Welcome to Notebooking Across the USA, a series of unit studies covering each state in the U.S. in order of admission to the union. You can find the landing page for this series with links to each states unit study as they are published, along with tips, suggestions, and recommended resources for this series here: Notebooking Across the USA. These unit studies are written with homeschool students grades 3-8 in mind.
The most recommended resource for this series is the USA States Pack, and while I believe it will be very helpful if you will be studying all of the states, it is not required. If you do wish to purchase the pack, use the code benandmeUSA for a 25% discount.
Massachusetts Unit Study
Known as the “birthplace of the American Revolution, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts became the 6th state in the Union on February 6, 1788. Massachusetts was named after the Massachuset tribe. It is thought that the name means “near the great hill, ” and refers to the Great Blue Hill near Boston.
Massachusetts ranks 44th in size in the nation with a total area of 10,555 square miles. is the most populous state in New England, and a part of the northeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island to the south, New Hampshire and Vermont to the north, and New York to the west.
Massachusetts has a transitional climate between humid continental and humid subtropical climates. The climate of Boston is representative for the commonwealth, characterized by summer highs of around 81 °F and winter highs of 35 °F, and is quite wet. Frosts are frequent all winter, even in coastal areas due to prevailing inland winds.
Nickname: Bay State (early settlers were responsible for nicknaming the “Bay State” because of its proximity to several large bays)
Motto: Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem (Latin for “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty”)
Agriculture: fruits, nuts, berries, nursery stock, dairy products (Massachusetts produces more than 25% of the cranberries grown in the nation — visit our New Jersey unit study to learn more about cranberries)
Fishing Industry: Massachusetts is one of the leading commercial fishing states. New Bedford accounts for about half the scallops produced in the nation. The fishing industry in Massachusetts also includes cod, flounder, haddock, lobster, ocean perch, whiting, clams, crabs, hake, herring, pollock, squid, swordfish and tuna.
Industry: electrical equipment, machinery, metal products, scientific instruments printing and publishing, tourism
Mining: sand, gravel, clay, granite
Have your students color and label an outline map of Massachusetts. Include the state capital and largest city of Boston, Plymouth, Worcester, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Island.
The state flag of Massachusetts was adopted in 1908 and revised in 1971. On a white field is a blue shield emblazoned with the image of a Massachuset Indian. He holds a bow in one hand and an arrow in the other. The arrow is pointing downward representing peace. The white star represents Massachusetts as one of the original thirteen states. The pine tree on the original flag was replaced by the coat of arms of the Commonwealth.
The state seal was adopted in 1885, and displays the arms of the commonwealth of Massachusetts, surrounded by the words “Sigillum Reipublicae Massachusettensis” (Seal of the Republic of Massachusetts in Latin). See the flag description for information on the coat of arms.
Massachusetts State Bird: Black-capped Chickadee
The black-capped chickadee was designated the state bird of Massachusetts in 1941.
Massachusetts State Flower: Mayflower
Massachusetts adopted the mayflower as the official flower of the Commonwealth in 1918.
Massachusetts State Tree: American Elm
Massachusetts designated the American elm (Ulmus americana) as the official state tree in 1941, commemorating the fact that General George Washington took command of the Continental Army beneath an American elm on Cambridge Common in 1775. The American Elm has been severely afflicted by Elm Disease. Learn more about Dutch Elm Disease.
“All Hail to Massachusetts” by Arthur J. Marsh, was made the official state song of Massachusetts on September 3, 1966, and codified by an act of the General Court in 1966.State Government.
Learn about Massachusett’s state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
Mammals native to Massachusetts include the bat, beaver, bobcat, cottontail, eastern coyote, fisher, red and gray fox, moose, raccoon, red and gray squirrel, skunk, woodchuck, and white-tailed deer. Common birds include chickadee, goldfinch, robin, bald eagle, oriole, blue jay, cowbird, wren, blue heron, cardinal, wild turkey, Canada goose, and duck.
In 1620 the Mayflower arrived at Cape Cod. Pilgrims established settlement and named it Plymouth. Take a virtual field trip of Plimouth Plantation and learn all about its history.
In 1621 Pilgrims signed a treaty with Wampanoag Indians and celebrated first Thanksgiving.
In 1639 the first post office was established in Boston.
In 1717, the pirate ship Whydah, under the command of “Black Sam” Bellamy, sunk off Cape Cod during a storm. Treasure and artifacts recovered from the ship are on display at the Whydah Museum and Expedition Whydah. Learn about the Whydah Pirates here.
