SHIRLEY — Janet MacFarland’s fifth-grade social studies class at Shirley Middle School discovered that life in Colonial Massachusetts revolved around work and religion. They studied various Colonial occupations, and then selected the ones that they would most like to further research and represent as buildings for the class’s model Colonial village.
Through their research, the students learned that although farming and fishing were the major occupations of the European settlers from 1600 to 1775, many colonists practiced other trades and professions.
The students depicted schools and the shops of saddlers, candle makers, gunsmiths, blacksmiths, innkeepers and brick makers, as well as the town meetinghouse, which is where the public met for worship and town meetings.
Jennifer McGrath, with the help of her father, made a scale model of Shirley’s own First Parish Meetinghouse. Chloe Curley and Talita Caberlon created a Colonial inn with a staircase; Camden LeBreton made a blacksmith shop; Douglas Bingle and Christian Hoffmann built a saw mill; McKenzie Drew and Nicholas Dentino designed a gunsmith shop; Timmy Holman and Natalie Carroll created a dame school, an early form of a private elementary school; Alexis Yang built an elementary school; and Hanna Seghir and Whitney Carman created “Ye Hannah Whitney Saddlery.”
Jenna Bailey and Amber Dobson created a glassmaking shop. Alison Doiron built a cooperage, and Jillian Schilp made a candle shop. Natalie Carroll said that her father, Bill, while helping to dredge Boston Harbor, found a wooden bowling ball that is perhaps 150 years old.
The students learned not only more about Colonial Massachusetts, but also how to do research, use their creativity and how to teach others about what they learned. And, perhaps most important, they developed a deeper curiosity, passion and appreciation for the past.