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Mary, Mary...

Language Arts: Standards 6 & 7, Using English language to communicate in multiple ways and for multiple purposes.

History: Focus Question II – Natural Environment and People – How have the natural environment and the way people live affected each other in New Hampshire? Focus Question VIII – Self Expression – How have New Hampshire people expressed their views, and what have they had to say?

Social Studies: Geography – Standard 10, Students will demonstrate the ability to use maps, mental maps, globes and other graphic tools and technologies to acquire, process, report and analyze geographic information.

Celia Thaxter was instrumental in attracting artists to the Isles of Shoals. Her writing was well known and read by adults and children alike.

Have your students locate the Isles of Shoals on a map. Ask if anyone has visited any of the islands. Discuss the environment found there and show photographs of the area. (Be sure that your students know that a sandpiper is a shore bird.)

Read some or all of Celia Thaxter’s poem Sandpiper (1872) to your students. Have them share their thoughts about the poem and then have them draw a picture of what they ‘see’ or ‘hear’ as they listen to the verses of the poem.

Sandpiper by Celia Thaxter

Across the narrow beach we flit,
  One little sandpiper and I,
And fast I gather, bit by bit,
  The scattered driftwood bleached and dry.
The wild waves reach their hands for it,
  The wild wind raves, the tide runs high,
As up and down the beach we flit,--
  One little sandpiper and I.

Above our heads the sullen clouds
  Scud black and swift across the sky;
Like silent ghosts in misty shrouds
  Stand out the white lighthouses high.
Almost as far as eye can reach
  I see the close-reefed vessels fly,
As fast we flit along the beach,--
  One little sandpiper and I.

I watch him as he skims along,
  Uttering his sweet and mournful cry.
He starts not at my fitful song,
  Nor flash of fluttering drapery.
He has no thought of any wrong;
  He scans me with a fearless eye:
Staunch friends are we, well tried and strong,
  The little sandpiper and I.

Comrade, where wilt thou be tonight,
  When the loosed storm breaks furiously?
My driftwood fire will burn so bright!
  To what warm shelter canst thou fly?
I do not fear for thee, though wroth
  The tempest rushes through the sky:
For are we not God's children both,
  Thou, little sandpiper, and I?

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Mary, Mary…
Visual Arts: Standard 2, Identify and apply the elements of visual art and principles of design,

Language Arts: Standard 3, Opportunities for speaking, listening and viewing.

The Currier’s Portrait of Mary Spencer Fuller is an engaging image of a rosy-cheeked young girl with red hair and blue eyes. Wearing a crisp white dress, she sits in a small chair and clasps a doll to her lap. Brilliant against a darkly painted landscape backdrop, she appears almost angelic. The portrait was completed by artist Frank Benson (1862-1951), a leader and founder of the group known as the Ten American Painters who did much to popularize Impressionism in the United States. Children were among Benson’s favorite subjects. Benson was a frequent visitor to the artist colony in Dublin, New Hampshire.

Have your students look at this painting as a group. Have them identify colors, shapes, and patterns. Then, as a class, talk about who the students think this girl could be, how old she is, where she is sitting, and what she is doing in the painting. Perhaps your class can even make up a story about Mary.

Have your students locate the information that tells you how this painting was acquired by the Currier Museum of Art. The young girl in the painting was the sister of the man who gave the painting to the museum. Henry Melville Fuller was a longtime friend of the Currier Museum of Art; he donated many paintings to the museum and when he died in 2001, he generously left a large part of his estate to the museum.

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Frank Benson, Portrait of Mary Spencer Fuller, 1914
Frank Benson, Portrait of Mary Spencer Fuller, 1914
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