The Boston Tea Party was a political protest by the Sons of Liberty in Boston, on December 16, 1773.
The American Revolution began in Lexington, Massachusetts at around 5am on April 19, 1775, when the British army led by Major John Pitcairn came face to face with Lexington militiamen led by Captain John Parker. Though both leaders asked their men not to fire and disperse peacefully, some unknown person from some unknown location fired the “shot heard round the world” that started the American Revolution.
In 1876, the telephone, invented by Alexander Graham Bell, received its patent.
Baseball was invented in Springfield, Massachustts in 1891 by James Naismith. The first World Series was played in Boston in 1903.
In 1895, volleyball was invented by the director of Holyoke YMCA, William Morgan.
The country’s first subway opened in Boston in 1897.
The Great Molasses Flood, also known as the Boston Molasses Disaster or the Great Boston Molasses Flood, occurred on January 15, 1919, in Boston. A large molasses storage tank burst, and a tsunami of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 miles per hour, killing 21 and injuring 150. The event has entered local folklore, and for decades afterward residents claimed that on hot summer days the area still smelled of molasses.
Famous People from Massachusetts
John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed)
Paul Revere (patriot)
Edgar Allen Poe (author, poet)
Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women)
Samuel F.B. Morse (inventor of the Morse code)
Benjamin Franklin (inventor and patriot — we learned about Franklin in the Pennsylvania unit study)
Dr. Seuss (author and illustrator of children’s books)
Susan B. Anthony (women’s rights activist)
Clara Barton (founder of The Red Cross)
Eli Whitney (inventor)
Ann Sullivan (Helen Keller’s teacher)
Temple Grandin (biology professor, spokesperson on Autism)
John Adams (2nd President of the United States)
Abigail Adams (First Lady)
John Quincy Adams (6th President of the United States)
John F. Kennedy (35thPresident of the United States)
George H.W. Bush (41st President of the United States)
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
If you have a chance to visit the state of Massachusetts, be sure you don’t miss these sites. If you won’t be visiting, take a virtual field trip by clicking on the name of the site. Have your student create Travel Journal notebooking pages to record what they learn.
Plimoth Plantation offers powerful personal encounters with history built on thorough research about the Wampanoag People and the Colonial English community in the 1600s. Today, Plimoth Plantation provides an engaging and experiential outdoor and indoor learning environment on its main campus and at the State Pier on Plymouth’s waterfront, and at the Plimoth Grist Mill on Town Brook. Permanent exhibits tell the complex and interwoven stories of two distinct cultures – English and Native. The main exhibits are enhanced with an exciting menu of special events, public programs and workshops that offer a rich and diverse exploration of the 17th-century. Don’t miss the Mayflower II.
Boston’s Freedom Trail Tours take you to places where history was made! Walk Into History along the iconic Freedom Trail – the 2.5 mile red line leading to nationally significant historic sites, each one an authentic treasure. Stops include:
- Boston Common
- Massachusetts State House
- Park Street Church
- Granary Burying Ground
- King’s Chapel
- King’s Chapel Burying Ground
- Benjamin Franklin Statue & Boston Latin School
- Old Corner Book Store
- Old South Meeting House
- Old State House
- Site of Boston Massacre
- Faneuil Hall
- Paul Revere House
- Old North Church
- Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
- Bunker Hill Monument
- USS Constitution
The Public Garden, also known as Boston Public Garden, is a large park located in the heart of Boston, adjacent to Boston Common and is the setting for Make Way for Ducklings, a children’s story by Robert McCloskey about a family of ducks and their journey to the Public Garden.
Experience the historic home of the extraordinary Alcott family, where Louisa May Alcott wrote and set Little Women.
Founded in 1903, the Museum’s rich history reveals an intimate relationship with the communities it serves. Motivated by civic pride and a desire to preserve the artifacts and narratives of the region, the museum was founded by the children of the progenitors of the American whaling industry. The Old Dartmouth Historical Society was established “to create and foster an interest in the history of Old Dartmouth (now the City of New Bedford, Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven and Westport, MA). This area incorporates more than 185 square miles with a population exceeding 180,000. Today, members hail from many more communities.
This world-famous, three-story, stained-glass globe is one of the key attractions at the Library. The Mapparium’s three-dimensional perspective of the world of 1935 is enhanced by A World of Ideas, an original presentation that features a rich orchestration of words, music, and LED lights to illustrate how ideas have traversed time and geography and changed the world.
