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Lesson Plan The New England Fishing Industry: Sea Changes in a Community

The unique geographic and economic characteristics of the Northeast coast become apparent through the study of photographs, maps and interviews with two New England fishermen of the early 20th century. How did rugged New Englanders make a living and provide for their families? How did they adapt to the environment and how did they change it? Primary sources from the Library of Congress online collections illustrate the link between New England's economic and cultural past and the issues it faces for its future.

Objectives

While completing this project, students will:

  • analyze primary sources, including historical photos, oral histories, and maps;
  • extrapolate information and analyze language in order to write a poem on one theme in the oral histories;
  • compare the motivations, lifestyles, and aspirations of a native-born fisherman and a newly arrived immigrant fisherman; and
  • plan, research and conduct a debate on the need for restrictive legislation in the fishing industry.

Lesson Preparation

Materials

Resources

Library of Congress

Lesson Procedure

Activity One

Students analyze a map of the area off the New England coast, known as Georges Bank, in order to understand that the topography contributes to an area of rich fishing conditions.

Map Analysis

Help students to relate the importance of local geographic features, such as currents, shoals, banks and natural harbors, to the emergence of fishing as a key industry. Students analyze a map of the area off the New England coast, known as Georges Bank, in order to understand that the topography contributes to an area of rich fishing conditions.

  1. Use the Map Collections to search for New England maps. Two good maps to use are: Coast of New England and Railroad Map from New England 1858. You can zoom in to analyze the coastal areas and ports.
  2. Students can compare these old maps to maps in a present-day atlas. Ask them:
    • What changes do you see?
    • Have these changes benefitted this community?
    • What doesn't the map show you?

Activity Two

Students review three photographs from the Library's collections that detail the culture of the fishing industry in New England. The first photo shows an individual at work with his gear; the second shows a team of fisherman cleaning their catch; the third illustrates codfish drying in abundance in Gloucester, Massachusetts. When studied together, the photos illustrate a culture and a profession that led to overfishing.

Photo Analysis

The photos follow a pattern from the lone fisherman, concrete and specific, to a photo of a group activity, where the work is more diversified. The last photo shows a final phase of the fisherman's work. From this photo students can make inferences on the impact of the fishing industry on the environment, the local economy, and the future of the industry itself. When studied together, the photos illustrate a culture and a profession that led to overfishing.

Materials Preparation: Create photo packets for each team of students. Each packet should contain 3 photos and 3 Primary Source Analysis Tools.

Photo #1: A Cape Ann fisherman mending his nets

Photo #2: Weighing up the catch, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Photo #3: Drying fish, Gloucester, Massachusetts

  1. Divide class into groups of 4-5 students, give each team a photo packet, and time to complete the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher's guide Analyzing Prints and Photographs to focus the group work, and select additional questions to focus and prompt a whole class discussion of their analysis. Each group should elect a recorder to write down their observations.
  2. Discuss the analysis of each photo, using the questions selected from the teacher's guide Analyzing Prints and Photographs as appropriate. Compile a summary of all the observations on the board.

Activity Three

Students read an oral history interview with a local fisherman that shows his dedication to fishing.

Language Analysis

Students read an oral history interview with a local fisherman that shows his dedication to fishing.

  1. Students read the first oral history, Portuguese fisherman. Initially students need to scan text and highlight unfamiliar words or phrases.
  2. A second reading should be done aloud with focus on dialect, intonation and meaning.
  3. Students complete Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher's guide Analyzing Oral History to focus the group work, and select additional questions to focus and prompt a whole class discussion of their analysis.
  4. On the next day students follow the same process with the second oral history, Yankee fisherman.
  5. Using a Venn diagram, students compare similarities and differences between the two fishermen. Guiding questions and reading for meaning include the following:
    • What are each fisherman's motives for becoming a fisherman?
    • What are the benefits of being a fisherman?
    • What are the hardships?
    • What value does each fisherman put on friends and family?
    • How does each fisherman see the role of men and women?

