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Inquiry Question

Historical Context

Maps

Readings

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About This Lesson

This lesson is based on the National Historic Landmark file, “Navesink Light Station” (with photographs), and the National Register of Historic Places nomination, “Robbins Reef Light Station,” as well as other primary and secondary sources related to the two lighthouses. It was written by Karmen Bisher, former Maritime Historian, National Park Service; Shannon Davis, Historian/National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers Contractor; and Jennifer Perunko, former Maritime Historian, National Park Service. The lesson was edited by the Teaching with Historic Places Staff. This lesson is one in a series that brings the important stories of historic places into classrooms across the country.

Where it fits into the curriculum
Topics: The lesson could be used in U.S. history, social studies, and geography courses in units on nineteenth century and early twentieth century commerce or transportation, and to help students understand the role that maritime industries played in American history. The lesson could also be used to enhance studies related to the industrial revolution and women’s history.
Time period: 1820s to early twentieth century.
Relevant United States History Standards for Grades 5-12
Relevant Curriculum Standards for Social Studies
Find your state's social studies and history standards for grades Pre-K-12

Objectives for students
1) To explain how and why the federal government took an active role in protecting mariners by establishing and improving lighthouses.
2) To describe how better building materials, improved construction methods, and technological advancements affected lighthouses.
3) To compare and contrast the purpose, location, design, and technology of Navesink Lighthouse and Robbins Reef Lighthouse.
4) To list the major lighthouse keepers’ duties and explain how technological advancements affected these duties.
5) To analyze the development and impact of transportation systems of all kinds in their own community.

Materials for students
The materials listed below either can be used directly on the computer or can be printed out, photocopied, and distributed to students. The maps and images appear twice: in a small version with associated questions and alone in a larger version.
1) two maps showing New York Bay and Third District light stations;
2) three readings about Navesink Lighthouse and Robbins Reef Lighthouse;
3) two illustrations of entries from Light Lists;
4) four photographs of Navesink Lighthouse, Robbins Reef Lighthouse, a second-order bivalve Fresnel lens, and Lighthouse Keeper Kate Walker.

Visiting the site
The Navesink Light is located off Route 36 on Lighthouse Road, Highlands, New Jersey 07732. Today the north tower functions as a private aid to navigation and the building and grounds are open to the public. Visitors can climb the north tower and view a variety of museum exhibits in the north wing, including a Marconi Wireless Telegraph exhibit, in galleries that were once the living quarters for the keepers of the light. The second-order bivalve Fresnel lens, which was installed in the south tower in 1898, is on display in the Power House building. The Power House is located southwest of the lighthouse and originally housed generators that powered the carbon arc electric light. Other structures available for viewing on the grounds of the historic site focus on the United States Life Saving Service located in the Spermaceti Cove Life Boat Station, a building relocated from Sandy Hook in 1954. The building houses the submarine-like Francis Lifecar, which was used by the U.S. Life Saving Station to rescue shipwreck victims along the New Jersey coast. The museum, tower, and gift shop are open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM, Memorial Day through Labor Day. The rest of the year, the building is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM. The grounds are open year-round from 9 AM to sunset. For group tours and reservations, contact Twin Lights Historic Site at (732) 872-1814 or via email at curator@twin-lights.org. Visit http://www.twin-lights.org/home.htm for additional information.

The Robbins Reef Light is located in New Jersey waters on the west side of the Main Channel in Upper New York Bay, just off the northern tip of Staten Island, New York. The United States Coast Guard owns and operates the active light year-round and it is closed to the public. The lighthouse is visible from the Staten Island Ferry. The ferry departs from the Whitehall Terminal at Whitehall Street and South Street in Lower Manhattan and from the St. George Ferry Terminal at Richmond Terrace on Staten Island.

 

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