Lesson Plan

Time Traveling through Worcester: Map Exploration of the Blackstone Canal

Artist's Impression of Worcester Canal Basin, c. 1835

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Subject:
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6-8.RH.7, 6-8.RH.1, 6-8.RH.2
State Standards:
Massachusetts 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

How do maps show the impact of the Blackstone Canal on Worcester over time?

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 is one in a collection of lessons, designed to introduce students to the use of primary sources, tells the story of the canal and its impact on Worcester, Massachusetts. 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.

Preparation

  • Determine student groups of three through homogenous, heterogeneous, or student chosen groups  
  • Decide whether you will determine group roles or you will let students choose: secretary (responsible for creating the turn in copy of map questions), map keepeer (responsible for picking up and putting back maps), task master (responsible for watching time and making sure everyone can participate in all tasks) 
  • Make one copy per student of the map questions packets, maps, and "Letter to the Mayor" assessment 

Materials

These questions will be answered using the series of maps.

Download Map Questions

These maps will help students answer questions about Worcester and the Blackstone Canal.

Download Maps

Lesson Hook/Preview

  • Show students a photo of your from infancy, childhood, teenage years, and today. Ask students what those photos have in common and what has changed. Ask the students: If you were trying to really understand me as a person, would it be enough to just see one photo? Why is it helpful to see more than one snapshot of my history? 
  • Explain to students that maps are like photos of places or locations. Just like we can learn more by looking at the images of a person over time, looking at maps throughout time can help us understand that location. 
  • Say, "Today, you will be looking at Worcester, Massachusetts maps both before and after the Blackstone Canal. Let's watch a brief video to better understand the history of the canal." 
  • Play the video found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orY8050k-Hc 

Procedure

1. Ask the students to get into their groups of three. Give each student a copy of the map questions. If not pre-determined, allow students to choose their roles: secretary (responsible for creating the turn in copy of map questions), map keepeer (responsible for picking up and putting back maps), task master (responsible for watching time and making sure everyone can participate in all tasks). 

2. Tell the mapkeeper to pick up the US maps. Use the US map as a sample to teach the roles and procedure. Answer the questions as a group and model individual roles.

3. Tell students they are now traveling back in time to 1795. Ask the mapkeepers to pick up the 1795 maps. For each of the six maps, give students six minutes. Once students have investigated all six maps, ask them to answer the last reflection question. 

4. Ask students to share what they've learned about the impact of the Blackstone Canal on Worcester in history. Ask the students reasons why the Canal should and should not be brought back today. 

5. Tell the students they will now have write a letter to the mayor arguing whether or not to bring back the Blackstone Canal. 

6. Optional: Mail the letters to the current Mayor of Worcester. 

Vocabulary

  • Canal - An artificial waterway constructed to allow the passage of boats or ships inland or to convey water for irrigation.
  • Canal Boat - A long, narrow boat used on canals.
  • Canal Lockdevice used for raising and lowering boats, ships and other watercraft between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways. 
  • Transportationthe action of moving someone or something. 

Assessment Materials

Letter to the Mayor

Students will write a letter to the Mayor of Worcester arguing for or against bringing back the Blackstone Canal. They should cite the map evidence when making their argument.

Letter to the Mayor

Download Assessment

Supports for Struggling Learners

*Hetereogenous groups of three with the struggling reader in the role of taskmaster

*Students with high-levels of energy or who need movement can be the mapkeeper, which creates opportunities for movement  

*Students can work as a group or use computers to write the letter to the Mayor of Worcester 

Enrichment Activities

Students can compare different modern maps of Worcester (satellite, street maps, population density maps, socioeconomic or racial distribution maps) and rank them in terms of importance in deciding to bring back the Blackstone Canal. 

Additional Resources

http://www.blackstonevalleycorridor.org/ 

https://www.nps.gov/blac/index.htm 

Related Lessons or Education Materials

Historical Math and the Blackstone Canal 

Reasons for the Blackstone Canal 

Blackstone Canal History: Information Text Skill Development

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