Grade 3 – Exploring Communities: Using Historic Maps to Learn about the Past


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Architecture, Environment, The State
Theme
Using Evidence to Learn About the Past
Town
Bridgeport, Canton, Danbury, East Haddam, Hartford, Killingly, Madison, New Haven, New London, NorwichThomaston, Vernon, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Map, Geography, Communities, Local History, Architecture, Landmarks, Insurance
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 3 – Connecticut & Local History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

Why do our communities look the way they do today?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS

In what ways has our community’s past shaped how it looks today?

How has geography affected our community over time?

How have science, technology, and innovation affected communities?

D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

An example of a Sanborn map titled Insurance maps of Danbury, Fairfield County, Connecticut by the Sanborn Map Company, 1904 -
An example of a Sanborn map titled Insurance maps of Danbury, Fairfield County, Connecticut by the Sanborn Map Company, 1904 – Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library, Connecticut Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Use the Yale University Library website–Connecticut Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps— to select and download a Sanborn fire insurance map to fit your teaching goals (you can look at the maps in your browser, but downloading the high-quality PDFs will enable students to make out more details).

You may choose just one map from your town or a nearby town, if you wish to focus on your own community, or select a few maps to show different types of environments—large cities, medium-sized towns, or smaller towns—if your focus is on urban, suburban, and rural communities. Note that many (but not all) Connecticut towns are represented in Sanborn maps. Here are a few samples from around the state:

Sanborn fire insurance maps were first published in 1867 to show how great a risk of fire there was in any town or city. The maps include all of the buildings in town, colored-coded to show what materials were used to build them (mostly “frame”/wood, brick, or stone). The maps also include important public buildings (government buildings, theaters, churches, schools, etc.), street names, and additional information. For larger cities, the maps take up several pages, like an atlas. For some communities, they are the most detailed maps available from the late 1800s to early 1900s. They are a great source of information about the past for historians–young and old!

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Using the Library of Congress’s Primary Source Analysis process, give students time to examine each of the maps you have selected, and ask them to OBSERVE, REFLECT, and QUESTION. For larger towns, you may want to start with the “title page” and then also look at a downtown detail page and one from farther outside the city center.

  1.  Observe: 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? Are there words on the map?
  2. Reflect: 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? If you are familiar with this town today, what is the same and what is different? Or how is the town shown in this map similar to or different from your own?
  3. Question: What does this map make you wonder?
D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS
  1. Imagining they are cartographers/map-makers, students will think about their own town and develop a list of all of the special places (public buildings, landmarks, public spaces, etc.) that should be included in a new map of town.
  2. Students will try their hand at making a map using rulers and graph paper. Making a map of the classroom is an easy project to start with; if your room has floor tiles, students can use those to mark out the dimensions on the graph paper.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Articles & Books to READ

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Grade 8 – The Amistad Incident and the Face of Slavery


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Crime & Punishment, Law, Slavery & Abolition, Social Movements
Theme
The Struggle for Freedom, Equality, and Social Justice
Town
Farmington, New Haven, New London, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Slavery, Abolition, Amistad, Revolt
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 8 – United States History

Historical Background
Most people in Connecticut in 1839 probably understood very little about Africa or Africans when the schooner La Amistad was brought into New London Harbor with dozens of Africans—Mende men, boys, and girls—on board. Even among those residents who supported the abolitionist cause, few had ever met a person born in Africa. Locals came to the prison in Westville (New Haven) and paid to gawk at the captives, who were awaiting trial. While in Westville, eleven-year-old Kale—one of the youngest of the Mende captives—studied English. Kale wrote to John Quincy Adams, who was to defend the Amistad Africans before the Supreme Court. Following the trial, the Mende lived with families in Farmington for eight months as they sought funds to return home to Africa.  The Cowles family supported the abolitionist movement and hosted one of the little girls from the Amistad. The letters written by Charlotte Cowles (who was about twenty-one at the time) to her brother Samuel reveal both her preconceived ideas and growing understanding of the Mende living in her community.

