"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
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
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
10 . Water, Water, Everywhere?
11. What's in a Name?
12. What's Our Weather Like? Using
13. Who Was Who?
14. More Ideas to Spark Local Lessons
These lessons were developed and compiled with support
John H. and H.
Naomi Tomfohrde Foundation
A parallel effort in this project is the
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:
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?
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
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.
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.)
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?
Important events. Important member of the community.
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?
Work. Early industry in your community - Is it still
in existence? Where do community people work today?
Transportation - yesterday and today. Early roads
and how traveled and main roads today.
Play. Earliest evidence of recreational activity
of young people. What opportunities for "fun" are offered in the community
Relation to county and region. (Early and late history,
political organization, water supply, travel routes etc.
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.