HS – Is That a Mastodon?! A Case Study in Civic Responsibility

Hill-Stead workers and overseer Allen Cook, ca. 1913

by Institute for American Indian Studies, Washington, CT


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Science, Historic Preservation, Exploration and Discovery
Theme
Civic Engagement
Town
Farmington, Washington, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Archaeology, Ice Age, Mastodon, Local History, Civic Duty, Historic Preservation, Debate
Social Studies Frameworks
High School – Civics and Government

Historical Background
In 1913 a mastodon skeleton was accidentally discovered on the grounds of the Pope estate (Hill-Stead) in Farmington, Connecticut. This activity takes that historic event as inspiration for a classroom debate based on a fictional case study and a discussion about civic responsibility and preservation.

D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

To what extent are we, as citizens and communities, responsible for scientifically and/or historically significant finds on public property?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • How do we best preserve animal remains such as dinosaurs, Ice Age animals, and other animal specimens, which are not affiliated with any particular group of people?
  • Who should be responsible for the physical and financial maintenance of these specimens?
  • What is our responsibility to ensure finite resources, such as the skeletons of extinct animals, are available for future generations?
  • To what extent is the discussion different if the find is a man-made artifact rather than a natural specimen?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

For Part I: Debate

page Download the Perspectives for Debate pdf
Mastadon skeleton on display
Mastodon skeleton on display at the Institute for American Indian Studies.

For Part II: The Pope Hill-Stead Mastodon

Museum men with Hill-Stead helpers, overseer Allan Cook
“Museum men with Hill-Stead helpers, overseer Allan Cook in lower right,” ca. September, 1913 – Institute for American Indian Studies

 

Yale-Peabody Preparator Mr. Darby posing with the tibia and fibula
Yale-Peabody Preparator Mr. Darby posing with the tibia and fibula articulated together, ca. 1913 – Institute for American Indian Studies

 

Hill-Stead workers and overseer Allen Cook, ca. 1913
Hill-Stead workers and overseer Allen Cook (far right), ca. 1913. Worker on far left is holding the left humerus. The mandible is resting on a barrel in the center. Worker next to Mr. Cook is holding the second vertebra from the skull, axis – Institute for American Indian Studies

 

Yale-Peabody Preparator Mr. Darby wrapping a bone in plaster before transport
Yale-Peabody Preparator Mr. Darby wrapping a bone in plaster before transport to New Haven, CT, ca. 1913 – Institute for American Indian Studies
D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Part I: Debate

This activity involves a debate around the following fictional scenario. A complete mastodon skeleton has been unearthed in your town, on town-owned property, and a decision must be made as to who will care for it and where it will be stored. There are parameters which must be met in order to properly maintain the condition of the mastodon.

  • The bones are very large and will require a considerable amount of storage space, roughly 300 square feet. An image of a mastodon skeleton on display is included in the toolkit to give students a sense of the size of these bones and the space that they take.
  • It is important to note that these are bones and not fossils. The bones must be kept at a consistent temperature and humidity level to prevent cracking and slow decomposition.
  • The bones must be covered to prevent dust or debris from entering any cracks or imperfections within the bones, which would cause the cracks/imperfections to enlarge.
  • Each bone must be periodically examined and checked for any developing deterioration, which would need to be addressed by qualified professionals as soon as possible, or the bones will begin to decay.

Since the remains were found on town land, they belong to the town, and the town must decide what to do with them. Students will research and argue a variety of viewpoints (See Perspectives for Debate document) in a town meeting-style debate. The goal of this activity is to have students decide on the best course of action, knowing that the specimen will require continual maintenance and monitoring in order to preserve it indefinitely and that this will have an impact on town resources.

There are two options for setting up the debate:

Option 1) Assign students to specific roles that they will research and represent in a town hall-style debate, with the goal of convincing a majority of the class to vote on a specific course or plan of action.

Option 2) Assign students to specific roles, but have another class act as town members in a town hall-style debate. At the end of this debate the “town members” will vote on the course of action they found the most convincing.

Part II: The Pope Hill-Stead Mastodon

The second part of this activity involves an exploration of the true historical incident that inspired the fictional debate, the accidental discovery in 1913 of a mastodon skeleton on the grounds of the Pope estate (Hill-Stead) in Farmington, Connecticut. A selection of historic photographs from the excavation and a short history of the Pope Hill-Stead mastodon are included in the toolkit above. After familiarizing themselves with the Pope Hill-Stead case, students will discuss how finding a mastodon skeleton in 1913 might have been different than finding one today and what questions are raised if a specimen is discovered on private property, rather than public property.

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

Cultural preservation has taken many different forms over the course of our history. At one time, private individuals had almost free rein to collect and/or display objects of interest in whatever way they saw fit. The struggle between what is considered “progress” and safeguarding the past often pitts developers against preservationists. The rights of Native Americans to retain their cultural material (including human remains) was not officially recognized until the later part of the 20th century. There is now a growing understanding, however, that multiple perspectives need to be considered when making decisions about preserving our diverse history and culture.

Have students investigate two federal laws in place for the protection of cultural materials in the United States: the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990.

Federal law does not currently address the preservation of extinct animals, such as the mastodon in this case study. Using what they have learned through this activity and their investigations of the two existing federal laws, have students draft a letter to a legislator arguing whether or not animal specimens should be protected by preservation laws as well.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT
Articles & Books to READ

Grade 5 – Mapping the New World: Dutch Maps of the Colonies


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Environment, Exploration and Discovery, Native Americans
Theme
The Impact of Geography on History
Town
Guilford, Hartford, Watertown, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Colonist, Colonization, Colony, Explorers, Geography, Natural Resources, Indigenous People, Dutch, Map
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 5 – Early United States History

Historical Background
In 1614 Dutch explorer Adriaen Block sailed along the Connecticut coast and up the Versche (Fresh) River—the Dutch name for the Connecticut River—as far as what is now Hartford. In 1633 the Dutch established a fortified trading post there. It was called the Huys de Hope—the House of Hope. For decades there was conflict between the Dutch in New Netherland and the English who came to settle in the same area. In 1650, the Dutch finally gave up their lands in Connecticut to the English.