D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

What role did the Amistad incident play in the abolitionist movement in the United States?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • What kinds of personal interactions did the Amistad Africans and Connecticut residents have?
  • In what ways did the Amistad incident help people in Connecticut—and in the United States—view enslaved Africans as “real people”?
  • How did these two young writers use language to elicit particular emotions about the Mende and their situation?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

amistad_kale_letter_pg1
Page 1 of a 4 page letter from Kale to John Quincy Adams, January 4, 1841. Written from Westville (New Haven), CT. – Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society. Click on the letter above to access all 4 pages.
page Link to a more complete transcription here or download the transcription as a PDF.
Letter from Charlotte to Samuel Cowles, April 8, 1841
Page 1 of a 4 page letter from Charlotte to Samuel Cowles, April 8, 1841. Written from Farmington, CT – Connecticut Historical Society. Click on the letter above to access all 4 pages.
page Download the transcription of this letter as a PDF.
Letter from Charlotte to Samuel Cowles, April 12, 1841
Page 1 of 4 page letter from Charlotte to Samuel Cowles, April 12, 1841. Written from Farmington, CT – Connecticut Historical Society. Click on letter above to access all 4 pages.
page Download the transcription of this letter as a PDF.
D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Divide the class into pairs or groups and assign each group one of the three letters from the toolkit. The original letters are best viewed online. The transcriptions can be downloaded and printed.

Note that because of the length of the Charlotte Cowles letters, certain less-pertinent sections have been “greyed-out.” Students need not focus on those portions in their analysis.

Using SOAPSTone analysis, the Library of Congress Analyzing Primary Sources process, or another method of your choice, have students investigate their assigned source.

  • What can students KNOW from the source? What is the evidence?
  • What can they GUESS or infer? Based on what?
  • What does the source make them WONDER?

Students can then piece together their findings or rotate sources until each group has investigated each source.

Revisit the supporting and compelling question, as well as the questions students have developed and shared. Improve/fine-tune the new questions and discuss what other sources might exist to help answer these questions.

Once students have examined the letters, you may want to share portraits of some of the Mende people mentioned. Links to William H. Townsend’s drawings, John Warner Barber’s silhouettes and biographical sketches, and Nathaniel Jocelyn’s portrait of Cinque/Sengbe Pieh referenced by Charlotte Cowles can be found below in the “Additional Resources” section.

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS
The Mende stayed in Farmington for months while they and their supporters worked to raise money to help them return to Africa. Writing from the perspective of Charlotte Cowles or one of the Mende children, students will write a letter to the editor of the Charter Oak, an abolitionist newspaper in Connecticut at the time, to convince the newspaper’s readers to contribute money to the cause.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Websites to VISIT

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Grade 5 – Nathan Hale: A Connecticut Hero

Last Words of Captain Nathan Hale

by Rachel DiSilvestro


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Nathan Hale, Revolutionary War
Theme
Cultural Diversity and an American National Identity
Town
Coventry, East Haddam, New London, Norwalk, Statewide
Related Search Terms
American Revolution, Hero, Patriot, Spy
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 5 – Early United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

What makes a hero?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • What actions make a hero?
  • What characteristics describe a hero?
  • How can words and pictures make people perceive someone as a hero?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson:

  Document commissioning Nathan Hale a Captain

Document commissioning Nathan Hale a captain in the nineteenth regiment of foot command by Colonel Charles Webb. Signed by John Hancock – Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Last Words of Captain Nathan Hale
Last Words of Captain Nathan Hale, the Hero-Martyr of the American RevolutionNew York Public Library Digital Collections, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Start by asking students to define a “hero.” What characteristics or actions make a person a hero?

Have students examine the document commissioning Nathan Hale as a captain in the army of the United Colonies.

