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Community Connections: Pilot Project and Local Resources 

Community Connections Project: The Massachusetts Studies Project has proposed a challenging state-wide program of historical profiles of the Commonwealth communities to be developed and posted online by students. Teachers will be provided with the knowledge, skills and materials to work with their students on project implementation through the regional councils of the Massachusetts Councils for the Social Studies. Teachers will help to prepare lessons that link Massachusetts communities to the standards mandated by the state curriculum frameworks. Students will learn how to research and select primary sources about their cities and towns in Massachusetts to be included in a database with supporting materials that can be used in the classroom as well as by researchers online. The Bay State Historical League will assist students with hands-on opportunities to learn about their community through local organizations. A Power Point program with a draft profile of the town of Wayland is included here as a sample for consideration. The questions can be used by teachers to work up their own lessons.

Potential basic research categories:
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 event? and 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.

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 here 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.

Resources: The MSP website already has connections to your community, and we are bringing these links together at the beginning of the Community Connections Project. Whether or not you join in on this pilot program, these resources can be useful if you want to explore local studies online and integrate this approach to your curriculum.

  • Check out the text, Massachusetts Places, A Local Studies Sourcebook for topics, models, activities and projects by other schools and groups, bibliography and more. (You can read online or download.) The booklet also suggests appropriate office holders and sources in the community to contact for more detailed studies. (Students can interview.)
  • The database has over 300 organizations with materials, sites or programs on local history, heritage, and watersheds. Go over the Local History alphabetical list. On this search page go to Organization type, and indicate Local Studies.
  • State agencies have data. Check out the Mass Government Homepage!
    To find informatation about your community go to "Commonwealth Communities"
    The 351 Mass. cities and towns can be searched alphabetically by name or under their counties. Information on tax and school budgets is included.
  • Towns and cities have websites that usually have URLs like the following Waltham's city website is and it links to related Waltham websites. Wayland's website is like the ones above are often found on websites. Check out your own.
  • Community Birthdays provide occasions to celebrate its history and current offerings. The 350th birthday of Northampton (see seal above) is in 2004 and preparations for its celebration are underway. The theme for the annual forum of the Mass. Historical Records Advisory Board is Celebrating History: Anniversaries to Educate, Promote and Preserve History.
  • A booklet "Historical Data on the Cities and Towns" prepared by the Massachusetts State Archives, Secy. of the Commonwealth is not yet online but you can purchase a hard copy from the New England Historic and Genealogical Society. The Citizen Information Service does have a listing online of the Unincorporated and Unofficial Names of Massachusetts Communities.
  • Maps on Communities: The Citizen Information Service lists Massachusetts Maps to download: town & city map, county map, maps of each of the Congessional districts as well as state-wide. Historical Maps of the 1794 and 1830 maps of Massachusetts communities required by state law can be ordered from the Massachusetts State Archives.
  • Look in your school library for the Historical Atlas of Massachusetts. It is a large handsome book with color maps and historical summary by periods. Its use in the classroom is limited, however.
    Don't forget to contact the Mass. Historical Commission if you want information on architectural preservation, or archaeology sites in the community you are researching.
  • Mass. Office of Travel and Tourism and county offices across the state key into the sights and attractions of your region.



© Massachusetts Studies Project 1997 - 2002