Promotional collage for "Big Little Town" by the Needham Historical Society.
Georgia Meyer, GBP Student
Every day on my drive to school I pass the Town Hall, historically distinguished houses, Hershey train station, and all kinds of old churches. I also pass a Dunkin’ Donuts, a Japanese steak house, and a unnecessarily high number of Closet Exchanges. I never really give any of these sites any extra thought. Maybe the occasional, “I really want a coffee”, or, “maybe I’ll take the train into the city this weekend”, but nothing to appreciate the vast history of Needham. I never think about the difference between Needham Bank and Citizen’s Bank— just two places to cash a check or get some money, when in reality only Needham Bank has a fascinating history, complete with a robbery. After watching Big Little Town, my ride to school has become a little less boring. Sitting in traffic at the intersection of Great Plain and Webster means looking at house with a plaque stating it was built in the 1800’s and wondering what it has seen.
Big Little Town is a film created by Kathryn Dietz and Marc Mandel to honor Needham’s 300 years of history for its year-long tricentennial celebration. The film examines different aspects of Needham’s creation; from its original split from Dedham and Wellesley to its ethnically divided neighborhoods in the 20th century. The film looks at images drawn more than 300 years ago and interviews Needham residents today. The effect is an intriguing and relatable story which pulls together all the pieces of Needham we see today.
I was particularly interested in the story of William Baker. I remember hearing brief snippets of the story throughout the years but nothing that stuck with me for too long. But when I heard the details of Baker’s eccentric personality and saw the pictures of the attractions he commissioned in Big Little Town I was amazed! A friend of mine, and fellow GBP student, lives on a piece of what’s left of the estate, so I have had the chance to see how beautiful it is. I can just imagine what it would have looked like with the gardens, the rides, and the hotel it had back in its glory days.
When I walked into class and found out we were watching a movie right before April Break, I was just glad to have a class I could relax in for a little like every other student. But, by the time the movie was over, I was filled with excitement; I was ready to share what I had learned with my friends and family and maybe find out more about my town on my own.
Illustration of the Boston Tea Party (History.com) & A modern view of the Boston Harbor (The Pioneer Institute)
Trevor Ress, GBP Student
A common question in American history is, what essentially started the Revolutionary war? A question like this is what the Greater Boston Project loves to answer, especially through a cultural perspective.
Recently, I demonstrated my ability of understanding cultural change by analyzing how economic factors affected the rising tensions of the American Revolution with some of my classmates. To begin this process, we were divided into small groups to read and examine an excerpt called, People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. Basically, Zinn argues that the main source of anti-British sentiment occurred because there was, “the mobilization of lower-class energy by upper-class politicians, for their own purposes”. In other words, Zinn was claiming that higher class citizens of the colonies were utilizing their politics to keep a wealth barrier between them and the lower class citizens through taxes and such.
After reviewing the first article, we were then asked to view two other excerpts from Colonial Economy and A Short History of American Capitalism by Alice Hanson Jones and Meyer Weinberg. Both articles had conflicting views on whether the lower class citizens needed more compensation or not. After evaluation of the three articles, all groups came together for a class discussion, either supporting or disproving the claims made by Howard Zinn on the rise of the American Revolution. Each group made their statement based off evidence they found in the other two articles given.
The purpose of this activity is to practice a content-based skill of how and why change occurs throughout history. While in our Pre-Revolution unit, we examine causes of change, how change occurred, effects of change, and trends and patterns that led up to the Revolutionary war. This learning goal of cultural change is always expressed in the Greater Boston Project’s topics: Population, Government, Economy, Education, and Arts and Leisure. In this case, this activity consisted of Economy and Government.
Personally, sometimes I find this learning goal hard to grasp, but when understood in a situation it is really cool to see the roots of how an entire society changed. Putting myself in a colonist’s shoes, I can imagine my indignation for being unnecessarily taxed and ultimately wanting to rebel against my mother country even though it may be absurd. Whether I continue to grow up in the Greater Boston area or not, somewhere, I might unconsciously be apart of a cultural change for better or worse. If I lived in Boston when I’m older, I could just fall into the flow of a new paradigm shift like more environment oriented housing or the rise in technology efficiency. I will just be a small piece of the gradual process in these paradigm shifts so to me it will seem as if the norm has not changed.
