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Massachusetts: A Unit Study
This mini unit on MASSACHUSETTS uses the cross curricular approach to education. There are several activities from different academics subjects for you to choose from. One of the most important things is to have fun!
Below are some activities to help you study MASSACHUSETTS. You may choose to do all, some, or none of the activities. You can also alter the activities to better suit your individual child’s needs. Some of these activities overlap each other, choose the one you think that you and the children will enjoy most. The main point of this unit is to make learning about MASSACHUSETTS and enjoyable for all who are participating.
Massachusetts’s State Flag
On a white field is a blue shield emblazoned with the image of a Native American, Massachuset. He holds a bow in one hand and an arrow in the other. The arrow is pointing downward representing peace. The white star represents Massachusetts as one of the original thirteen states. Around the shield is a blue ribbon with the motto:" By the Sword We Seek Peace, but Peace Only Under Liberty".Above the shield is a arm and sword, representing the first part of the motto. Flag adopted 1915, amended 1971.
Create a State “Infodesk”:
Before you begin this unit you may want to set up a research area. Place a desk or table in front of a bulletin board area. This will be where you can place relevant books, magazines, photographs, posters, newspaper articles, maps, scrapbooks, games, puzzles, computer software, task cards, travel brochures, etc. that you collect.
Print a blank map of the state, or draw one on tag board, that you can place on the bulletin board. As you study the political and physical features of the state, have the children fill in the name of the state capital, large cities, and major geographical features. Color the map using different shades for varying elevations.
Place a chart next to the map called “State Facts.” List any information on here that you would like to be able to find at a quick glance. Have the children fill this chart up as the unit progresses.
Build a Mini Museum
Build a mini museum to exhibit any artifacts or memorabilia about the state you are working on. Label the items with a date and a brief explanation of their history. Also display any state maps and projects made by the children.
Create a Unit Portfolio
During this unit, you can have the child(ren) prepare a portfolio to keep their notes and completed projects in. Include an outline map of the state or a copy of the state flag to go on the cover of the portfolio. Have them include the date they begin and complete the unit.
Use any or all of the following sub-topics to gather information on the state. This can even be used as your “State Facts” sheet mentioned in “Infodesk” section above.
1. State Name:
2. State Nickname:
4. Rank in population:
5. Total Area:
6. Rank in size:
10. Capital City:
12. Manufactured Goods:
13. Agricultural Crops:
17. State Motto:
18. State Flower:
19. State Bird:
20. State Tree:
21. State Song:
22. Date State Entered Union:
23. Tourist Attractions:
24. Historical Facts:
25. Largest Cities
§ By area
§ By population
26. State Preserve:
27. State Seashore:
28. State Monuments:
29. State Parkway:
30. State Wonders
31. Average January Temperature:
32. Average July Temperature:
33. Endangered Species:
34. National Parks:
35. National Historical Parks:
36. National Memorials:
37. National Historical Sites:
38. Famous People:
39. Amazing Facts:
40. U.S. Representatives:
41. U.S. Senators:
42. Electoral Votes:
44. Annual Events:
45. Name and address of state’s tourist information center:
When you have completed gathering the above information, you could do use the facts to:
§ Create a “State A to Z Fact Book” with a person, place, or fact for each letter of the alphabet.
§ Create a “State Book of Facts” by cutting paper into the shape of the state and writing one interesting fact along with an illustration on each page. Bind the pages together in a cover of the same shape as the pages.
§ Use the facts to help with other activities in this unit.
List what you know before you begin the unit and what you would like to learn during the unit and then when the unit is over what you learned throughout the unit.
Information Scavenger Hunt:
As an ongoing part of this unit, have a “state scavenger hunt” to answer questions about the state. State archives, history books, museums, artifacts, photographs, old newspapers and magazines, and experts on various topics of interest will help gather an overall picture of the state.
Set up categories (i.e., in the beginning, early immigrants, statehood, geography, famous people, etc.) and provide containers (i.e., folders, boxes, etc.) to keep the material and information you gather in to keep them organized.
