Elementary School: Mapping One Woman’s Boston
This lesson is ideally suited to Grade 3, “Massachusetts and its Cities and Towns: Geography and History,” but could be adapted to other courses with an emphasis on geography. Most schools will arrange a field trip to Boston during the course of the third grade academic year. This project will help to demonstrate how a city changes over time. Daisie Miller Helyar’s Boston was different from the Boston we see today, but many of the sites she mentions are still there. The activity will also help familiarize students with the layout of Boston.
- To enhance students’ ability to understand and use cardinal directions, map scales, and map legends
- To introduce the purpose of maps
- To learn more about Boston’s historical neighborhoods and about how a place can change over time
- Two 40-minute classroom periods
- This project may precede a field trip to Boston
Classroom setup and materials:
- enough printed maps of Boston for each student
- pens or pencils
- colored pencils or colored pens
- computer and projector
- chalkboard or white board
- Begin by asking the students about what a map is and for what purposes it is used.
- Show students a map of Massachusetts, preferably one with a compass and a legend. Ask about what they see on the map. What is included? What is excluded?
- Talk about cardinal directions and how they are shown on a map.
- Talk about legends and what sort of information they can convey. Ask students these questions:
- “How is Boston marked on this map of Massachusetts? How is your town marked– if it is marked at all? How are roads marked? How are bodies of water marked?”
- Discuss the different types of maps, possibly by using political, topographic, and resource maps of the same area.
- Show maps of Boston from before European settlement, from Colonial times, from Revolutionary times, from before WWI, and today.
- Ask students how or why a city may change. Discuss the importance of maps for navigation and also for historical research.
- Distribute maps of Boston and colored pencils.
- Instruct students to create and label a compass to indicate cardinal directions.
- Use the projector to click through the pages of the Daisie Miller Helyar scrapbook.
- Explain that Daisie lived in Boston 100 years ago – and that some parts of the city have changed while some have stayed the same.
- Together, the class should look for the names of places mentioned on the pages of the scrapbook. Compile a list of places on the board.
- It may also be useful to read some of the biographical content in order to include the names of theaters, and the North Bennet Street Industrial School in Boston’s North End.
- Together, choose 4-5 sites to map. Some possibilities include Simmons College, the North End, and the Colonial Theatre in downtown Boston.
- Together, the class should use online resources (such as the website of Simmons College and the website of the Colonial Theatre) to determine if these sites still exist.
- Instruct students to create a legend, with a color each for school-related buildings, musical/theatrical venues, places Daisie worked, and so on.
- The class should mark locations from Daisie’s life on the map.
- Tell students that they have made a map of one woman’s Boston, and that different people will experience a place in different ways.
- Consider pointing out some sites from Daisie’s life while on a field trip to Boston. The Colonial Theatre is close to Boston Common, and Simmons College is close to the MFA.