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In the Classroom > Unit Overview
Lessons: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |

Research & Investigation Project (RIP): A Grave Undertaking
Lesson 5: A Line Drive

Unit Central Questions: In This Lesson:

How can we use primary source materials to investigate the lives of some people in Deerfield, Massachusetts in the period 1780-1880?

Lesson Length
Key Ideas
Activity 1
Lesson Length

Social Studies: Five to eight one-hour class periods.

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Key Content Ideas Taught in this Lesson and Teacher Background

Like us, people who lived in the past did not live in a vacuum. Their attitudes and behavior were shaped in large measure by the times in which they lived. In order to have a better sense of the lives of the people we researched and the world in which they lived, it is essential to understand what was happening outside of Deerfield. In this way we can increase our understanding of the relationship between people in Deerfield and events and attitudes outside of the community. In addition, historical "events" do not exist independently. They have causes that may have built up over long periods and they leave behind effects that may linger.

In addition to connecting Deerfield to the society at large, it is also important to see the connections within the community. Through the primary sources, we can see who were contemporaries, who were neighbors, and who were connected through business transactions. Piecing primary sources together can paint a broader picture and breathe life into a community.

Teacher Note: This timeline activity is intended to help students integrate their knowledge of their individual research subject (and of local history) with events in the nation and the world. Although we have placed the timeline activity at the end of the unit, it also works well in a number of other places. It is possible, for example, to start the timeline with "national events" prior to the research project. Then, after students have completed their team research, the local/individual data can be entered. It is also possible to spread the timeline activities throughout the unit. As essential information is uncovered during the research, students can enter it on their timelines. Note, however, that the timeline activity can be time-consuming, and may extend the length of the unit significantly.

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Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will understand:

  • that Deerfield residents from the past did not live in a vacuum; they were influenced by (and they influenced) events and circumstances outside of the community and each other.
  • the concept of cause and effect as it relates to important historical "events."


  • Students will be able to create a timeline that integrates specific information about their research subjects with events in the community, state, region, nation, and (when appropriate) the world.

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In Preparation for Teaching

Familiarize yourself with the information on the Instructions for Timeline Worksheets.

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Materials List:

* not provided with this unit

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Activities Materials in Context

Activity 1
Collecting Information

Decide whether the "Timeline Worksheets" will be filled out by teams or individuals.

A. Distribute the "Instructions for Timeline Worksheets," and the "Chronological Framework." Review the instructions for completing the left-hand column of the worksheets and direct students to fill in the left-hand column, entitled "Research Subject." Students will need to use their packets of primary and secondary sources for their research subjects and their "Reading and Analyzing Background Information" worksheets from Lesson 3.
B. Review with students the directions for completing the right-hand column entitled "The World," making sure they understand which entries are required and which are optional. This column is for regional, national and international events that occurred during the lifetime of the individual being studied. The students will need to use their research organizers, the "Chronological Framework," their social studies texts, the website chronology, other history web sites, and any other history books in the classroom as references.
C. Engage in a discussion about the relationship between the research subjects and the national events/information of their time. In particular, explore these questions:

  • In what ways did national events and circumstances influence or have an impact on individuals in Deerfield?
  • In what way might Deerfield residents have had an impact on national events or circumstances?

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Instructions for Timeline Worksheets

Timeline Worksheet

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