Social Studies

Massachusetts and its Cities and Towns: Geography and History

Using local historic sites, historical societies, and museums, third graders learn about the history of Massachusetts from the time of the arrival of the Pilgrims. They also learn the history of their own cities and towns and about famous people and events in Massachusetts’ history. In addition, they read biographies of prominent Massachusetts people in science, technology, the arts, business, education, or political leadership in order to learn how they contributed to Massachusetts history.


Students should be able to:
Apply concepts and skills learned in previous grades.

History and Geography
1. Explain the meaning of time periods or dates in historical narratives (decade, century, 1600s, 1776) and use them correctly in speaking and writing.

2. Observe visual sources such as historic paintings, photographs, or illustrations that accompany historical narratives, and describe details such as clothing, setting, or action.

3. Observe and describe local or regional historic artifacts and sites and generate questions about their function, construction, and significance.

4. Use cardinal directions, map scales, legends, and titles to locate places on contemporary maps of New England, Massachusetts, and the local community.

5. Describe the difference between a contemporary map of their city or town and the map of their city or town in the 18th, 19th, or early 20th century.

Civics and Government
6. Give examples of why it is necessary for communities to have governments (e.g., governments provide order and protect rights).

7. Give examples of the different ways people in a community can influence their local government (e.g., by voting, running for office, or participating in meetings).

8. Define what a tax is and the purposes for taxes, and with the help of their teachers and parents, give examples of different kinds of taxes (e.g., property, sales, or income taxes).

9. Define specialization in jobs and businesses and give examples of specialized businesses in the community.

10. Define barter, give examples of bartering (e.g., trading baseball cards with each other), and explain how money makes it easier for people to get things they want.

Barter is the direct exchange of goods and services between people without using money. Trade is the exchange of goods and services between people.



Building on knowledge from previous years, students should be able to:

New England and Massachusetts

1 On a map of the United States, locate the New England states (Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine) and the Atlantic Ocean. On a map of Massachusetts, locate major cities and towns, Cape Ann, Cape Cod, the Connecticut River, the Merrimack River, the Charles River, and the Berkshire Hills.

2 Identify the Wampanoags and their leaders at the time the Pilgrims arrived, and describe their way of life.

3 Identify who the Pilgrims were and explain why they left Europe to seek religious freedom; describe their journey and their early years in the Plymouth Colony.

  • the purpose of the Mayflower Compact and its principles of self-government
  • challenges in settling in America
  • events leading to the first Thanksgiving

4 Explain how the Puritans and Pilgrims differed and identify early leaders in Massachusetts, such as John Winthrop; describe the daily life, education, and work of the Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

5 Explain important political, economic, and military developments leading to and during the American Revolution.

  • the growth of towns and cities in Massachusetts before the Revolution
  • the Boston Tea Party
  • the beginning of the Revolution at Lexington and Concord
  • the Battle of Bunker Hill
  • Revolutionary leaders such as John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere

6 Identify the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights as key American documents.

7 After reading a biography of a person from Massachusetts in one of the following categories, summarize the person's life and achievements.

  • science and technology (e.g., Alexander Graham Bell, Nathaniel Bowditch, Robert Goddard, John Hayes Hammond, Edwin Land, Samuel Morse)
  • the arts (e.g., Henry Adams, Louisa May Alcott, John Singleton Copley, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Theodore Geisel, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Frederick Law Olmsted, Norman Rockwell, Henry David Thoreau, Phyllis Wheatley)
  • business (e.g., William Filene, Amos Lawrence, Francis Cabot Lowell, An Wang);
  • education, journalism, and health (e.g., Clara Barton, Horace Mann, William Monroe Trotter)
  • political leadership (e.g., John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Edward Brooke, Benjamin Franklin, John F. Kennedy, Paul Revere)

Cities and Towns of Massachusetts

8 On a map of Massachusetts, locate the class’s home town or city (Watertown, MA) and its local geographic features and landmarks.

9 Identify historic buildings, monuments, or sites in the area and explain their purpose and significance. (H, C)

10 Explain the meaning of the stars and stripes in the American flag, and describe official procedures for the care and display of the flag.

11 Identify when the students’ own town or city was founded, and describe the different groups of people who have settled in the community since its founding.

12 Explain how objects or artifacts of everyday life in the past tell us how ordinary people lived and how everyday life has changed. Draw on the services of the local historical society and local museums as needed.

13 Give examples of goods and services provided by their local businesses and industries.

14 Give examples of tax-supported facilities and services provided by their local government, such as public schools, parks, recreational facilities, police and fire departments, and libraries.

*Note-The SSAES Curriculum Guidelines for Social Studies is directly derived from the Massachusetts History & Social Science Curriculum Framework.