  • Look for words in the document that describe Hale’s character or the expectations for his behavior. (Students may need assistance defining unfamiliar terms or expressions.)
  • Students should discuss these terms and compare with their previous definition of a hero.

Show students the illustration (created much later–in the 1850s) depicting the last words of Nathan Hale, just prior to his hanging by the British.

  • What do students see/notice in the image?
  • How would they describe the various characters in the image?
  • What questions do they have about what they see?
  • What guesses can they make about what is happening?

Explain that the image was created about 75 years after the events shown.

  • What do you think the artist’s purpose was in creating the image?
  • What did the artist want you to feel about Nathan Hale?
D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

Students will discuss why Connecticut chose Nathan Hale as the state hero, considering important American values and how these contribute to our American identity. Students will then investigate other people who played “heroic” roles in the American Revolution or in Connecticut’s history, and present their findings through a “Museum of Heroes” (posters, songs, role-playing, etc.).

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Articles to READ

Grade 3 – Connecticut Whaling and Maritime History


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Business & Industry
Theme
Using Evidence to Learn About the Past
Town
Mystic, a village in the towns of Groton and Stonington, New London, Norwich, Stamford
Related Search Terms
Whaling, Natural Resources, Mystic Seaport
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 3
– Connecticut & Local History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

How have Connecticut’s maritime products and industries contributed to the history of America?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • How have Connecticut’s natural resources influenced the development of our state and its contribution to American history?
  • How did industries such as whaling, manufacturing, and technology create Connecticut’s history and contribute to America’s story?
  • Historically, what goods made in Connecticut have we traded elsewhere?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

right whale 1
Cutting in a right whale: View 1 – Mystic Seaport for Educators
right whale 2
Cutting in a right whale: View 2 -The Cutting In Stage – Mystic Seaport for Educators
right whale 3
Cutting in a right whale: View 3 – Hoisting the Head Mystic Seaport for Educators

This series of photographs were taken in 1903. They document the harvesting, cutting, and hoisting aboard of parts of a right whale onto the whaling bark the California. From these photographs we see the importance of the ship and the sailors as valuable resources in the whaling process, as well as the whale oil and baleen being harvested.

Shipping, shipbuilding, and whaling play a large role in New England and Connecticut history, helping to spark the Industrial Revolution in New England.

New Bedford became known as “The City That Lit the World,” and New London was the third-largest whale oil port in the United States. The whaling industry also depopulated whales in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

In small groups, ask students to closely examine the series of three pictures and discuss:

  • What is happening in the photographs?
  • How can they tell? What do they see? Where is the evidence?

The pictures are a series showing a right whale being taken from the Atlantic Ocean and harvested for its resources.

Have students in groups discuss and research as necessary:

  • What is being gained from this harvest?
  • What are the valuable resources in the pictures?
  • What effect do these Connecticut sailors and the whaling industry have on the rest of the country?
  • How did Connecticut’s contribution to the whaling industry affect the way the world viewed America at the time?
D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

In groups, have students design a new flag for the state of Connecticut to reflect our maritime history, and present their new flag to the class explaining and justifying each of the elements they included on the flag.

  • Identify each symbol or design included on the flag.
  • What is the significance of each element?
  • Why did they choose to include these particular symbols?
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT
Articles to READ

Grade 5 – New London’s Role in American Independence

by Laura Krenicki
William J. Johnston Middle School, Colchester


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Arts, Revolutionary War
Theme
The Role of Connecticut in U.S. History
Town
New London, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Abigail Dolbeare Hinman, Daniel Huntington, Benedict Arnold, New London, American Revolution, Revolutionary War
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 5 – Early United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

What was Connecticut’s role in the American Revolution?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • How do museums in Connecticut and elsewhere in New England help us understand the American Revolution?
  • How do museums represent American identity?
  • Are museums trustworthy places to learn about U.S. history?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

Daniel Huntington, Abigail Dolbeare Hinman, 1854-1856 - Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London, Connecticut
Daniel Huntington, Abigail Dolbeare Hinman, 1854-1856 – Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London, Connecticut

This painting of Abigail Hinman is on display at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Connecticut. The story of the painting is that Abigail was home in New London while her husband, a sea captain, was away on a voyage. Suddenly, outside of her home, Abigail heard a commotion and witnessed the city of New London being destroyed by red-coated soldiers. Surprisingly, she saw Benedict Arnold, a family friend from the nearby town of Norwich, was one of the soldiers. He commanded the soldiers to spare her property, but Abigail was not blind to his blatant act of treason.