D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

How did the physical geography of New England affect how the colonies developed? 

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • What resources were available in the different colonies and how were those resources used?
  • How did the colonists’ use of natural resources and establishment of permanent settlements affect the indigenous people of the region?
  • Why were the New England colonies focused on trade?
  • In what ways, and for whom, was America a land of opportunity during the 1600s?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

Willem Blaeu (Dutch), Nova Belgica et Anglia Nova, 1635 - This map is held in the collections of the Connecticut Historical Society and the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library
Willem Blaeu (Dutch), Nova Belgica et Anglia Nova, 1635 – This map is held in the collections of the Connecticut Historical Society and the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library

This map was based on a map drawn by Adriaen Block. It is oriented with west at the top. The map shows “Nieu Pleimouth” (Plymouth) and the Noord (North) Rivier (today called the Hudson), as well as the Versche (Fresh) River. It also includes images of native animals (probably never seen in real life by the artist), examples of Native American canoes and fortified villages, and European-style sailing ships.

Novi Belgii Novæque Angliæ
Nicolaes Visscher (Dutch), Novi Belgii Novæque Angliæ, 1685 – Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

This later map features some of the same pictures and details as Blaeu’s map. It also includes the Fort de Goede Hoop (another name for the House of Hope) and some English settlements, such as Herfort (Hartford), Gilfort (Guilford), and Watertuyn (Watertown).

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Using the Library of Congress’s Primary Source Analysis process, give students time to examine the first of the two maps, and ask them to OBSERVE, REFLECT, and QUESTION.

  1. Observe: Describe what you see. What do you notice first? What information does the map provide? What geographic elements are included? Which way is north/south/east/west, and how do you know? What places are shown on the map? Are there words on the map? Pictures? What are they?
  2. Reflect: Why do you think this map was made? What do you think was important to the people who made this map? Does the map give us any clues about the time in which it was made?
  3. Question: What does this map make you wonder?

Repeat with the later map and have students compare and contrast.

You may then choose to address some of the supporting questions (above) or focus on the questions that students have developed as part of their inquiry.

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS
  1. Using evidence from the historic maps, as well as additional information gathered through readings and classroom discussions, students will make their own map of Connecticut showing the natural resources that attracted European colonists to the area. Start with a blank outline map like this one. Have students draw in major rivers and hilly regions, and then add simple images for fish/shellfish, woods/timber, beavers (for fur), other native animals, farmland, etc. in appropriate areas of the map.
  2. Using evidence from the historic maps, as well as additional information gathered through readings and classroom discussions, students will imagine that they are sailors on Adriaen Block’s ship, the Onrust, during its exploration of the Connecticut coast and the Fresh (Connecticut) River. They will write fictionalized letters home to a loved one in Amsterdam describing their experiences and observations.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT
Articles to READ

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Grade 5 – The Pequot War


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Native Americans, Pequot War
Theme
The Role of Connecticut in U.S. History
Town
Griswold, Groton, Ledyard, North Stonington, Preston, Stonington
Related Search Terms
Pequot War, 17th century, Pre-colonial, Colonization, Indigenous People, Colonists
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 5 – Early United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

How does colonization affect indigenous people?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • What issues or cultural practices contributed to the conflict between indigenous peoples and European colonists in Connecticut?
  • What was the Pequot War about?
  • How do the primary sources left behind affect our knowledge or understanding of a conflict?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

The figure of the Indians' fort or palizado in New England and the manner of the destroying it by Captayne Underhill and Captayne Mason / RH, 1638 - Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
The figure of the Indians’ fort or palizado in New England and the manner of the destroying it by Captayne Underhill and Captayne Mason / RH, 1638 – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The image shows the attack on the Pequot village at Mystic, Connecticut, by English soldiers and their allies, including the Narragansett. This was one of the major battles of the Pequot War (1636-1637). The image is included in John Underhill’s account of the Pequot War. John Underhill was second in command to John Mason, the commander of the Connecticut colonial forces during the Pequot War. This birds-eye view depicts the destruction of the village, which left over 400 Pequot men, women, and children dead.

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Start by showing the image and asking students to share their observations about what they see. If students begin to make inferences, encourage them to use the visual evidence by asking, “What do you see that makes you say that?”

You may wish to guide the looking by suggesting students “read” the image from the inside/center out, ending with the words in the upper left corner.

After discussing students’ observations and guesses based on the evidence, ask students to develop their own questions based on the image. Have students discuss their questions, fine-tune them, and think about what other resources (primary or secondary) they could use to find answers.

Some questions for discussion might include:

  • Who created this image and why?
  • Who are the figures?
  • What are the structures?
  • What is going on?
  • From whose perspective is it drawn? What are the clues?
  • How might the image be different if it had been drawn from the Pequot perspective? Or the Narragansett perspective?
  • Where could we learn more?
D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

After examination of the image and further research, have students consider the Pequot War from the perspective of a Pequot man, woman, or child; the perspective of an English soldier; or the perspective of a Narragansett man allied with the English. Presentations could take the form of a dramatic dialogue or skit, a letter written 20 years after the conflict, or an alternative illustration of the events in Mystic.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT
Articles to READ