th century? Describe what ties and influences the Dutch still have in the ABC islands.

Lesson Activities

  • Create a Venn diagram or T-chart that compares Bonaire and Curaçao including the economy, geography, tourist attractions and daily life.
  • Write a persuasive essay or infomercial from the perspective of an elected official writing to the public. Provide details on how to restore the coral reef and why it’s so important to Bonaire’s future well-being.
  • Research the Cactus Forest National Park in Bonaire. List the animals and other features that make it unique. Make a powerpoint or informational poster to share your findings.
  • Create a brochure that describes the fruits and vegetables sold in Curaçao. List at least ten total and include both writing and illustrations, explaining the import process and why they can’t grow locally.


  • colonial
  • extraction
  • legacy
  • mercantile
  • nostalgia
  • quaint
  • repatriation
  • otherworldly
  • trek
  • vestiges


Lesson Plan S03E01