This lesson plan features the maritime village of Stonington Borough. It uses the lighthouse there to learn about Connecticut's geography and maritime economy. It touches on immigration as part of that story. Stonington remains a working fishing port today.
By participating in the activity, students will be able to explain what a maritime village is, the purpose of a lighthouse, and why it was important to Stonington's economy. Students also learn about peninsulas and boroughs (Geography), and about immigrant communities and one way in which they develop.
3 to 6
Introductory Discussion Questions
This lesson works well after students read Where I Live: Connecticut, Chapter 1: Geography, pages 5 – 11, and Chapter 3: Quinnetukut Becomes Connecticut, pages 21 – 25. Also recommended: “The State Animal: The Sperm Whale,” whereilivect.org/the-state-animal-the-sperm-whale.
Begin with an in-class discussion about how early settlements were maritime communities driven by maritime activities such as shipbuilding, fishing, whaling, and international shipping and trade.
Here are some questions to help guide the discussion.
Q. How were Connecticut’s coastal villages founded?
A. Connecticut’s coastal shoreline borders Long Island Sound. It is rocky and has many small coves and inlets. Native Americans had seasonal villages along the coastline in the summer to take advantage of fishing and collecting shellfish. Dutch traders set up trading bases along the coast and were followed by English settlers who built permanent settlements.
Q. What is a peninsula?
A. A piece of land surrounded by water on three sides and projecting out into a body of water.
Q. What is a borough?
A. In Connecticut, a portion of a town can incorporate as a borough: usually a small village area. In 2016 there were 9 boroughs in Connecticut. They are all part of a larger town, but they can provide their own police and fire services, street lighting, garbage pickup, and building code enforcement as well as levy taxes.
Q. What is a lighthouse? Why were they built?
A. A lighthouse is a tower, building, or other type of structure designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses and to serve as a navigational aid for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways. Lighthouses were built with funding from the federal government, a sign of how important coastal shipping was to the young nation. In 2018 there were 22 lighthouses in Connecticut.
Q. What does immigrate mean?
A. To move permanently to a foreign country.
Q. Why would people want to go to a new country?
A. For religious freedom, for jobs, to escape a war or disaster like famine, or to be able to build a better life for their family.
Q. What types of historic buildings do you think you would find in a maritime village that you wouldn’t find in a mill village or farming town?
A. Lighthouses, boat houses, docks, wharves, fish packing plants, fishing boats, sea captain’s homes, and customs houses.
Q. What would it be like to work as fisherman on a fishing boat? What are the pluses and the minuses of being a fisherman?
A. Pluses include being outdoors, setting your own schedule, possibly working with your family, and learning on the job. Minuses include the cold weather, danger, boat maintenance, and sometimes you don’t catch fish, so you don’t have anything to sell.
Lesson Activity/ Procedure
Have your students read
Maritime Village: Stonington Borough
Instructions for students:
1. As you read, write down in your own words why a community like Stonington needed a lighthouse.
2. List two examples of who relied on the lighthouse to get safely into the harbor. (Teacher answer: A. steamships carrying passengers and cargo, and fishermen carrying crew and fish)
3. There are 22 lighthouses in Connecticut. Some are on the mainland and some are on small islands in Long Island Sound. Visit lighthousefriends.com to explore all of Connecticut’s lighthouses. Pick one that you like or is closest to where you live.
a. Look at the map on the website. Use your knowledge of geography to describe where the lighthouse is located and if you can guess why it was built there.
b. List two facts from the website that support your reasoning for why it was built there. Hint: The history tab might be helpful.
c. Print a picture of the lighthouse and write a five-sentence paragraph that includes this information:
1. The name of the lighthouse you studied and where it is.
2. Why it was built there.
3. How it is similar to Stonington’s lighthouse (think about its location, what it is made of, and the important parts of a lighthouse that make it a lighthouse.)
4. How it is different. (think about its location, what it is made of)
5. What you learned about why lighthouses were needed along the coast of Connecticut.
d. Share your story with your classmates.
“Two If By Sea: New London’s Harbor Light & Stonington’s Old Lighthouse Museum”
“They Came Here as Fishermen…” –about Stonington’s Portuguese fishing community
“Why the Sperm Whale is Our State Animal”—about the whaling industry in Connecticut
“Destination: Discoverer of Antarctica” –About Stonington’s Nathaniel Palmer, a sea captain
The Stonington Harbor Lighthouse, now a museum of the Stonington Historical Society, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
Nomination, National Register of Historic Places, Bruce Clouette, Ph.D., 1976.
The Stonington Historical Society
More about Connecticut Lighthouses
Maritime Museums to Visit
Fishing Villages Worldwide
Lesson Plans for Educators on Maritime History by the Mystic Seaport Museum
Peninsula, borough, fleet, automated, commercial
The Influence of Geography on the Social, Political, and Economic Development of Towns and the State
· How does the geography of Connecticut affect the social, political, and economic development in local communities?
· In what ways do the rivers in Connecticut influence economic development?
· Why is your town/city/state shaped the way it is?
The Impact of Geography on Population Patterns and Economic Development
· Identify how various groups and industry controlled the use of land and resources in Connecticut and/or your town.
· How did various groups use the rivers and other geographic features in Connecticut to develop communities and economic systems?
· How has geography affected the growth and development of your own town and of Connecticut in general? Overall, have geographic factors aided or hindered economic growth in Connecticut and your town?
HIST 3.4, 3.5.
· How did industries such as whaling, manufacturing, and technology create Connecticut’s history and contribute to America’s story?
Causation and Argumentation
· What events occurred in our local community and how did they shape our community?
· How have science, technology, and innovation affected the development of towns and cities in Connecticut (aerospace, insurance, manufacturing, etc.)?
Exchanges and Markets
ECO 3.2, 3.3
· In what ways have the rivers and waterways in Connecticut influenced economic development?
Human Population: Spatial Patterns and Movement
GEO 3.7, 3.8, 3.9
· Who controls the use of land and resources?
· How are rivers and resources in Connecticut used to develop communities and economic systems?
· What attracts a person to a town or city today? How is that different from what may have attracted them there in 1800?