Information you gather on your “scavenger hunt” can be used to prepare reports on the state. The complexity and method of presentation of the reports will depend on the level of your child(ren).
As you work on this unit, gather information, you may wish to create a state timeline so that you can see important events in the states’ history presented in a chronological format.
Timeline Example #1
Timeline Example #2
The First Inhabitants:
The first inhabitants of the United States were Native Americans, also called Indians. Native Americans were the descendants of nomadic tribes who crossed the Bering Strait’s land bridge between Russia and what is now the state of Alaska thousands of years ago. When Columbus sailed, there were approximately 350 Native American tribes in North America.
Determine what tribes lived this the state originally. Gather as much information on this/these tribe(s) as possible. Explore both the history of the tribe and life for the tribe members. Some questions you may wish to consider in this area are:
§ Was the state named after an Native American tribe or some aspect of Indian history or culture?
§ As European settlers arrived in the state, what happened to the Native American population and why?
§ How did the Native American culture influence the state’s culture?
§ Describe life of the Native Americans in the state today.
§ What problems do Native Americans face in the state today?
To enhance this part of your study, you may wish to construct a shoe box diorama of an Indian village as it would have been long ago. Find out what their particular dwellings looked like (i.e., wigwam, adobe bricks, log cabin, etc.). What would the vegetation have looked like?
The First Pioneers:
Arriving in America was just the beginning for many immigrants. Many settlers began their treks in different ways, using different means of transportation, and coming and going in many different directions.
Who were the first pioneers to arrive in the state? When did they come? Why did they come? How did they get there?
Use encyclopedias, history books, internet search engines, etc. to answer the above questions and to find out about particular groups that immigrated to the state and when.
One question you might find interesting to answer is to find out whether you have any family or family roots (also known as genealogy) in this state. [For an interesting mini unit on Genealogy check out /article1099.html.
Find a description of how the state applied for and achieved statehood.
Massachusett’s admission to the union
What were the main reasons that this state applied for statehood? Identify the possible political, social, and economic reasons why a territory applied for statehood.
Historical Monuments and Natural Wonders:
Research how historical signposts and markers are used. Find several examples in your own area. Historical monuments are sometimes marked with signposts or even become the centerpiece of a state or national park.
Cape Cod National Seashore
Boston Harbor Islands
Demarest Lloyd Memorial
Mount Grace Forest
Roland C. Nickerson
Massachusetts State Parks
Now that you know what a historical place is, research some of the historical places and monuments in this state. You may wish to check the National Park System website at http://www.nationalparks.org/index.html for help in this area. The URL http:// www.nps.gov may also prove useful as soon at the National Park Service reopens their sites.
States are not only filled with historical monuments and sites, but with natural wonders. For example, Arizona has the Petrified Forest, Kentucky has Mammoth Cave, and Florida has the Everglades. Look at a map, an encyclopedia or atlas, or various travel books and brochures to find the natural wonders of the state you are researching. Choose one or more of the following activities to complete:
* Choose one natural place and write a descriptive essay explaining what they like about that particular place. Create a picture to accompany the essay.
* Create a mobile with pictures showing the highlights from their chosen natural place.
* Collect postcards of natural wonders from the state or make your own picture postcards.
Some of the people who have made great contributions to our country may have lived and/or worked in the state you are researching. You may wish to make a set of flash cards using tag board or index cards to complete this section.
Make photocopies of pictures of famous people from the state.
Glue the picture to one side of a 3” x 5” piece of tag board or an index card.
Be sure to include the individual’s name, the dates that they lived, and a list of the individual’s accomplishments on the side opposite of the picture.
Make up your own games using your homemade flashcards.
Famous Folks of Massachusetts
State Heroine: Deborah Samson (note: while "Sampson" is the generally used spelling, "Samson" has also been said to be correct and is the spelling used in the statute) fought in the War of Independence under the name of Robert Shurtleff (also spelled "Shurtliff" and "Shurtlieff") with courage, determination, and outstanding service, and rendered a unique contribution as a woman to American independence. Her masquerade remained undiscovered until she was wounded in battle. In later years, she travelled extensively, lecturing about her experiences, and a grateful nation gave her the first military pension ever awarded to a woman. The Governor annually issues a proclamation setting apart May 23 as an anniversary day to appropriately observe her enlistment in the Continental Army. The Legislature recognized her heroism on July 22, 1983.
