Earn your Junior Ranger badge by completing as many activities as you can in one of the books below - in person or virtually! You can also access our new Audio Junior Ranger Program below.
Explore the house and grounds, learn about the layered history of the site, and pledge to protect your National Parks! When you're done, find a ranger or email us to earn your Junior Ranger badge.
This Junior Ranger booklet is designed to be completed in conjuction with a house tour, but can also be completed at home or when the site is closed using some creativity and our website. Learn about Henry Longfellow's family and poetry, George Washington, the history of slavery and freedom at the house, historic preservation, the gardens, and more. Download your booklet here (PDF 6.16 MB).
The Road to Revolution
If the site is not open, or if you'd like to stretch your legs a bit, we offer a walking tour Junior Ranger booklet for 10-16 year-olds that will take you on a short exploration of the house and its surrounding neighborhood. See what old Cambridge was like in the days leading up to the American Revolution! You can pick up a copy at the Visitor Center or download and print your own booklet (PDF).
Junior Ranger Audio Program
You can now complete the Junior Ranger Program in a new audio format! Start with the Introduction, then stream or download the prompts for the activities.
To become a Junior Ranger, complete at least six activities of your choice. Then find a ranger or email us to earn your badge!
Audio Junior Ranger: Introduction
Introduction to the Longfellow House-Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site Audio Junior Ranger program.
Welcome to George Washington’s Headquarters and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Family Home. We’re glad you’re here! By doing these activities you can become a Junior Ranger and earn yourself an official badge. This house has seen 250+ years of American history.
The house was built in 1759 for the wealthy Vassall family. Later, the people they enslaved, including a couple named Tony and Cuba and their children, fought for their own freedom.
Between 1775 and 1776, the house was General George Washington’s first headquarters of the Revolutionary War. This is where he shaped the Continental Army and learned how to be a leader.
In 1837 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow moved into the home and began renting rooms. He published over 400 poems in his lifetime, including “Paul Revere’s Ride.”
In 1843, Henry and Fanny Longfellow take ownership of the home.
In 1882, Henry Longfellow passes away.
The Longfellow family preserved the house and all of their belongings as a museum. They gave it to the National Park Service in 1972.
You can use this audio program to explore the site inside and out! Pick from these two options. Option 1) Go on a house tour and complete activities 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, plus 1 additional activity. Option 2) Complete six activities of your choice. If you have any questions about the activities, ask your guardian or a Ranger for help.
Activity 1: Family Tree
Sort the Longfellow family members from oldest to youngest.
The Longfellow family consisted of a mother, father, and six children. Sadly, one of the children, Baby Fan, passed away while still an infant. After the tour, write down the names of the mother, father, and the children in order from oldest to youngest. Here’s a word bank of all their names: Charley, Henry, Alice, Fanny, Edith, Erny, Annie, and Baby Fan.
Activity 2: The Children's Hour (Dining Room)
Listen to the poem "The Children's Hour," then complete the activities
This study is where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote some of his most famous works. Stories like Paul Revere’s Ride, The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline. He filled this space with objects that inspired his creativity. Things like books, statues of famous European writers like Shakespeare, Goethe, and Dante Alighieri, pictures of his friends, and big comfy chairs so he could sit by the fire.
If you were going to fill your own room with objects that inspire your creativity, what would five of those objects be?
Activity 5: Favorite Objects
Learn about Longfellow's favorite objects, and discuss your own.
Before he was a General or a President, George Washington was a wealthy Virginia planter, politician, and slaveholder who became well known as an army officer. In 1775, Washington was the newly appointed commander of the Continental Army. He used the house as his headquarters from July 1775 to April 1776.
One of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s favorite objects was a plaster bust of George Washington he bought in 1844.
What was your favorite object in the Longfellow House? Describe it.
What is your favorite object in your house? Describe it.
Activity 6: Slavery, Family, and Freedom
Reflect on the experiences of the children whose families were enslaved here, and seized their freedom.
Some of this house’s earliest residents survived slavery and worked for freedom. Slavery was a racist system in which white people treated Black people like property. Enslavers forced the people they enslaved to work, and could split up their families at any time. Enslaved people resisted their enslavers and wanted freedom.
From 1759-1774, John Vassall enslaved at least seven people at this house: Dinah, Malcolm, William, and a woman named Cuba Vassall and her children. During that time, there were about 90 enslaved people in Cambridge. As the Revolutionary War approached, John Vassall fled this house, and the people he had enslaved seized their freedom.
Enslavers often took children away from their parents. Their enslavers gave Cuba Vassall’s daughter Flora and son Darby away to other enslavers when they were very young.
How do you think the kids might have felt being separated from their parents?
