Unit Study Supplement: Massachusetts Facts, U.S. 6th State
On February 6, 1788, the Province of Massachusetts Bay officially became the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the sixth state to join the Union. Did you notice that phrase “Commonwealth of Massachusetts” instead of “state of Massachusetts?” Yes, MA is definitely a state, but because the word commonwealth is used in the original state constitution, it can technically be considered both! But this is only one of the many interesting pieces of information that your homeschoolers will find out in this state study, which is part of Time4Learning’s full series of United States unit study supplements.
We’ll be exploring many interesting facts about Massachusetts including trivia about the state’s history and geography, as well as ideas for educational places to visit in MA. You’ll also enjoy our collection of online Massachusetts learning games which will challenge your homeschoolers to test what they’ve learned via interactive play. This particular unit study supplement can be used as part of your geography and/or history lessons, or just a neat supplement to your regular schedule. You can also download our list of PreK-12 interactive activities that align with your study of interesting facts about Massachusetts. Are you ready to learn more about this commonwealth/state? Then let’s get started!
Massachusetts Fast Facts
|Became a Colony
|Became a State
February 6, 1788
|Order it Joined the Union
Historical Facts About Massachusetts
The history of Massachusetts is one that students often know the most about because its story is usually woven into the history of the national holiday of Thanksgiving. If you are familiar with Thanksgiving’s traditional history, you’ll remember that the Plymouth Colony was settled in 1620 by a group of European Puritan separatists called Pilgrims. English colonization continued in the area throughout the 1600’s and on October 7, 1691 it was chartered as a crown colony. Let’s look at some more fascinating facts about Massachusetts.
The state’s name came from the local indigenous population, in which there was a tribe called the Massachusett. Since its first tribe, Massachusetts has been home to many famous historical moments. When the European settlers first arrived in 1497, 90% of the indigenous populations of the Massachusetts Bay area were killed by the infectious disease smallpox. After Massachusetts was first settled, the area would serve as the site of some of the most pivotal moments in American history.
Massachusetts was home to the beginning of the American Revolution. The British attempts to tax the colonists led to the Boston Massacre in 1770 and the Boston Tea Party in 1773. The first shot of the American Revolution happened in MA during an unplanned skirmish between the British army and the Lexington militia. (This clash is recognized on the third Monday of April each year with a state holiday called Patriots’ Day.) Later, George Washington’s first victory with his Continental Army took place in MA.
Massachusetts has also been home to the most prestigious educational systems. The first institution of higher education in America was established in New Towne (Cambridge), Massachusetts in 1636. It was first called New College and later renamed Harvard University. In 1635, the first public school in America, Boston Latin, was founded in MA.
As you can tell from some of those facts, colonial Massachusetts was the center of rebellion against British rule, so it is no surprise that it voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution to become a state in 1788. In the timeline below, you can learn more Massachusetts history facts and enhance your children’s online learning experience:
Native American tribes inhabit the land that became Massachusetts. Tribes include Massachusett, Wampanoag, Nauset, Nipmuc, and Mohican peoples
European explorers first visit Massachusetts
Europeans brought smallpox and other disease to the Native Americans and killed about 90% of the peoples living there
Pilgrims settle the establish the first settlement trying to find religious freedom in the New World.
Remaining local Indians, the Squantos, helped the Pilgrims survive the winter, leading to the first Thanksgiving
The Massachusetts Bay Colony is founded
First public school in America is founded, and is called Boston Latin
The first institute of higher education in America is founded, originally called New College, but is now known as Harvard University
Massachusetts become a crown colony when the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Plymouth Colony combined.
The Salem Witch Trials begin and end, and 19 people are put to death out of suspect of being witches.
The British attempt to tax colonists which leads to the Boston Massacre, and five Boston Colonists die.