State Folk Hero: Johnny Appleseed was designated the official folk hero of the Commonwealth on August 2, 1996. Appleseed was born John Chapman and lived from 1775(?)-1845. An American pioneer and hero of folklore, his planting of apple trees from New England to the Ohio River valley earned him his more popular name.
Land Form Maps
Making state maps of various kinds is an excellent way to learn about land forms, locations, and state resources. A “land form” map shows the shape and height of the land. It shows mountains, plateaus, hills, plains, rivers, etc.
State Map of Massachusetts
Create your own landform map of the state’s geographical features.
1. Determine the state’s features by looking up a state map in an atlas, an encyclopedia, or a geography book.
2. Make a landform key at the bottom of your blank map form. Include symbols for each of the different landform types in your state.
3. Color in the areas in your state to match the key. Your key should be color-coded. Make the highest land form the darkest color and the lowest land form the lightest color. You can use colored pencils, crayons, markers, etc.
4. Label the large rivers and mountain ranges with their names.
You could also make a relief map of the state. A relief map is a 3D version of a landform map. You could use paper mache or salt dough to make your own relief map.
Historical Maps of the US
State Resource Map:
Resources are things that people use every day. Resources are found and developed from the land itself, or made into other things we use.
1. What resource or manufactured good is your state best known for?
2. How does this resource or product affect the state’s economy?
3. How does the state’s resources/products affect how people live?
4. What products from neighboring states are used by the state?
Make a product map:
1. Look in an atlas, encyclopedia, or geography book to find a map showing the location of products raised or produced in the state.
2. Create a product map showing where these products are grown or manufactured in the state. Use a symbol key to represent the products on your map.
3. Show important cities situated near these resources on your map.
Make a mineral map:
1. Look in an atlas, encyclopedia, or geography book to find a map showing the location of minerals in the state.
2. Create a minerals map showing what minerals are mined in the state, if any. Minerals are natural substances obtained by mining such as coal, ore, salt, or stone. Use a symbol key to represent the minerals.
3. Show important cities situated near these resources on your map.
Something fun, especially for a study of Boston Massachusetts, would be to map the Freedom Trail. By studying the sites along this historic trail and walking tour in Boston, you will get a large dose of Massachusetts history as well as history of the American Revolution.
Other Freedom Trail Resources:
Names, Nicknames, Mottos, and Songs:
Each state’s name has its origin in some part of American history. Some states were named after explorers, and some after monarchs, kings, or presidents. Many states’ names have Indian or Spanish origins. Every state also has a nickname, a motto, and a state song.
Find out this state’s name, nickname, motto, and song and then find the origins of each. A great internet search engine that can help with this is www.google.com . An online encyclopedia and/or a printed encyclopedia or atlas can help with this research as well.
State Motto Information from Geobop
Each state has adopted one bird that represents their state. Find out what this state’s bird is and then find out the following information:
1. name of state bird
2. bird’s habitat
3. colors and markings of this bird
4. food of choice for this bird
5. enemies this bird may have
6. protective behaviors
8. type of nest
9. egg size and shape, as well as incubation time
10. migration habits
11. beak shape and function
12. feet type
13. adaptations to environment
14. songs and calls
15. other interesting behaviors
16. endangered or not
17. how it became the state bird
Draw a picture of the state bird and write a paragraph about what you have learned. Add this to your unit portfolio.
Massachusetts State Bird: The Black-Capped Chickadee (Penthestes atricapillus) was adopted as the official State Bird by the Massachusetts Legislature on March 21, 1941. It is also known as the titmouse, tomtit, and the dickybird, and it is one of the most familiar of the North American birds. It is from four to five inches in size, its tail accounting for nearly half its length. The general coloring is ashy-grey, the back having a brownish tinge; the crown, nape, chin, and throat are black, and the cheeks white. It nests in a stump, tree, or fence post close to the ground, and broods twice a year. It is a cheerful bird and has a pleasing call: "Chick-adee-dee-dee".
