Thursday, December 04, 2008

Voices Rising: Helping Students Think Like Historians

On December 4, 2008, teachers at the Madeline English School in Everett, Massachusetts continued their development of document-based lessons to use in their classrooms. These lessons focus on a specific essential question and utilize primary source document(s), helping to bring history to life in the classroom.

Additionally, the questions posed to the students within the lessons are inquiry-based, meaning that students construct their own learning by researching, analyzing, and interpreting documents and other resources to reach conclusions and form opinions.

For example, Mr. Donohue is developing a lesson titled:
Issues and Arguments Surrounding Slavery

The lesson focuses on the economics of Ancient Rome, the American South, and the American North before the Civil War and how each economy impacted laborers (slaves and mill workers). Mr. Donohue’s lesson also explores the justification of slavery and working conditions of the disenfranchised by those in power.

Students are encouraged to explore specific websites, books, and primary source documents such as the Statistics of Lowell Manufacturers (see below). They will use such documents to try to understand the conditions of mill workers in the Northern United States, compare those conditions with those of the slaves in the South and Ancient Rome, and create their own opinions of whether slavery was truly an economic necessity.

The final product will feature podcasts of the students’ findings and opinions.

Because the Voices Rising program includes the school districts of Everett, Malden, and Medford, teachers are given the opportunity to develop lessons and units cooperatively.

Manufacturing Statistics
University of Massachusetts Lowell

Examples of lessons’ guiding questions:

• How did the lives of Native Americans change with the arrival of the colonists?
• What changes occurred on Beacon Hill from the late 1700's-1860 for men, women, children (black and white)?
• What motivated abolitionists’ in the North?
• How did Irish Americans react to the abolitionist movement and the quest for African American Rights?
• What were the characteristics of social equality of the postbellum struggles women faced in 1830-1870?

Teachers will continue to refine their lessons with the guidance of historians at Suffolk University in Boston. As well as providing insight, resources, and general suggestions on the lessons’ topics, the historians’ feedback ensures historical accuracy.

Everyone involved is excited to see the positive impact these document-based lessons have on our students’ understanding and appreciation of history!

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Project Team Explores Boston Public Library Resources

1880 Census on MA Water-power The Boston Public Library is an important resource partner in our Teaching American History Grant project. BPL Curator of Social Sciences, Marta Pardee-King, gave our project team a detailed tour highlighting how to find and access the different types of collections available. Pardee-King explains the Book Delivery systemIn Government Documents the librarian showed the 1880 Massachusetts Census report of Steam and Water-power in the state. Such a document would be a good resource to explore the impact of the Lowell Mills on the state economy. The music department turned up quite a find when the librarian presented a copy of Suzanne M. Robertson's thesis entitled, A musical portrait of the Spindle City, documenting the social significance of song in the mill girls' lives. Another interesting tour stop was the Internet Archive's digitization room that will make digital versions of the BPL's rare books web accessible. Our teachers will have a hand in helping decide what books will be digitized in the upcoming year as they create primary source based American history lessons. 17th Century atlas to be digitized

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Immigration and Industrialization

Gray Fitzsimons leads teachers on a historical walking tour of Lowell One major theme of the Voice Rising project is to research and investigate the contributions that immigrants made to making America what it is today. Gray Fitzsimons and Lowell resident, Dave McKean, led our summer institute teachers on a walking tour of Lowell using archival photos of the neighborhood called The Acre where immigrants settled. Dave McKean shows the sight of a 19th century Lowell tenementThe biggest group of immigrants were the Irish whose population numbers comprised one-third of Lowell's residents. Gray noted that Irish labor built the Lowell canal system. It was certainly not an easy life building canals with many Irish killed by "crushing stone" and "drowning." One interesting sidelight is the fact that Lowell is the only known place in America where the Irish had shamrocks carved onto their headstones. Teachers at ecumenical plazaAt St. Patrick's church we learned that Kirk Boott enlisted the service of Bishop Fenwick of Boston to help quell the rowdy Irish. Bishop Fenwick sent priests to Lowell to conduct Catholic masses and establish a permanent parish presence in Lowell.
The afternoon session featured an activity where teachers investigated the types of artifacts brought by different immigrant groups such as the Irish, Portuguese, Greek, and Columbian. We then toured the Lowell museum and a restored boardinghouse.
Abandoned mill buildings mural at Lowell Museum

