The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Fay Magazine: Summer 2023

Primary School Update: Massachusetts Experts

Daintry Zaterka '88
If you want to know where to pick cranberries, the best museum for kids in Massachusetts, or where to find the Basketball Hall of Fame, ask a Fay second grader!
Second graders have been learning about the state of Massachusetts in social studies this year– studying its indigenous people, geography, and the unique aspects of each region–and then writing letters to learn more about our state’s people and places.
In the fall, students learned the basic geography of Massachusetts, identifying the bordering states and locating Southborough and their hometowns. As a foundation for their study of modern Massachusetts, second graders learned about the traditional lifestyles of three Native American communities that occupied Massachusetts regions: the Wampanoag, Nipmuc, and Mohican.
Using research organizers, students learned about daily life, shelter, and food, and then created posters to display their research. Students finished the unit with a design project where they built models of one of the three traditional shelters: a wetu, wigwam, or longhouse. “Students
developed an understanding of who lived on the land originally,” says second grade teacher Jessica Nichols. “Later, they could make connections between the history of Wampanoag fishing and the fact that fishing is a big industry on Cape Cod and the Islands.”
In the winter, students honed their map skills by learning the cardinal directions, using map keys, and measuring distance on a map. After working on the skill of crafting a friendly letter, students launched a letter-writing campaign to learn more about some of their favorite people and places in Massachusetts.
One student wrote to Patriots Coach Belichick, commiserating on his season and asking how he communicates with quarterback Mac Jones. Another student wrote an admiring letter to Massachusetts’ first female governor, Maura Healey, asking how her childhood experiences prepared her for her job. Meanwhile, another student shared a letter and his artwork with the staff at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts. The students who received responses were thrilled. One student wrote to the Natural History Museum at Harvard and received a box of rocks and minerals in the mail. “The letters were a huge hit!” says Jessica, who notes that about one-third of students received a response. “Whenever we wrote a letter, the students found the town they were sending it to and colored it in on their map, so the project put a lot of places in context.”
Next, students researched different regions within Massachusetts, learning what differentiates places like the North Shore from Western Massachusetts and the Cape & Islands, and using the information to create persuasive travel videos. Visitors to the Primary School hallway could scan a QR code and watch each video to get a second grader’s perspective on why one should visit their Massachusetts region!
One of the highlights of spring in Massachusetts is the Boston Marathon. Second graders learned about the history of the Marathon and zoomed in on the Greater Boston region to map the 26.2-mile route from Hopkinton to Boston. In late April, second graders joined the rest of the Primary School to run a mini version of the Boston Marathon on MacAusland Field, complete with signage for the traditional landmarks of the race and a cheer tunnel spurring them on to the finish on Boylston Street.
The final element of the year-long study of Massachusetts was a project to redesign the state flag. Connecting to the current legislative movement to change the state seal, motto, and flag, students studied the Massachusetts flag and other state flags, discussing the elements of good flag design: symbolism, recognition, simplicity, symmetry, and basic colors. Drawing from everything they had learned about Massachusetts, each student designed a new state flag and wrote about the elements of their design. Next year, these Massachusetts experts will bring their understanding of state history, traditions, and symbols to third grade, where they will be learning about the other 49 states!

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