Lesson Plan

Reasons for the Blackstone Canal

Blackstone Canal

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Subject:
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6.RI.1, 6.RI.2, 7.RI.1, 7.RI.2, 8.RI.1, 8.RI.2
State Standards:
Massachusetts Social Studies Standards USII.2 Explain the important consequences of the Industrial Revolution.
Thinking Skills:
Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations.

Objective

Why was the Blackstone Canal built and why did it ultimately fail? How can we apply this historical understanding to current policy decisions on transportation?

Background

The Blackstone Canal, a 45 mile waterway linking Worcester, Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island, was a powerful catalyst for economic change and growth, stimulating the "transportation revolution" which was at the center of Worcester's transformation from a landlocked agrarian outpost to a center of commercial activity. The arrival of the Blackstone Canal began a tradition of innovation and enterprise that continues to characterize Worcester industry.

This lesson analyzes the reasons for the creation and ultimate failure of the Blackstone Canal, as well as asking students to apply that knowledge to current policy decisions. 

Preparation

*Decide whether students will tackle the readings independently or in pairs. If pairs are chosen, consider heterogenous, homogenous, or student-chosen partnerships. 

*Make one copy per student of each reading and set of questions. 

*For the hook, decide whether you will project the map using an overhead or interactive board or provide the maps to students. If providing maps to students, make enough copies for students to analyze maps independently or in pairs. 

*This lesson uses the Washington DC metro system as a preview and concluding activity. You may research transportation expansions local to your area to substitute for a more local focus. 

Materials

Use in preview or hook.

Download Washington DC Metro Map - Current

Use in preview or hook.

Download Washington DC Metro Map - Proposed Purple Line

Hand one copy to each student.

Download Reading and Questions: Reasons to Build the Blackstone Canal

Hand one copy to each student.

Download Reading and Questions: Failure of the Blackstone Canal

Anchor for the lesson in case some students finish the reading questions quicker than other students.

Download Blackstone Canal Word Search

Lesson Hook/Preview

*Show students the two maps (current and proposed) of the Washington DC Metro System. Ask students what reasons they think are being given to create the purple line. Ask the students what reasons opponents of the purple line are giving to not build the purple line expansion. Ask students if they woud propose any different changes to the metro system and why. 

*Explain to students that transportation expansions and additions are not new. While the mode of transportation has changed over time, the creation of transportation networks has taken place throughout history beginning with trade networks by donkey and even now using airplane routes. Today, they will be looking at reasons for the creation and ultimate failure of the Blackstone Canal in Worcester Massachusetts.

Procedure

1. Give students the reading and questions on the reasons for the creation of the Blackstone Canal.

2. Ask students to read the passage first without looking at the questions. In this first reading, they should underline phrases that seem important and circle words that are unfamiliar. If students are struggling with terms, provide with the vocabulary found in the materials section. 

3. Then, ask students to answer the questions for understanding. Once students are done answering the questions, create a list on the board of all of the reasons for creating the canal. 

4. Hand out the reading on the failure of the canal. Again, ask students to read the passage without looking at the questions. In this first reading, they should underline phrases that seem important and circle words that are unfamiliar. If students are struggling with terms, provide with the vocabulary found in the materials section. 

5. Then, ask students to answer the questions for understanding. Once students are done answering the questions, create a list on the board of all of the reasons for failure of the canal. 

6. Ask students to look at the reasons for creation and failure. Ask students if the builders knew the future of the canal, do they think the builders would still have wanted to create it? Why or why not? 

7. Ask students to write a letter to the Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority taking a stand on whether or not the purple line should be built. Students should include historical lessons from the Blackstone Canal in their response. 

Note: As an anchor if students finish the reading questions early, they may work on the provided word search. 

Vocabulary

See vocabulary provided in the materials section. 

Assessment Materials

Letter to the Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Ask students to write a letter to the Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority taking a stand on whether or not the purple line should be built. Students should include historical lessons from the Blackstone Canal in their response.

Letter to WMATA

Download Assessment

Supports for Struggling Learners

*Heterogenous pairs for the reading 

*Highlighted or annotated copy of the readings 

*Brainstorm possible arguments for and against the purple line creation before the assessment 

Enrichment Activities

*Ask students to research or find current transportation expansion proposals in their local area. Ask students to contact government officials arguing for or against the proposal. 

Additional Resources

For more information about Blackstone Canal…

Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park: http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/region-central/blackstone-river-and-canal-heritage-state-park.html

Worcester Historical Museum: http://www.worcesterhistory.org/bcinfo/bcinfo-home.html

The Canal District of Worcester: http://www.thecanaldistrict.com/history.html

On the Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority: 

WMATA: www.wmata.come

Related Lessons or Education Materials

Blackstone Canal History: Informational Text Skill Development

Time Traveling through Worcester: Map Exploration of the Blackstone Canal

Historical Math and the Blackstone Canal

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