History for Early Learners: Programs for Preschool – Grade Two

A hands-on introduction to learning history

At Pierce House or Your Site

New! Programs listed below with an * are available in a virtual format through Zoom or Google Meet. Contact us for more information and to register!

These fun-filled programs combine themed story books and hands-on craft activities to introduce children in preschool through second grade to New England’s history, at Historic New England’s Pierce House or your location. New programs are frequently added. The examples below are some of our most popular. Contact us for more possibilities!

Programs Include

Animals in Architecture: Children discover the many animals used to decorate the insides of old houses, such as birds found in wallpaper and lions staring out from fireplaces. They then decorate their own house pictures to take home.

*The Big Red Barn: Pierce House was once surrounded by farmland. In this program, we read The Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown and Felicia Bond, and discuss what kinds of animals the Pierces would have kept on their farm and what types of food, labor, and products the farmers would get from each animal. Children create a red paper barn filled with their favorite animals.

Firefighting: The Shaughnessy family had three generations of Boston fire fighters.  We will look at pictures and compare tools and equipment that evolved over the generations.  We will read Magnus at the Fire by Jennifer Armstrong and see how a fire horse has to adapt when a new engine is brought to the fire station.  Students will make a paper fire engine craft to take home.

From Caterpillar to Butterfly:  Through Samuel Pierce’s journal we will also discover how insects can be both good and bad on a farm.  How does a caterpillar turn into a butterfly?  We will read, A Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle before creating beautiful caterpillars and butterflies.

*From Sheep to Shawl: How do we get from sheep to a warm wool sweater? Children find out with this story, Farmer Brown Shears His Sheep: A Yarn About Wool, by Teri Sloat. We bring real wool to pass around and children can try their hand at carding the wool. Each child makes a cotton-ball sheep to take home.

Gardens: We read Whose Garden Is It? and find out how insects, animals, and plants interact and what helps make a garden grow.  The Pierce family had a kitchen garden in the eighteenth century where they would have grown different types of herbs.  We discuss what the herbs were used for and students make herbal sachets and design a colonial herb garden to take home.

*Gingerbread Baby: We will read Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett, compare a gingerbread house to the Pierce House and decorate a paper gingerbread house to bring home.

Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon: Historic New England invites students to explore the story of Bobbi Gibb and her journey to the starting line of the Boston Marathon. Using the book, Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon, students will meet Bobbi, an extraordinary athlete who faced numerous challenges to do what she loved, running! Students will examine a variety of shoes from Historic New England’s collection, artifacts from the Boston Marathon races, and create their own medal to take home with them.

*George Washington: We will read George Washington by Lori H. Houran and discuss the life and accomplishments of George Washington. Following the story, students will recreate their own portraits of George Washington and make a paper tricorn hat to wear.

*Hardscrabble Harvest: What could destroy a farmer’s crops?  What could a farmer do to protect his crops?  Read Hardscrabble Harvest by Dahlov Ipcar to hear about the battle between a farm family and some mischievous animals before making a paper scarecrow.

Harvest: What kind of work does it take to make a garden grow?  Read Harvest by Kris Waldherr to learn all about how a young girl grows a magnificent and bountiful fall garden.  Students make a paper cornucopia to take home.

Hornbooks: We will look at pictures of hornbooks before reading a silly book about the alphabet, called A is for Salad by Mike Lester.  Students will then make their own paper hornbooks, drawing pictures for each letter of the alphabet.

*Little Apple Goat: We will read Little Apple Goat by Caroline Jayne Church.  This is a story about a goat who eats apples, cherries, and pears on a farm.  The Pierce family grew these fruits on their farm as well.  Students will either make a goat puppet to take home or do a simple apple craft.

*The Little House: Historic New England will introduce students to the 1683 Pierce House in Dorchester before reading The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton to compare and contrast country life versus city life.  After the program, students can design their own country and city landscapes and make a 3-D house to place on top.

*Lobsterman: What are some ways of making a living from the ocean? We read Lobsterman by Dahlov Ipcar and discuss all the work it takes to maintain a boat and traps. Students discover the importance of lobster buoys in a fishing community and design and paint a unique buoy of their own.

