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How to
Use the Activities


Inquiry Question

Historical Context




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Putting It All Together

Upon reading The Penniman House: A Whaling Story, students will be introduced to Captain Edward Penniman and his family and learn how their lives were impacted by the whaling industry. The following activities will help students learn architectural terms, understand the consequences of sky glow, find out what threatens whales today, and determine which industries influenced their communities.

Activity 1: The Penniman House revisited
Captain Penniman's home has specific architectural details incorporated into it: portico, Corinthian column, baluster, dentil, bay window, dormer window, quoin, and cupola. Have the students look up the definitions of each, then use Photo 1, the exterior photo of the Penniman house, to identify and label each detail on the house. Ask the students to be architectural detectives. Have them look at their own homes and buildings in the community for similar architectural details to those on the Penniman House. If possible, ask them to take pictures and create a display for the classroom. How have styles and tastes changed in the last 140 years?

Activity 2: Preserving the Night Sky
Compared to Captain Penniman's time, stars are now often harder to see. For many of us, light pollution or "sky glow," from outdoor lighting has all but erased the delicate splendor of a starry night. An estimated 30% of all outdoor lighting in the United States is wastefully directed skyward. About 1.5 billion dollars is spent each year to burn the 6,000,000 tons of coal, a non-renewable fossil fuel, to power this misdirected light.

After learning that people in many locations could no longer see the Milky Way and the stars that guided early American Indians and Captain Penniman to their destinations, the National Park Service listed the night sky as a threatened heritage resource. National parks across the country are now changing their outdoor lighting fixtures to reduce sky glow. At Chaco Culture National Historic Park in New Mexico, light fixtures were shielded to prevent light from escaping sideways and skyward, and outdoor lightbulbs were replaced with more energy efficient ones. This action preserved the park's view of the night sky and reduced the electric bill by 30%.

Have the students locate a book on the night sky, finding a picture of their hemisphere for the correct season. Have them compare what is on the sky chart with what they can see on a clear night outside their homes both with and without the outside lights turned on. How is their view of the night sky changed with the added light? How does their view compare to that presented in the book? Have students discuss whether they think preserving the night sky is important or not, and explain why. Ask how sky glow might have affected Captain Penniman's ability to navigate. As a class, have students brainstorm and make a list of suggestions that could help decrease sky glow in their community. Consider drafting a letter to the city or county with their suggestions explaining why the night sky is a threatened resource.

Activity 3: A New Age, A New Way of Thinking
Today, many countries around the world are working to protect marine mammal populations and ocean resources. Whale watching is now a popular activity in the same waters in which whale hunting once took place. Have the students research "marine protected areas" at on the Internet. What information is available on this website? Who might use it and why? Do any of the protected areas overlap the 19th century historic whaling grounds shown on Map 2 in the Penniman lesson? Research the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Federal Endangered Species Act with available resources in your library and/or on the Internet. Compare the regulations for each act and discuss their purpose. Divide students into teams and hold a debate on whether or not present-day whale watching is harmful to whale populations.

Activity 4: Community History
Every community has its own history or story to tell. Have the students research the history of their community to determine what industry was influential to its development, similar to the way whaling influenced many New England coastal towns. What impact did this industry have on the community? What kind of workers came to support it? Who was in charge of the industry? Next, divide students into teams and have them find out whether or not any homes of noteworthy persons associated with the industry survive. If not, have them pick the name of another important individual in local history and research who that person was and determine what their home reveals about them. Make a local history display with the information gathered and present the display to the community, perhaps at the town library or town hall.



Comments or Questions

National Park Service arrowhead with link to NPS website.