See New England butterflies and tropical species from all over the world. Walk along a winding pathway. Observe butterflies sipping from flowers, basking in the sunshine and flying freely in a natural habitat. Enjoy our koi fish and quail birds which live among the butterflies. Visit the “show and tell bench” where a staff member is always available to answer your questions and help make your visit fun. See eggs, caterpillars or other interesting creatures up close.
If you ask ten people to share their favorite thing to do at Cape Cod National Seashore, you might hear ten different activities–swimming, hiking a trail, taking sunset pictures, surfing, observing wildlife, riding a bike, joining a ranger-guided canoe trip, exploring a whaling captain’s house, eating a wild cranberry, climbing a lighthouse. All of these opportunities (and more!) await you!
Home of the baseball team, the Boston Red Sox.
Arts and Crafts
Studying states lends itself easily to opportunities for arts and crafts activities. The ideas are endless, but here are a few to get your started:
Create a Mayflower ship out of paper plates and a few other materials.
May spoon Pilgrims.
Interesting Facts about Massachusetts
Harvard University was the nation’s first college, founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1635.
Ratified in 1780, the Constitution of Massachusetts is the oldest constitution still in use today.
Boston was the site of the nation’s first public school, public park, and newspaper.
The chocolate chip cookie was invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield in 1938. She owned the Toll House Inn, in Whitman, Massachusetts, a very popular restaurant that featured home cooking in the 1930s. Use this recipe to bake a batch!
Make mini Boston Cream Pies.
Explore this interactive map of Paul Revere’s midnight ride.
Listen to Revolutionary War Music.
Learn how Boston Baked Beans got their name and then make some with your kids!
Watch this inspiring animated video in which Temple Grandin explains how her Autistic brain works.
Learn about all the different classes offered by The Red Cross (first aid, CPR, babysitting, lifeguarding, and more!). Enroll children old enough to take the babysitting and/or CPR courses if they are offered near you.
Massachusetts Resource List
Book Basket (Picture Books)
People of the Breaking Day by Marcia Sewall
The Pilgrims of Plimouth by Marcia Sewall
Thunder from the Clear Sky by Marcia Sewall
M is for Mayflower: A Massachusetts Alphabet by Margot Theis Raven
Who’s That Stepping on Plymouth Rock by Jean Fritz
The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh
Tapenum’s Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy In Pilgrim Times by Kate Waters
Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl by Kate Waters
Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy by Kate Waters
If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution by Kay Moore
George vs. George: The American Revolution As Seen from Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer
A Picture Book of Paul Revere by David A Adler
Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride by Stephen Krensky (out of print, but may be available at your library)
Johnny Appleseed by Steven Kellogg
The True Tale of Johnny Appleseed by Margaret Hodges (out of print, but may be available at your library
Here Come the Humpbacks by April Pulley Sayre
Susan B. Anthony by Alexandra Wallner
The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss by Kathleen Krull
Book Basket (NonFiction)
Massachusetts: What’s So Great About This State? by Karen Boehm Jerome
The Massachusetts Colony by Kevin Cunningham
Liberty or Death: The American Revolution: 1763-1783 by Betsy Maestro
Humpback Whales by Anna Clayborne
The Wampanoag by Kevin Cunningham
Samuel Adams: Patriot and Statesman by Matt Doeden
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
Eating the Plates by Lucille Recht Penner
Squanto, the Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla
What Was the Boston Tea Party by Kathleen Krull
Mr. Revere and I by Robert Lawson
Who Was Paul Revere by Roberta Edwards
Johnny Tremain by Esther Hoskins Forbes
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier
The Revolutionary John Adams by Cheryl Harness
Abigail Adams: Girl of Colonial Days (Childhood of Famous Americans) by Jean Brown Wagoner
Abigail Adams: First Lady of Faith and Courage by Evelyn Witter
Who Was Alexander Graham Bell by Bonnie Bader
Hello, Alexander Graham Bell Speaking by Cynthia Copeland Lewis (out of print, but may be available at your library)
Louisa May Alcott (Childhood of Famous Americans) by Beatrice Gormley
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Clara Barton: Courage Under Fire by Janet Berge
The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue by Michael J. Tougias
Who Was John F. Kennedy by Yona Zeldis McDonough
Samuel F.B. Morse: Artist With a Message by John Hudson Tiner
Who Was Susan B. Anthony by Pam Pollack
Who Was Dr. Seuss by Janet Pascal
I suggest creating a “unit study book basket” (a laundry basket will do) to fill with books from the book basket lists. You can use these books in your instructional time, for reading aloud, or for reading time for your students. Some of the nonfiction books have activities, experiments, and other hands-on learning opportunities to enrich your unit study.