Lesson Plan

The Blacksmith in Society Lesson Plan #5 - Revitalizing the Spirit

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Grade Level:
Fourth Grade-Eighth Grade
Commerce and Industry, Community, Economics, History, Pioneer America, Slavery, Social Studies
Group Size:
Up to 36 (6-12 breakout groups)
National/State Standards:
Maryland Learning Outcomes (MLO) 1.2, 1.3, 1.5, 3.2, 3.3, 3.8, 4.3
Blacksmith, Economics, Industrial Development, Slavery


Blacksmith Shop. Lesson Plan #5 - Revitalizing the Spirit.

The glow from the blacksmith's forge led civilization from the dark ages and brought humankind to the standard of living enjoyed today. The blacksmith was the only craftsman to work with the four elemental substances of fire, earth, air and water, which according to the ancients, were combined to create our world. 

Five lesson plans are available for the Blacksmith in Society.


  • To illustrate how the use, conservation or depletion of natural resources affects an area.
  • To show how people "return to nature" hoping to find inspiration that will help them cope with the stresses of their everyday lives.
  • To tell how Franklin Roosevelt's economic recovery programs jumpstarted the American economy and left a legacy for future generations.


As open space shrinks, citizens become more acutely aware of the benefits of communing with nature. While this need was not as obvious in earlier times, people have long realized that the human spirit can be revitalized by a brief sojourn away from the hustle and bustle of the industrial world. This lesson plan highlights the "Return to Nature" movements of the early 20th century that lead to the creation and preservation of multiple National Park Service areas including Catoctin Mountain Park.


1. Reading, "CampMisty Mount: A Place for Regrowth", taken from the Teachingwith Historic PlacesLessonPlan for Camp Misty Mount, acomplete copy of  which can be found at: www.cr.nps.gov /nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/47misty/47misty.htm

2. Readings for Lesson Plan #5, provided.
3. Reading, "The Changing Uses of the Catoctin Mountain Forests".
4. Drawing 1, Camp Misty Mount (needed for Follow- up Activity only)



Suggested Activity

1. After reviewing the introduction to the Teaching with Historic Places Lesson Plan, "Camp Misty Mount: A Place for Regrowth", complete the "Setting the Stage" teaching activity so that students will understand how the land that comprises Catoctin Mountain Park has been used over the past several centuries.

2. Distribute copies of the readings for Lesson Plan 5 to students and have them read both excerpts. Ask students to write a paragraph describing how an experience with nature has influenced their lives. When the paragraphs are complete, have students exchange paragraphs so that they can read about another student's experience. After reading about Christian Weller, the National Park study and other student's experiences, lead students in a group discussion addressing the benefits that can be obtained by communing with nature.

3. Distribute the Reading, "The Changing Uses of the Catoctin Mountain Forests", have the students complete the questions on the worksheet for that reading.

4. Have students work in small groups to locate state or federally protected forests or other natural places in their immediate area. Have them find out the current ownership and history of the sites and explain why they are publicly or privately owned. If possible they should look for maps of their locality from 10, 25, and 50 years ago, and note how much natural land was undeveloped compared with today. They might use field guides to determine how long various places have been left to nature or whether they have been part of a reclamation project. Then have students analyze the current conditions of the properties, the growth of surrounding communities, the availability of recreational areas, and the importance of the ecosystem to decide if these areas should be preserved. Have each group present its findings to the class and then hold a general discussion about the quality of the remaining natural places in their locality.



Follow-up Activity

Explain to students that during the 1930s, organization camps were seen as the most effective means of helping urban populations obtain an experience in nature.

1. Break students into groups of three to four, and tell them they have just become counselors at a facility like Camp Misty Mount. Their job is to organize a one- week outdoor education program for students their age.

2. Their plans should run Monday through Friday and mix recreation and environmental education.

  • What topics should the students study, how will they learn, and why?
  • What will the daily schedule be?
  • Are there any facilities they would like to add to Drawing 1 to make this week more enjoyable.
  •  Have the groups reassemble and discuss their plans. Conclude by asking them if they think such programs are important, and why they have reached that conclusion. (This activity may also be presented as an individual written assignment.)

3. The "Forging Ahead" picture used on the cover of this folder is a copy of a historic Works Progress Administration (WPA) poster. Test student's ingenuity by having them design a poster representing the goals of the WPA. After the posters are completed, search the internet for additional posters. Were the students ideas similar to those published?

4. Show your students that learning can be fun! Encourage students to visit a nature center, natural history museum or attend an interpretive program at a park. Ask them to report what they learning and show how the learning experience was different from a typical class in school.

Lesson Plan Supplement - Suggested Additional Activities
Teacher Background 

The blacksmith was an integral part of the community until modern technology rendered many of his functions obsolete. The fact that blacksmiths were seldom mentioned in newspapers indicates that most were law- abiding citizens who had enough business that they did not need to advertise. Information recorded in census records, historical narratives and reference books can be used as base information for projects that are thought provoking and teach basic research techniques.

Using Census Records 

Certain historical census records provide a wealth of information about racial demographics, financial status and occupations of adult males as well as locations and types of businesses. (The 1850 Census for Frederick County, Maryland is very complete and has been reprinted as A Bridge in Time, a volume available in Maryland Public Libraries.) These records are an excellent resource for the following activities: 

  • Skilled craftsmen typically passed their trade and business to their children. Trace the lineage of a selected blacksmith using census records. Did several generations practice the same craft? Obituaries from period newspapers can provide additional information.
  • Are any of your students descendents of blacksmiths? Have them check their genealogical records if any are available. If not, introduce them to the methodology used to trace family lineage. Family bibles, cemetery records, birth and death records can be introduced as possible information sources. Can your ingenious students find additional potential sources? (Genealogists sometimes place their findings in local libraries as well as on the internet.) 
  • 19th century census records state the country of origin and the racial background of adult males. Using this information, plot the locations of the various races and ethnic groups on a map. How have the demographics of the selected area changed over time? If communities or neighborhoods have changed dramatically, speculate on the reasons for the change.
  • Census records can be used to trace immigration patterns. Did people immigrate to the selected area because they were attracted by industry, terrain, weather, etc., or do records indicate that immigrants were encouraged to come to the area because their particular skills were in demand?

Let's Fill in the Details of our Heritage 

It is unfortunate the blacksmiths who worked in the Catoctin Mountain Park blacksmith shop have been mostly forgotten because they did not document their work and activities. Help us determine their identity and learn more about their daily tasks. Have students talk with family members to find out more about relatives who were WPA or CCC alumni. Encourage the students to record their findings, including pictures when possible. Compile your results. Donate a copy to your local library or post to the internet to share with other researchers.

Don't Let Yourself Be Forgotten

 Some historical eras are well documented because letters written by loved ones during times of separation tell much about the times and lifestyles. The blacksmith seldom traveled far from home and worked long hours at his trade. He usually had little formal education and kept few, if any formal records. He was a vital part of the community, yet, little is known about the daily lives or accomplishments of individual smiths. Don't let your class suffer the same fate! Countless students pass through each grade every year, but looking back, what do we know about the daily lives of students from years past? Start a class journal, assigning documentation of each day to individuals on a rotating basis. Encourage students to keep a personal journal documenting their activities and those of family members. Take it further by posting daily listings on the internet or saving them in a time capsule.



Additional Resources

Attachments, Supplement, Brochure and Additional Information

Last updated: April 10, 2015