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This inquiry asks students to examine the way monuments and memorials, built to commemorate significant people and events in New Hampshire history, teach about the past while also communicating the values and ideas of the surrounding community. Working through a series of supporting questions and formative tasks, students use primary and secondary sources to develop an understanding of the unique way physical structures allow people to learn about history. This inquiry is intended to develop students’ critical thinking about the components that make monuments and memorials effective: design, narrative, and public access. The inquiry concludes with a summative task that challenges students to present an argument about whether or not monuments and memorials are a good way to commemorate our state history.
NOTE: This inquiry is expected to take three to five 40-minute class periods. The inquiry time frame could expand if teachers think their students need additional instructional experiences (i.e., more supporting questions, formative performance tasks, and featured sources). Please adapt all the material in this inquiry, as necessary, to meet the needs of the students in your classroom.

Compelling Question:
Are memorials and monuments the best way to commemorate the past?


Supporting Question

What helps us learn about the past?

Formative Task

Create a list of the many ways we learn about and remember the events and people of long ago.
Pine Tree Riot Monument

Supporting Question

Why do people build monuments and memorials?

Formative Task

Examine the sources and create a t-chart that compares the purpose of a physical structure to another mode of commemoration.
My Mother the Wind Manchester Saint Patrick's Day Parade Population of New Hampshire, 1850—1930

Supporting Question

How much do monuments and memorials tell us about a person or event?

Formative Task

Examine the sources and write a caption that explains the person or event commemorated by the monument or memorial and identifies remaining questions.
Old Man of the Mountain Viewing Plaza African Burying Ground Memorial, Portsmouth New Hampshire Holocaust Memorial John Stark Statue Harriet Wilson Statue

Staging the Question

If you were walking down the street and passed a large stone wheel, what would you think it meant?

Summative Performance Task


Are memorials and monuments the best way to commemorate the past? Write a persuasive essay that states a claim in response to this question and supports the claim with evidence from the sources.


Who decides which monuments and memorials are built and where they are placed? Investigate a local monument to learn more about its origin story.

Taking Informed Action


The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources maintains a collection of 275 signs placed at locations across the state that commemorate important people, places, and events in our state’s history. These historical markers are physical objects, like monuments and memorials, that are also intended to help people understand the past.


Which monuments, memorials, and historical markers are located in your neighborhood, town, or city? Does one need to be highlighted for the benefit of the community? Does one need to be updated with new information?


Educate the community by planning an event or information campaign to spotlight an existing marker, monument, or memorial. Or, submit a proposal to revise a historical marker to the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources.