Mapping our Heritage – Introduction

A historical look back at the shaping of Salem County.
A curriculum with support materials in two units: 4th through 6th grades and 6th through 8th grades

In many ways Salem County is today what it was from the time of the earliest settlers, a place dependent on the land and waterways. It is the intent of this project to help new generations of Salem County citizens travel back in time to discover their county’s place in American history. The project blends geography, social studies, science and even a bit of literature to map the changes from the time the first settlers arrive on the banks of the Delaware River to the close of the eighteenth century. The students can travel through wilderness to experience the creation of colonies, a county, a state and a country. Starting with the first natives, through the revolution and civil war the project closes with the impact of science and technology as Salem County moved toward the twentieth century.   Most important are the stories of real human beings who came to this county for many different reasons and under different circumstances and at different times. They and their descendants shaped the county called Salem.

The curriculum is designed to be interactive, to encourage questions and discussion, to create projects that give the students some hands on experience and to engage students with guest speakers that can personalize the people and events.

The curriculum is separated into two units, the first designed to offer the 4th through 6th grades an adventure back to the first settlements through the Revolutionary War and the beginnings of a new nation. How did the area go from wilderness to a thriving group of communities? The second unit will have 6th through 8th graders looking at the struggles of Salem County during the Revolution and the making of the new nation. They will find out about why there was a need for government and education and how they came to be established locally. Salem County’s proximity to southern states brought about a unique involvement in the Underground Railroad and the Civil War. Finally the 19th Century saw the rise of technology that would change the county and the country more than any change since. Both units are designed to show how Salem County’s experiences fit and were affected by what was happening in the world around them and bring history to a more personal local level.

The overlap of 6th grade allows the district and teachers to tailor its use to fit the current school social study’s needs.

The curriculum includes information on specific times of development in the county and their “players.” There are suggested projects and activities, a guide to the origin of the names of places in the county, some short biographies of some of the county’s interesting citizens who were active prior to the 20th century including some of their contributions in the shaping of Salem County.

Those who worked on this project hope that you will find it useful.   It is considered a work in progress with more tools and information to be added in the coming years.

Rebecca Purchase, Project Coordinator