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A Window into the Communitarian Moment

Grades 8-12 Lesson Plan Using the Radical Equality Online Exhibit

Radical Values and a Vision of Change

Lesson Overview

This lesson is broken into three parts; 1) Understanding the basics, 2) Exploring the members, and 3) Connecting to national reform movements of the era. During this lesson students will build a clear understanding of the Northampton Association of Education and Industry (NAEI) by using the website to explore its background, member biographies, letters, and Constitution. Once students have a thorough understanding of the NAEI, they will make connections to the other utopian communities and the larger national reforms of the era. Finally, students will analyze Frederick Douglass’ 1852 Independence Day speech by comparing the ideas and ideals of Douglass to those of the Northampton Association.

Lesson Time

Two to three class periods. (Activities can be done all together or stand alone in pieces based on time constraints and teacher objectives.) This lesson meets many of the MA Curriculum Frameworks Standards.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson students will…


  • The goals of the Northampton Association of Education and Industry.
  • The goals of the abolitionist movement according to Frederick Douglass and NAEI.



  • Why and how people try to create change in society.
  • Why people chose to join utopian communities.
  • How local history is national history.
  • How NAEI serves as a window of the larger national movements of the time.


Be able to:

  • Evaluate the goals of the NAEI.
  • Connect the goals, actions, and experiences of the members of the NAEI with the larger national movements of the era.
  • Compare and contrast the goals of Frederick Douglass with those of the Association.


Language Objectives

  • Students will use guiding questions to explore the background summaries, primary documents, and biographies to gain an understanding of NAEI and their members.
  • Students will use Venn diagrams to compare and contrast Douglass’s speech with the goals of the NAEI.
    Class will read Frederick Douglass speech together with guiding questions and key stop points.


Essential Questions

  • Why and how to people create change in society?
  • Why do people resist change in society?
  • How does religion affect people’s actions and understandings of society?
  • How is local history national history?



All of the handouts and worksheets needed for this lesson are on the Downloads page. You can either download Word versions of the items or link to pdf files in Google Docs/Google Drive.




  1. Give students the website address for the Northampton Association of Education and Industry:
  2. Distribute Understanding the Northampton Association Guiding Questions Worksheet or have students download and type as they go.
  3. Direct students to the Step 1 on the 8-12th Grade Curriculum Page.
  4. From this page students will use the background information summaries, the first letter from James to Dolly Stetson, and the Articles and By-laws of the Association to collect information. **Side note: Make sure to be clear with students how you want them to keep track of the primary documents they found—should they pull out quotes? Should they just keep track of the document?
  5. Review answers as a class if necessary to make sure students have correct and clear findings. An alternative method could – be to have students form small groups to discuss what they found and share ideas after completing basic research.



  1. Distribute the Members Guiding Organizer or have students download and type as they go.
  2. Direct students to the Step 2 on the 8-12th Grade Curriculum Page.
  3. From this page students will read over the biographies of members and visitors to the Association.
  4. Using the guiding organizer students will answer some general questions about the members of the Northampton Association. Students will then choose one member to further explore and research. Students will be asked to find 4 letters or other primary documents relating directly to the member they have chosen. ***Side note: Depending on the degree to which you want students to have a thorough understanding of each of the members on the website, you may choose to approach this part differently. If you want students to have a full understanding of all the member information available, then you should assign members to students. If you are not as concerned about having all the member information, letting students choose allows for differentiation by student preference and might help pique student interest.
  5. Review answers as a class if necessary to make sure students have correct and clear findings. An alternative method could be to have students form small groups to discuss what they found and share ideas after completing their member research.



  1. Distribute the compare and contrast chart entitled “Connecting to the National Movements”.
  2. As a class brainstorm the key movements of the 1830/40s reform era. Have students create a list in the left hand column of those reforms.
  3. As a class brainstorm the actions of the association that related to any of the reforms on the left. Have students draw arrow across the chart to connect national to local reforms. Help students fill in missing information. ***Side note: To extend this activity, send students back to the main background information pages to look for the connections to the national reforms in the left column. Students can read the background and explore related links to letters and documents. Students will be able to find clear links to many of the major and minor reforms of the era.
  4. Distribute Douglass’ Independence Day Speech and corresponding discussion questions.
  5. As a class, read through Douglass’ Speech using stop points and discussion questions to foster understanding of the goals and ideals of Douglass’ and his speech.
  6. Distribute the Douglass Venn diagram. With a partner have students complete the Venn Diagram comparing Douglass goals with the goals of the Northampton Association. ***Side note: If you would like to do this activity without doing all of the other activities above, there is a list of NAEI goals that you could distribute to students to help them complete the diagram.



To end this lesson revisit the objectives with students to assess their understanding. Use the “Understand” objectives and essential questions as wrap-up discussion questions to help students synthesize the information they have been researching.

Upcoming Workshops

Landmark College Institute for Research and Training - Summer Institute for Educators June 25-27, 2024 - Putney, Vermont  The program of the 3-day conference…
July 15 - 8:30am - 3pm - Collaborative for Educational Services, 97 Hawley Street, Northampton, Massachusetts. Register. This workshop is full. Email events@co…
Join DESE Civics Pathways Professional Learning The DESE Civics Pathways are an initiative of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Educat…