A leader of Salem: Nathaniel Bowditch

Teaching Strategies

Enduring Understandings

  1. Leaders of the past can inspire us today.
  2. There are different kinds of leaders, each of whom has different talents and skills.

Learning Objectives
  1. Students will learn the story of Nathaniel Bowditch and his contributions to navigation.
  2. Students will relate the story of Bowditch to other famous people from Salem.
  3. Students will begin to understand their own definition of leadership.
  4. Students will begin to look at and understand other cultures and their definition of leadership.
  5. Students will begin to understand their own definition of what is a hero.
  6. Students will identify contemporary leaders and heroes in Salem.
  7. Students will begin to understand the necessity of leadership and the interconnectivity of the Salem community.

Preparations/Supplies Needed

Print copies of the Nathaniel Bowditch Story (previous section of this Learning Center). You may also gather biographical information about other historic figures from Salem.



I: Ask students what qualities they would look for in a leader. Use large newsprint paper or a flip chart to write their responses. Ask students why they chose the qualities on the paper.

II: Have students read the story of Nathaniel Bowditch. Ask them if Bowditch fits their definition of a leader.

III: Conduct a discussion on the qualities of leadership. Ask the students the following guide questions:

    a. What do you consider to be the most important quality of a leader?

    b. What contemporary leader fits your definition?

    c. Who are some contemporary leaders that you do not like? Why?

    d. What are some of the different kinds of leaders? Describe.


After going around the room and seeing whom students have chosen as their definitive leaders, engage them in a comparative discussion. Do any of the students disagree with another's choice? Why?

IV: Have students read the leadership stories from Alaska and Hawai‘i. Now add them to the discussion. Do they fit the student's definition of leadership? Turn the discussion now to how various cultures look at and define leadership. How do they differ from their definition? What are the factors that determine that definition?


I: Students will now begin to discuss the idea of heroes. Use the following guide questions as cues:

    a. Are leaders heroes?

    b. What makes a person a hero?

    c. Who do we as a nation hold up as heroes?

    d. Who are considered heroes in The Native American cultures of Alaska? Hawai‘i?

    e. Who are contemporary leaders in our own community?

    f. Are they heroes? Explain.


II: Begin a discussion about your contemporary community. Who do the students consider to be the leaders/heroes of their community?

III: Ask students to identify civic, cultural, economic, and governmental leaders or heroes.

IV: Students will now describe why they have chosen these people. Have each student write the name of the person or people they have chosen on an 8"x11" piece of paper.

V: Students will then write a brief paragraph describing why they chose that person.


I: Students will contact the person they have chosen as their contemporary leader/hero and ask that person to name who they would consider to be a contemporary leader/hero in their community. They will then ask them to describe why they have chosen that person and write down their remarks. Students will continue this until they have a total of five people.

II: Students will come together and bring the results of their search to the class.

III: Have students look at the names they had written on the 8"x11" paper earlier in the project and see how many of the names appear in the ladders.

IV: As an extra component to the project, ask students to take photo portraits of each of the people in their leadership ladder to display along with their remarks.