Bony Ganugapanta, GBP Student
Last block GBP at the end of the day can be either a good thing or a bad thing. Sometimes there is lots of work to be done at the end of the day and people are so tired, they’re already zoned out. Other times, an activity is posted on Google Classroom, people are excited, and everything is fun. On a lazy Thursday afternoon a few weeks ago, as I walked into GBP, I wondered whether GBP that day would be a good thing or bad thing. I didn’t have to think long about the bad because standing alone in the middle of the room, was the celebrity himself: Mr. Starr! Three teachers for 44 kids works pretty well most of the time. Two teachers? Maybe with a little luck. One teacher? Hmm... But this wasn’t just any teacher. This was Mr. Starr, the legend himself. He always something or the other up his sleeve and on that day, it was two documents about Pope’s day.
Now some of you may be thinking, “Huh? Pope’s day?? Must be some sort of special day to celebrate the pope…?” Wrong. Those two documents shed some light on one fateful day over the span of two years. The first document (both taken out of a newspaper and accounted for by a man named Rev. James Freedman) focused on the civil war between the colonists while the second focused on a origins of a revolution between the colonists and England. On November 5, 1764, fires blazed across the town of Boston in the wake of yet another burning of a scarecrow looking like the pope of England. People were not happy with the way things were going in England. The requirement of payment in Boston to consent for the Seven Years War was not taken well by the citizens. The Colonists absolutely despised England, and the Pope being the figurehead, was burned in the streets of Boston, to encase their hatred toward the King. An excerpt from the poem shows the strength of the hatred:
A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
A penn'orth of cheese to choke him,
A pint of beer to wash it down,
And a jolly good fire to burn him.
Oh yeah, these people were real friendly. After the two sides were done burning the pope, they came upon agreement to fight each other, splitting themselves up as the North End and the South End. The reason for this brutality? The intense sectionalism present between the North End and South End of Boston. Both sides were very vehement toward each other on the topic of sports, business, fashion, etc. In those fights, many people were bruised, and accumulated broken hands, legs, and heads. These people just came out in the evening and… fought. Weird? Yeah. But it's alright, because that's about as weird as it gets.
The two groups don't fight each other long. By November 5, 1765, the two groups became allies as they turned to a common enemy: England. England had recently passed the Stamp Act in further compensation for the cost of Seven Years War. Their “mother country” had taken away their freedoms and abused them, and the colonists were not going to stand for that. Even now, in the modern day, people in England will come out and burn the scarecrow of the pope, proclaiming the well known phrase around the year of 1765, "Remember, remember the fifth of November!"
Katy Larkin, GBP Student
In the Greater Boston Project we explore Boston through many different activities with a heavy focus on group work. Everyday we work on class activities in groups which helps us learn how to work together to create the best final product. We have learned how to give constructive criticism and the importance of contributing all we can for our group. We then use these collaboration skills we have learned to work on long term projects with a group. This has many similar elements to our in-class group work, but it also has added complications. For example, on long term assignments people must take the initiative to complete their work in a timely manner to give their group time to give feedback.
We just finished working on a project about propaganda during the time of heightened unrest between Great Britain and the Massachusetts colony. Groups are focusing on the controversial acts passed by Great Britain and the outcomes of these legislations. This project is different from other projects we have done because we are given much more creative license on a large scale. While we have done creative work before, like in the in-class activity on “Puritan at Play” which had to do with arts and leisure in the Puritan times where we made videos in which we wrote our own script. However, for this propaganda project our skits were much longer and more in depth in regard to historical information, as well as performed in front of the entire class. Every group presented their skit to teach our peers about the event or legislation we researched. To assist us in our skit-making, the teachers even created their own skit with the same guidelines that we were given, focusing instead on a modern-day issue: the relocation of the Hillside school in Needham. Their skit was engaging and informative, showing us what we should all strive to create.
In addition to our own pre-revolutionary skits, we created two pieces of propaganda to incorporate in our skits. One of the pieces had to be from the viewpoint of Great Britain or those whom supported the “mother country” and the other was created from the viewpoint of the colonial settlers who were against the legislation. The purpose of this was to help us show and understand both sides of the story in the events leading up to the American Revolution. We were able to get ideas for our propaganda when we went into Boston a few weeks ago, as other blog posts have discussed. At the Massachusetts Historical Society we looked at authentic propaganda from the time period we are researching. These propaganda artifacts were really helpful in showing us the language and persuasion tactics used during this time. From songs to drawings, this trip to the Massachusetts Historical Society sparked many great ideas for propaganda in our class.
I liked this project because creating our own skits and propaganda was fun and different from other projects we’ve done. I also thought it was great for educational purposes because in order to create these things we really had to understand our topic.
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