*The Magic of Music: Melba’s Triumph: Historic New England invites students to explore the life of Melba Liston. Using the book, Little Melba and her Big Trombone, students will meet Melba, an extraordinary jazz trombonist who faced numerous challenges in her life to create toe-tapping tunes. Students will look at instruments from the past, listen to Melba’s music, and create a musical instrument to take home with them.

*Oceans:  We will have a brief discussion about where food came from long ago.  Children will learn about the types of food Samuel Pierce caught in the ocean and then read, What the Sea Saw by Stephanie St. Pierre.  Each child will create an ocean scene using tissue paper.

*Power of the Wind: We will read I Face the Wind by Vicki Cobb and try out some fun wind-based science experiments and activities.  Students will each make and color a pinwheel to take home.

*Sam Bennett’s New Shoes: We read the book Sam Bennett’s New Shoes by Jennifer Thermes and discuss how everyday life was different in the past from the way it is today. One boy and one girl dress up in reproduction clothing and all of the children make colonial paper dolls.

*Seasons: Children learn all about the changing seasons through a story about a little boy and his favorite apple tree. After reading The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons, students make a fall tree with tissue-paper leaves.

*Shadows & Silhouettes: Where do shadows come from? Students will find out about different sources of light, how shadows are made and why darkness comes at night. Students will have fun playing a shadow guessing game, before learning about the history behind silhouettes and looking at examples of silhouettes from Historic New England’s collection. We will also read The Lonely Shadow by Clay Rice before creating shadow pictures or making silhouettes.

*Shapes in Buildings: We read City Shapes by Diana Murray to identify shapes used in architectural features.  While looking at pictures of Historic New England homes, students identify the shapes they see in each building.  Students then design their own buildings using shapes or try to re-create one of the Historic New England homes.

Silhouettes: Students will look at samples of silhouettes from Historic New England’s collection before making their own.

*Stories in Quilts: We will read the book, The Quilt Story by Tony Johnston and discuss how for centuries people have taken bits of cloth and used them to make colorful quilts and blankets. Looking at the pictures in the book we will talk about the different kinds of designs that are on quilts. Each child will make a paper patchwork quilt.

Self-Portraits: What makes you special? We will read the book, What I Like About Me! by Allia Zobel Nolan and Miki Sakamoto, and discuss what makes each of us similar and different. Children will look at a few portraits from Historic New England’s collection before creating their own self-portraits.

*Triumphs and Trophies: What is Evacuation Day all about anyway?  Historic New England will share the exciting true story of an often forgotten hero of the American Revolution, Henry Knox.  In Henry and the Cannons by Don Brown, we will read how Henry was able to accomplish what was thought to be an impossible feat and his determination helped to change the course of the war right here in Boston. After the war, Henry Knox became a member of the Society of the Cincinnati, which was formed by fellow patriots who had served in the Continental Army, and he proposed a design for their medal of honor.  We will explore the symbolism of their medal and children can design and create a medal for their own unsung hero.

Weather: We will read Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak to discuss the weather in different months.  We will also look at excerpts from Samuel Pierce’s journal and almanac where he recorded different weather events. Students will make and decorate a calendar.

*When I Was Built: Together we will look at reproduction artifacts and read When I Was Built by Jennifer Thermes, to compare life in the past with life in the present.  Students will each make a “Then and Now” memory matching game to bring home.

*When Spring Comes: New England is known for its constantly changing seasons. While reading the book When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes, students will learn to recognize the signs of spring while discussing what changes took place on the Pierce family farm during the spring season. Following the story, students will create a spring inspired art project and take home a five senses scavenger hunt worksheet, so they can look, listen, touch, smell, and taste the signs of spring in their own neighborhoods.


Program Details

Available weekdays, year-round, for ages 3 – 6. Programs last 45 to 60 minutes.

Maximum Group Size: 25

Cost at Pierce House: $75 for up to 14 students, $100 for 15 – 25 students

Cost at Your Site: $100 per session, $50 for each additional same-day session

Type of Program: Field Trips, Programs to Go, Preschool, Summer Programs, After School

Related Topics: Colonial Life, Farming, Story and Crafts

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