Colonists in Boston dump crates of tea into the Boston Harbor out of protests against taxes, creating the Boston Tea Party
The Revolutionary War begins with the Battle of Lexington and Battle of Concord
Massachusetts becomes the 6th state of the United States
Maine becomes its own state and separates from Massachusetts
Susan B. Anthony founded the National Woman Suffrage Association
Basketball is invented by Dr. James Naismith, a P.E. teacher
Edith Rogers became the first woman to serve in the House of Representatives
First automatic digital computer was developed at Harvard University
John F. Kennedy, an MA native, became the 35th President of the United States
Largest cash heist was committed in Plymouth
“Big Dig” project, which rerouted a major highway in Boston and was the most expensive highway project in the US, began
“Big Dig” project is complete and a success, creating a tunnel
Geographical Facts About Massachusetts
There is certainly much more to learn about the Bay State than just its history, though. Students will enjoy discovering specifics about Massachusetts geography, as well. Exploring a map of the state will enhance your unit study. Once you’ve studied the map, test your homeschooler’s knowledge by asking them to mark up a blank outline of MA. Here are just some of the things you may want to explore and mark on your map.
Cape Cod Bay, where the earliest settlers of the area resided, lent the state its nickname of “Bay State.”
The official name of the body of water in the southern MA town of Webster is Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg (the longest name of any lake in the world). However, locals simply call it Webster Lake.
The Cape Cod National Seashore is the result of the first ever federal purchase of land for the purpose of creating a park.
Boston is the only state capital in the contiguous U.S. that is located on a coastline.
The part of the state with the highest elevation is the Berkshires in western MA.
Massachusetts is located along the Atlantic Flyway, a bird migration route that runs from Greenland to the Gulf of Mexico.
Bogs in Southeastern Massachusetts grow up to 25% of the nation’s cranberries.
The east side of Massachusetts is home to Ivy League University Harvard.
The famous Salem witch trials happened in the city of Salem, just 25 miles northeast of where Harvard is located today.
Massachusetts State Map
Download our FREE Massachusetts state map printable. Use it as a coloring page or use it to plot the state’s geographical features.Download
Activities for Children in Massachusetts
Do you live in Massachusetts? Or perhaps you will be traveling to the state in the near future? Then, enhance your state unit study even more by personally visiting some of Massachusetts educational destinations. Homeschooling families looking for hands-on field trip ideas will discover plenty of opportunities in the Bay State. Here are some great ones to start with.
Amelia Park Children’s Museum (Westfield) — a place for toddlers and young children to truly let their imagination take them to new places. It has many exhibits including a nature and animal area.
Ecotarium (Worcester) — hands-on exploration and discovery of science and nature at this indoor-outdoor museum.It includes many ongoing educational opportunities for families and groups.
Emily Dickinson Museum (Amherst) — visit the birthplace and home of poet Emily Dickinson. The website includes many student resources you can use before or after your trip, too.
Minute Man National Historic Park (Concord) — a collection of museums, trails, and historical sites along the Battle Road from Lexington to Concord.
Southwicks Zoo (Mendon) — opportunities to get up close and personal with many different animals. Members receive free general admission entry plus other zoo discounts.
For additional field trip options in Massachusetts, visit A2Z Homeschooling’s Massachusetts Field Trips with Kids page.
Massachusetts Freebies and Deals for Homeschoolers
Adams National Historic Park (Quincy) — this FREE field trip opportunity gives your homeschooler the chance to learn about multiple generations of the Adams presidential legacy.
Harvard Museum of Natural History (Cambridge)— at designated times on Sundays and Wednesdays, MA residents can visit the Natural History museum as well as other Harvard museums for FREE with proof of residency.
Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (North Adams) — homeschool groups can get significantly discounted rates to visit this museum of both indoor and outdoor art exhibitions.
New England Aquarium (Boston) — homeschoolers receive discounted admission to the aquarium on Mondays during the school year. Check the website for exact dates and details.
Plimoth Plantation (Plymouth) — visit the Living History Exhibits including the 17th-Century English Village, Plimoth Grist Mill, and Wampanoag Homesite for a discounted price on select homeschool days throughout the year.
Massachusetts Learning Games for Children
Want to extend your Massachusetts unit study even further? The following learning resources will introduce you to even more fun facts about Massachusetts and will also give your homeschoolers the opportunity to test their knowledge of what they’ve learned so far.