State Symbols of Massachusetts
State Tree and State Flower
Every state has adopted a tree and a flower to represent it. Find out the tree and flower this state chose.
1. Sketch and color a picture of both the state tree and state flower.
2. Label the parts of each.
3. Find out if the tree or flower is on an endangered list, and if yes, what is being done to protect it.
4. If possible, visit a botanical garden to see a real, live example of the tree or flower. Or, look at seed and gardening catalogs to find examples of these.
Massachusetts State Flower: The Mayflower (Epigaea regens), also commonly known as the ground laurel or trailing arbutus, has ovate hairy leaves and fragrant, pink or white, spring-blooming flowers with five petals. It grows in woods, preferring sandy or rocky soil, under or near evergreens. It was adopted as the official flower of the Commonwealth by the General Court on May 1, 1918. Unfortunately, since 1925 it has been on the endangered list.
Massachusetts State Tree: The American Elm (Ulmus Americana) was adopted as the official tree March 21, 1941, to commemorate the fact that General George Washington took command of the Continental Army beneath one on Cambridge Common in 1775. It is a large tree, with gray flaky bark. When growing in the forest it often attains a height of 120 feet, but in the open it is wide-spreading and of lesser height. The leaves are oval, and dark green, turning to a clear yellow in the autumn. The American Elm, like most elms, has been severely afflicted by Elm Disease.
Is this state home to any endangered species? If yes, what are they? What is being done in this state to protect the endangered species? Where are these endangered species located?
You could make your own flashcards on the endangered species of this state by drawing or pasting a picture of the plant or animal on the front of an index card and on the reverse, writing some descriptive information.
Every state is affected by conditions of climate and geography. States experience floods, earthquakes, sinkholes, erosion, hurricanes, tornadoes, hailstorms, firestorms, blizzards, drought, mudslides, volcanic activity, and electrical storms.
Make a list different weather types that affect the state you are researching. Look in newspapers, travel brochures and books, tourism sites, etc. to find this information out.
1. Make a table of the state’s average monthly rainfall, then record the information on a bar graph.
2. Make a table of the state’s average monthly temperature, then record the information on a line graph.
3. List various severe weather found in this state and any state-wide plans for dealing with it. For instance, Florida has hurricane evacuation routes in flood prone areas.
The Chocolate Chip Cookie was designated the official cookie of the Commonwealth on July 9, 1997. A third grade class from Somerset proposed the bill to honor the cookie invented in 1930 at the Toll House Restaurant in Whitman.
Johnny Appleseed is Massachusetts’ state folk hero. Apple crafts or apple themes would go well with this unit.
The state berry of Massachusetts is the cranberry. Any crafts dealing with cranberries would be applicable to this unit.
Boston Tea Party
More Boston Tea Party Links:
John F. Kennedy Links:
Paul Revere Links:
Salem Witch Trials:
Info Please – Massachusetts
The US 50
Any lesson dealing with the Pilgrims and their landing on Plymouth Rock would be applicable to this unit.
Any lesson dealing with the Boston Tea Party would be applicable to this unit.
Many lessons dealing with the American Revolution would be applicable to this unit.
Check the links in the history section for more ideas.
Atlantic Coast Science Resources for Teachers
Great General Resource
Massachusetts Sate Unit
Lessons from the US Mint
Historical Text Archive
Atlantic Coast Science Resources for Teachers
Thirteen Colonies Word Search
A lot of printables from enchantedlearning.com
Here is a reading list called Read Across America. It requires Adobe Acrobat to read. Adobe Acrobat is a free download, you may even have it already on your computer.
Check out various travel guides from your library.
If you, or someone you know, is a AAA member, the travel guides for each state hold a wealth of information!
Ghost Towns of Massachusetts
If you have any information or links that you think would enhance this unit, please feel free to contact me through the feedback button in the left hand column.