Keep The Lights Burning Mr. Fresnel

Carolyn Carnevale

Grade Level: Elementary


The purpose of this unit is to teach students about lighthouses in general and how lighthouses in Rhode Island are directly related to the geography of our state. Since our state borders the Atlantic Ocean, students will learn the importance of lighthouses to the people of Rhode Island and where the lighthouses are located. This unit will be designed to provide students with information and activities that will answer the question: What is unique about the coast of Rhode Island that made it necessary to build so many lighthouses? In addition, why are so few lighthouses needed today?


No. 1 Knows and understands how to use maps, globes, and other graphical tools to acquire, process, and report information.

No. 4 Knows and understands the physical and human characteristics of places.

No. 11 Knows and understands the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth’s surface.

No 15 Knows and understands how the earth’s physical environment affect human activities.


Students will demonstrate their ability:

  1. To construct a map of RI, identifying important features within the state.
  2. To identify a location for a new lighthouse, with supporting details.
  3. To understand absolute and relative location and use them to answer questions about a map.
  4. To learn to use the Internet and successfully manipulate their way around web sites, and be able to use the web sites to learn information that is useful in this unit.
  5. To determine the physical and human characteristics of lighthouses in general and in Rhode Island.
  6. To learn about the communication and transportation systems that link people and lighthouses.
  7. To explore the ways in which people adapted to, modified and depended upon our coastal environment and lighthouses.

The World in Spatial Terms

Places and Regions

Human Systems Environment and Society Students will use events in the stories to create a timeline. They will compare lighthouses and their keepers of the 1800’s to lighthouses and the keepers of today. Students will write three diary entries from 3 different points of view. From a lighthouse keeper as he leaves the responsibility of tending to the light to his 11 year old child. From the point of view of an 11 year old who has to tend the light. From the point of view of a lighthouse keeper focusing on his duties during the 1800’s. In the winter of 1856, a storm delays the lighthouse keeper's return to an island off the coast of Maine, and his daughter Abbie must keep the lights burning by herself. Ronnie and his aunt are tending the Tern Rock lighthouse while the keeper takes a vacation. Ronnie loves living in the lighthouse, and looks forward to telling his family about it at Christmas. But the days go by, and the lighthouse keeper doesn't return to take them home. When her father's return to a Maine lighthouse is delayed by a severe storm, Miranda must keep the light going despite brutal weather and her own illness. This book discusses the history of women as American lighthouse keepers, it begins in Revolutionary War days and continues into the twentieth century . . .. Four chapters highlight: . . . Ida Lewis of Newport, Rhode Island; Kate Walker of New York Harbor; Harriet Colfax of Michigan City, Indiana; and Emily Fish of California's Monterey Peninsula. The last chapter introduces a number of other women who gained renown as lighthouse keepers. With the help of his grandfather, Jim researches his favorite lighthouse for a school project and in the process learns about the father he lost to the Gulf War. Includes brief histories of the lighthouses of South Carolina.


Students will work in groups to construct a model of an authentic Rhode Island lighthouse made entirely from recycled materials. The Lighthouse will be made to scale and will have an operating light.

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