Activity Four

This activity enables the students to highlight specific words that target the meaning of a chosen theme in a concise, creative fashion. It can be used in a variety of ways throughout the curriculum. In a non-fiction piece students focus on specific information and can summarize material in compelling forms.

Interpretive or Found Poetry

Using idioms and phrases from the life histories studied in activity four, students work in groups of 3 or 4 to construct and illustrate a poem based on one theme related to the fishing industry. Sample themes might include: the daily life of the fisherman, dangers encountered, personal hardships, family involvement, financial successes and setbacks, or another topic the students suggest.

  1. See Examples of Found Poetry:

    Examples of "Found Poetry"

    The Portuguese Fishermen

    We're good fishermen

    No men ...fish better

    He fishes because he wants to.

    ...the wind's my friend...

    ...don't never get tired...

    ..don't feel the cold...

    If I can't feel a boat under me, I want to die.

    The Good Life

    Don't mind getting up early...

    Coffee on the stove.

    We work hard

    I don't never get tired.

    Friends in for supper...

    A glass of ale.

    ..dry the codfish out on the Dunes.

    ..miles of it spread out.

    You got be strong.

    ..used to be big money in it.

    good life.

    Yankee Food

    Takes a Rhode islander to make a real chowder.

    Those quahaugs were dug this mornin'.

    Ready for the fried quahaug cakes----

    Beat a fried oyster any day.

    The sweet corn's the best we've had this summer.

    Have some of this baked tautaug, son.

    Put on plenty of this good thick cream.

    There's plenty o'lobster and more in the pots.

    Ready for pie so soon?

    Got to take you to a real Rhode island clam bake soon.

    Opens at one o'clock and we eat until four thirty.

    Family

    Aunt Dora a wavin' and sayin' suthin'.

    So-o Archy is to stay all night.

    Your Ma phoned, saying you could.

    Spend the eveing with us, won't you?

    You young rascal!

    Now tell me, as man to man, what's on yer mind?

    Want to go long o'me mackereling tomorrow morning?

    Come now, don't be bashful.

    There's plenty o'lobster. Don't go without.

    Let's sit on the porch for a spell whilst the women folks clear away.

    Someone'll pass by.

  2. For additional teacher information, see the lesson plan Found Poetry with Primary Sources: The Great Depression.

Optional Activity: Students dramatically present their poems to the class. If possible, try videotaping for replay later.

Activity Five

Debate

Students must organize information and work cooperatively for a class debate: Is there a need for restrictive legislation in the fishing industry? This culminating activity involves students in many capacities, including research, written summaries, and oral presentation.

  1. Students read U.S. Statutes at Large, Vol. 16, Resolution No. 22, pp. 593-94. "Joint Resolution for the Protection and Preservation of the Food Fishes of the Coast of the United States." (US Congress. 41st. 3rd Session, published 1871.)
  2. Based on the Joint Resolution, students complete a 3-2-1 Analysis: Write three facts...Ask two questions...Form one opinion (or write one summary sentence.)
  3. Direct students to Congress.gov at the Library of Congress, and search records from the 108th Congress for "The Fishing Quota Standards Act of 2003."
  4. Students complete a 3-2-1 Analysis based on the Fishing Quota Standards Act.

Extensions

Students can choose among these activities:

  • Each student interviews one member of his or her community who works in some aspect of the fishing industry, such as a seafood retailer or local fisherman.
  • Students present environmental posters or write editorials addressing critical issues affecting the fishing industry today.
  • Students write letters to legislators suggesting a bill that addresses their environmental concerns.
  • Students research Congress.gov for more recent legislation about the fishing industry.

Lesson Evaluation

A rubric should be developed with students based on the activities that are chosen for this unit. Emphasize the use of factual material and presentation style.

Credits

Helen Johnson & Maureen Whalen Spaight

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