Massachusetts Map

The Mass. Studies Project

Local Curricular Models
for Massachusetts Teachers

UMB Logo

Return to MSP Homepage

The "Our Town" Project: Local Lessons for Teachers,
developed with support from the John H. and H. Naomi Tomfohrde Foundation

According to a poll of 100 Massachusetts K-12 teachers conducted by the Massachusetts Studies Project, 80% do not live in the communities where they teach, and 97% of those teachers say they "know very little" about the history and culture of the community in which they teach. Most teachers do not have the background and experience they need to follow the productive teaching avenues available through "place-based education."

The "Our Town" project addresses these needs by creating a model that can be disseminated throughout Massachusetts to help ground teachers and students in their own communities. This program will provide the necessary protocols and resources to link schools, students, and teachers with local libraries, archives, civic organizations, historical societies, and businesses to collaborate on curricular topics.

Every single community in the Commonwealth has a unique history and superb local resources that can be mined by educators if they know where to look, and have the tools available to make constructive use of those resources in the classroom.

Below are links to sample lessons using the sights, sounds, data, history, geography and environment of the local community for lesson plans that are keyed to the Massachusetts State Curriculum Frameworks. Our goal is to use these and other materials to help Massachusetts school districts create yearly Professional Development workshops to guide teachers in using local materials for Social Studies, Language Arts, Mathematics, Sciences, Information Technology and the Arts.

1. A Word Portrait of Our Community

2. Discovering My Neighborhood: A Personal Map

Exploring the Industrial Revolution Through Our Community

3. Manufacturing on the Rise: the local Industrial Revolution pt 1

4. Working in the Factories: the local Industrial Revolution pt 2

5. Farming in Decline: the local Industrial Revolution pt 3

6. Immigrants for Hire: the local Industrial Revolution pt 4

7 . Home Sweet Home: Promoting My Neighborhood

8 . My Neighborhood Then and Now

9 . My Town / My City / My State (Card Game)

10 . Water, Water, Everywhere?

11. What's in a Name?

12. What's Our Weather Like? Using Climographs

13. Who Was Who?

14. More Ideas to Spark Local Lessons


These lessons were developed and compiled with support from the
John H. and H. Naomi Tomfohrde Foundation

A parallel effort in this project is the "Massachusetts Communities" collaborative website, or "wiki", where students from around the Commonwealth can contribute to a profile of their town or city. Any class group in the state may contact the MSP to receive login instructions and to claim a set of research questions about their community. The suggested research topics include:

  1. Settlement and incorporation of the town or city. When was your town settled? How was it organized? Was it an original town or part of another earlier community?

  2. Earliest settlement location (maps). What part of your community was settled first? Why do you think they chose this area? Find the location of your school site on an early map. What was the original use of the land? Compare to a recent map of your community.

  3. Population changes. Who were the earliest people and where did they come from? What is the attraction of the community for newcomers? Compare numbers and kinds of ethnic groups over time.

  4. Schooling - yesterday and today: (Where was the first school located? Find the oldest school still standing in your community. Check for early school records and evidence of curriculum.)

  5. Historic landmarks and statues. Are there any sites, buildings in the town that are on the Register of Historic Places? If none, are there any the students would nominate?

  6. Important events. Important member of the community.

  7. Landscape feature and use (pond, hill, river etc) What feature(s) attracted the original settlers? Are any natural resources used for municipal purposes today? - i.e. water, gravel, etc. Related to business, industry?

  8. Work. Early industry in your community - Is it still in existence? Where do community people work today?

  9. Transportation - yesterday and today. Early roads and how traveled and main roads today.

  10. Play. Earliest evidence of recreational activity of young people. What opportunities for "fun" are offered in the community today?

  11. Relation to county and region. (Early and late history, political organization, water supply, travel routes etc.

  12. Additional creative projects, including multi-media, can supplement the basic data. A sample profile of the town of Wayland in a draft stage of development is included as a sample for consideration. Please email us if you would like to become involved in this project or you have ideas or activities on community studies you are willing to share.




Massachusetts Map

The Mass. Studies Project

These curricular modules were developed through with support from the
John H. and H. Naomi Tomfohrde Foundation

The "Our Town, Our City" Curricular Resources Project is an initiative of the Massachusetts Studies Project, Institute for Learning and Teaching, University of Massachusetts, Boston

UMB Logo