(Daniel Huntington (1816-1906) this link shows other paintings by the same artist). Ask students why the image of Abigail is so different from the other subjects in the the paintings.

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Have students do a close reading of the image of Abigail. What do students notice about her style of dress, her posture/expression, the background, etc.? What clues are there as to the time period of the image? Where is it? What is going on?

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

There is little written about Abigail Hinman, although there is more information about her husband, Elisha (who wasn’t there for this event), and Benedict Arnold (seen in the background of the painting). Have students research the burning of New London and present their findings:

  • as a reenactment — students write a play that retells the story of New London.
  • through a living timeline — students each take a point in the history of the American Revolution and relate what happened in Connecticut on that date.
  • by recreating the scene — students may create a visual representation of the event through a drawing, painting, photograph, video, or even a tableau. A student “voice” should then explain what the image represents to the rest of the class or audience.
  • through a letter — students should write a letter to the editor of the Connecticut Courant (now called the Hartford Courant) explaining what was taking place in New London and what should be done about it.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT

Grade 8 – Venture Smith: From Slavery to Connecticut Businessman

by Khalil Quotap
Institute for American Indian Studies, Washington


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Slavery & Abolition
Theme
The Struggle for Freedom, Equality, and Social Justice
Town
East Haddam, Stonington, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Enslaved, Primary Sources, Archaeology, Local History
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 8 – United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

How can a former slave prosper in a colony where slavery is legal?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • How can objects be used to support written accounts of historical events?
  • What kind of life could a former slave expect to have in the Connecticut colony in the late 1700s?
  • What is a primary source? Secondary? And how can they be used in research?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

Boat caulking iron
Boat caulking iron
Boat caulking iron
Boat caulking iron

Boat Caulking Iron

Identified by Dr. William Peterson, senior curator, and Quentin Snediker, director of the shipyard, at Mystic Seaport. Both were pleased to confirm that site structures and artifacts demonstrate Venture Smith’s mariner activities.

Piece of an early glass bottle
Piece of an early glass bottle
Shards of 19th century ceramics
Shards of 19th century ceramics
Incised bone handle
Incised bone handle
Domestic Artifacts: These objects have been excavated in and around structures at the Smith Homestead dig site. These materials include an incised bone knife handle, early bottle glass and a variety of 18th and early 19th century ceramics.

 

Click to open PDF

Timeline of Venture Smith’s life created for a presentation by Lucianne Lavin, Ph.D.

 

 

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Students will read a brief summary of Venture Smith’s history and examine the artifact images found on the Smith Homestead dig site. They will use the information from the artifact to support their findings.

  • What do the artifacts tell about the person who lived there?
  • How can you be sure the artifacts are real?
  • Based on what the artifacts found, how do you think the family lived during the late 1700s?
  • How does this change the way you think of how minorities were treated in the past?
  • What does this tell you about the general population in Connecticut and their view of minorities during the late 1700s?
D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS
  • Have students share their specific evidence in response to the compelling and supporting questions.
  • Inquiry projects
    • What types of discrimination or challenges would former slaves face?
    • What employment or occupations might a former slave expect to find?
    • How was life at sea an option for former slaves?
  • Compare the experiences of immigrants today with former slaves in the colonies.
  • Have students bring an artifact from home and ask: “What would historians think about life now based on the artifacts we would leave behind?”
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT
Articles to READ