Many enslaved parents were never able to find their children – but Cuba Vassall and her husband Tony were. They eventually got 6-year-old Darby and 5-year-old Flora back and reunited their family in freedom.
How do you think the kids might have felt when they returned to their family?
Activity 7: Community Activism
Learn about the community activism of Darby Vassall and his family, and make a plan for positive change in your own community.
Cuba Vassall and her family became activists. In 1780, Tony and Cuba Vassall fought for their family’s rights. They successfully petitioned the Massachusetts legislature for a yearly payment from their former enslaver’s estate. Here’s some of their original petition:
“Though dwelling in a land of freedom, both himself and his wife have spent almost sixty years of their lives in slavery…. [One hopes] that they shall not be denied the sweets of freedom the remainder of their days by being reduced to the painful necessity of begging for bread.”
Later, their son Darby and his siblings became activists too. They fought for the end of slavery in the United States, civil rights, and education. In 1812 Darby Vassall and his friends created this petition to fund public education for Black students:
The blessings of educations have been extended to the children of themselves and other people of colour in this town, but not in so general a manner as is believed to be practicable; that they, and others…have been several years united as an African School association, and have provided an instructor, from whose laboring much benefit has resulted to the town
Talk to the people you’re visiting the park with: what’s a positive change you’d like to help make in your own community?
Activity 8: Arts and Letters
Use art and writing to keep in touch with your friends, just like the Longfellows did.
There are a lot of portraits of close family and friends in the house. A portrait is a photo or painting of a person. Pick someone important to you and describe them. You could use words like smart, creative, funny, young, old, adventurous, or anything else you can think of.
Fanny Longfellow wrote hundreds of letters to family and friends. She wrote about current events, her interests, and her daily life. Write a letter to a friend about your visit!
Activity 9: Friends and Inspirations
Learn who inspired Henry Longfellow, and talk about the people who inspire you.
The Longfellow children played with a lot of different toys and games from the mid 1800s. We still have some of them in our collection! They liked to play with dolls and puppets. Some of the dolls were even mechanical or clockwork. They could be wound up with a key, and then they’d move on their own. The Longfellows had a lot of puzzles. Some were flat, but they also had 3D puzzles too. They had card games, dice, and board games; some of which were quite complicated. Sometimes they would play with more supernatural toys like ouija boards. Of course, they also had games that they would play outside, like the Game of Graces. We have that one in the visitor center.
What types of games and toys do you play with? Are any of them the same as the Longfellow children? Do you have anything now that they didn’t have in the 1800s?
Activity 11: The Lives of Servants
Learn about the people who worked in the Longfellow House, then complete the activity.
The Longfellow House is very large and required a lot of work to keep it clean, tidy, and looking nice from the outside. The Longfellow family had a lot of money, so instead of doing all this work themselves, they hired servants to do it for them. A servant is someone who does work duties for somebody else, especially work that’s done around the home. The Longfellows paid people to do work like dusting everything in the house, doing laundry, lawn work, cooking meals, and taking care of the children. One servant that worked in the Longfellow House was Mary Dunn, who was a nurse for young Charley and Erny Longfellow.
What kinds of things would you do with your free time if you could have someone do all your chores for you?
If someone else had you do all their chores for them, what do you think would be the hardest part?
Activity 12: Preserving and Modernizing
Learn about the people who helped turn this house into a museum, and match old and new technology.
The poet’s daughter, Alice, and grandson, Harry, loved history and wanted to make sure that this house was saved for future generations. Preserving means to take care of and save something special forever. What is something special you want to preserve?
In this house, we tell many diverse stories. We can do this thanks to the letters, journals, photos, and artifacts that Harry Dana preserved. For example, many of the letters and journals Harry preserved tell us about the lives of Longfellow family members who may have been LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer+) and the community they built.
Alice, Henry’s oldest daughter, lived in this house until 1928. She modernized the house as new technology was invented. Here’s a list of some old technology and a list of new technology. Match which old ones you think led to the new.
Old technology: Lamp, Outhouse, Horse and Carriage, Stairs
New technology: Automobile, Elevator, Lightbulb, Faucet
There are a lot of things to explore and experience in the Longfellows' garden and lawn. Here’s a list of just some of the things you might have done while you’ve been here. Mark down all of the ones you did today. Smelled a flower Touched a seed that fell from a tree Heard an insect buzzing Touched the biggest tree at the site Heard a bird chirping Felt the breeze Laid down in the grass Add anything you did that we didn’t mention!
Audio Junior Ranger: Conclusion
Congratulations on being a Junior Ranger - find a park ranger (or email us) to make it official!
When you’ve finished all of the activities you chose, find a park ranger and let them know! They can swear you in with the Junior Ranger oath and give you your very own badge. Once you do, then congratulations! You are an official Junior Ranger of Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site.