Massachusetts: A Unit Study

On February 6, 1788, Massachusetts became the 6th state to enter the Union.

Massachusetts History

Massachusetts can claim some of the richest history of any state in the United States.  The first noted explorer of the area was Bartholomew Gosnold in 1602 in the English ship Concord, 18 years before the Pilgrims landed.  It was Gosnold who gave Cape Cod its name after “taking in a great store of codfish,” according to the diary of one of his companions.

Massachusetts: A Unit Study

The Pilgrims settled in Plymouth Colony in 1620, battling a harsh winter that first year that killed over half of them.  The Massachusetts Bay Company brought more settlers, emigrants that settled Salem and then Boston.  Massachusetts troops fought off the French and the Indians, and then the state became quite prosperous trading fish, lumber, and other products with the West Indies.  British attempts to control trade ultimately led to the Revolutionary War and the shot heard round the world at Concord, and the signing of the Declaration of Independence by Massachusetts resident John Hancock.

John Adams largely wrote the draft of the constitution for the state of Massachusetts. The draft, adopted in 1780, made the state the first to abolish slavery.  The United States Constitution was ratified by the state on February 6, 1788, and Massachusetts became a part of the United States.

Massachusetts Geography

A series of bays open to the entire eastern border of Massachusetts, hence its nickname “The Bay State.”  The state is bordered by New York on the west, Vermont and New Hampshire on the north, and Connecticut and Rhode Island to the south.  Massachusetts is the third most populated state in the Union and the seventh smallest in size.

The state can be divided into three main geographic regions.  The western and central uplands consisting of mountains, hills, and valleys cover more than half of the state. The name Massachusetts is an Indian word that can be translated “place of the great hill.”  The upland region is home to the Connecticut River, the largest river in New England. The seaboard region with its rocky shorelines and harbors is smoother than the upland region with less farmable land and is the most densely populated.  Finally, the coastal plain region is home to the Cape Cod peninsula and other islands thought to be formed by glacial deposits such as Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

Massachusetts is known for its frequent changes in weather.  The nor’easters that result from the convergence of cold, dry air from the north and warm, moist air from the south can quickly drop a foot or more of snow.  Winter is the longest season with temperatures hovering around freezing, followed by a short spring and warm summer with the temperature on average around 80 degrees.

Massachusetts Economy

By the early 1900s Massachusetts was primarily an industrial state, and the recession after World War I hit the textile industry extremely hard.  Today the manufactured goods consist primarily of machinery and electronic equipment, the economy depending largely on the service industry, along with some agricultural and mining products.

Interesting Massachusetts Facts

Many famous people have made Massachusetts their home:

  • Label the following on a map of Massachusetts (see Notebooking Pages below):
    • Boston (state capital)
    • Springfield
    • Cape Cod
    • Lexington
    • Connecticut River
    • Bordering states
    • Atlantic Ocean

Further Investigation

Quick Facts

Elected Officials
Massachusetts elected officials.

Massachusetts Facts
Includes timelines, information on natives of Massachusetts, information on the flag, and more.

Massachusetts Facts
All of the facts (and more) in a free 58-page download.


Massachusetts Corn Muffins
Cook up a corn muffin selected by school children as the state muffin representing a staple of New England cooking.

Boston Cream Pie
The official state dessert!  Or try an easier version that uses a cake mix and a box of pudding mix.

Toll House Cookie
The official state cookie was invented at the Toll House restaurant in Whitman, Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Map and Quiz Printout
From Enchanted Learning.

Interactive Writing Tool {Free}
Create a state brochure using this interactive printing press.

Interactive Map Maker
Make and label your own map of Massachusetts.

The U.S.: 50 States Map Quiz
Locate each state at


A Guide to Historic Plymouth {Free eBook}
Visit 37 “Localities and Objects of Interest.”

“The Founding of Massachusetts”
A chapter from This Country of Ours by H.E. Marshall.

Make Way for Ducklings {Free Video & Activities}

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Fun tie-in that takes place in Boston.  Read our full review along with a free video and activities.

Squanto: Friend of the Pilgrims

Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla
Biography of the Indian who befriended the Pilgrims settling along the Massachusetts shore.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
Family favorite about the man who wrote the book on navigation — literally.  Set in Salem, Massachusetts.

My State Notebook

My State Notebook
From A Beka. “A basic guide to help students collect and learn the facts that are unique to their state as well as beginning research skills.”

Civics Activity Book

Civics Activity Book
Also from A Beka, but written for a higher level than the above title, this activity book guides state research “in a study of national, state, and local government with a brief overview of the Constitution and a variety of interesting activity sheets. In addition to government, students also study the history, geography, and other characteristics of their state and local areas.” We have enjoyed many of the activities in this book, which include writing letters to state officials, researching the state history and other activities.

State Birds and Flowers Coloring Book

State Birds and Flowers Coloring Book
Inexpensive option from Dover Publishing. Also check out their United States Coloring Book that has a state outline, symbols, and facts on one page.

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans

Color Massachusetts Teacher’s Guide
Lesson plans that go with the free booklet below (see Printables & Notebooking Pages section).

Free History Studies: John Winthrop
First governor of Massachusetts.

Free History Studies: Louisa May Alcott
Author of Little Women who resided in Massachusetts.

Free History Studies: Four Boys Who Became Authors

Free History Studies: Four Boys Who Became Authors
Covering William Cullen Bryant, Nathaniel Hawthorn, William H. Prescott, and Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., all authors from the state of Massachusetts.

Free Science Studies: Samuel Morse & the Telegraph
Samuel Morse was born in Massachusetts.

Free Science Studies: Elias Howe & the Sewing Machine

Free Science Studies: Elias Howe & the Sewing Machine
Elias Howe was born in Massachusetts.

Free Science Studies: Eli Whitney & the Cotton Gin
Eli Whitney was born in Massachusetts.

My State {Free Unit Study}
A recommended state study unit that covers civics, history, geography, language arts, applied math, science, and art, culminating in a personalized state notebook. We have also included additional go-along resources.

State History Outline & Projects
A wealth of original ideas and projects for making any state study a work of art!

Studying the 50 United States
Suggestions for a unit on any state from

Printables & Notebooking Pages

Massachusetts State Maps for Notebook

Massachusetts State Facts Coloring Pages for Notebook

Color Massachusetts
Free 17-page download with facts and activities.

U.S. States and Capitals Map
Color Massachusetts and write in the capital on this printable at

Massachusetts Notebooking Pages
Simple pages for copywork, narrations, recording state facts, or wrapping up.

View all of our state unit studies:
Free State Unit Studies
Free State Unit Studies

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