Lawrence History Center: Immigrant City Archives
www.lawrencehistorycenter.org

HAER collection in the Library of Congress > American Memory Project
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/habs_haer/
Search: Lowell

Interested in efforts to keep the Lowell Canals clean? Checkout Lowell Canalwaters Cleaners. The website contains a good historical narrative of the canals and old photographs.
Western canal

More images.

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Managing Workers, Managing Markets

Dr. Gray Fitzsimons Historian, Dr. Gray Fitzsimons began day four with Winslow Homer's painting The Morning Bell. He suggested that the central female dressed in red was a veteran mill worker who had the means to afford expensive clothes. His presentation described the Waltham-Lowell mill system where water was used to power textile factories. He told the story of how Francis Cabot Lowell memorized details of the British power loom and worked with Paul Moody to build it in America. In 1813, Lowell set his sights on the Charles River in Waltham, MA to build the first American textile factory. Lowell also employed 600-800 people who were mostly Yankee farm girls who wanted to earn extra money for their families. The Waltham mill proved to be highly profitable, but to increase production meant that the Boston Manufacturing Company had to find a bigger and more powerful source of water power. Dr. Tim Lavallee introduces Kirk BoottThey found it next to the Merrimack River in East Chelmsford, MA. Enter Kirk Boott, a wealthy Boston merchant and skilled former British army officer, who began construction of a canal system to harness the Merrimack river. Fitzsimons stated, "Lowell became the center of hydraulic engineering."
Later in the morning, Dr. Tim Lavallee, taught how a production line system operated in the Boott Cotton Mills as teachers became line workers. Teacher on the production line
Prof Robert ForrantHistorian, Robert Forrant from UMass Lowell lectured on Labor Responses to the New Industrial Order. He told the story of The slaughter at the Pemberton, a Lawrence mill building that collapsed in 1860 due to substandard construction. Forrant used the story to illustrate that workers had no health or safety protections in the mill system. Women started to oppose the factory system by the 1830s and petitioned to set the work day from 12 to 10 hours. Teachers learned about the 10 hour movement through a primary source based reenactment of the 1845 MA legislature hearing on the petition. The petition was denied, but it demonstrated that women had the courage to publicly expose the ills of the mill system.
Teachers testify in 10hr Movement activity
More images.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Skill Built into Machines

Prof Merritt Roe Smith Day three began at the Lowell National Historical Park site. The origins and impact of the Industrial Revolution were the focus of today's American history lecture. Professor Merritt Roe Smith (MIT) described how New England moved from the craft method of manufacture to a factory one. Smith said that Yankee practicality was on full display at the first World's Fair held in England in 1851 when they demonstrated items such as apple peelers and Cyrus McCormick's reaper. The French and English opted to display ornate items and lost several head-to-head competitions that pit their products against American made inventions. Smith emphasized that the American government became an active "venture capitalist" helping to jump start many industries. One example was the Springfield armory which successfully produced interchangeable gun parts during the American Civil War.
The Lowell mills represented the center of American manufacturing power during the 19th century. Ranger Clark issues instructions on building a canal systemDuring the waterpower workshop, teachers built canal systems and tested waterwheels in order to understand how the 30ft drop of the Merrimack River was harnessed to power all the Lowell mills. Canal boat approach to Guard locksThe afternoon session featured a ride on a restored trolley car and boat tour of the canal system led by Park Ranger Frank Clark. The best part was learning how the lock system functioned by traveling through the Guard locks. The day concluded with everyone learning to weave on a hand loom. Teachers agreed that this activity helped them best understand how a skill such as weaving could be automated by a machine. We learned how innovations made to the Draper power loom at the Boott Mill meant that more textiles could be produced with less human interaction. Teachers weaving on the hand loom

More images.

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