Portland Observatory Resource Guide

Portland Observatory

MMN Item 12230

Portland Observatory ca. 1908

On behalf of Greater Portland Landmarks, the Rines-Thompson Foundation and Maine Memory Network, we want to welcome you to the Portland Observatory/Maine Memory Network online resource guide.

The information available to teachers and students on-line is immense and we are proud to be included within this growing community. All of our lesson plans and activities are linked to the Maine State Learning Results and targeted Results are listed within each section.

The curriculum materials are designed to be adaptable to a variety of grade levels and meant as a jumping off point for field trip preparation, a unit on Portland history or a year long experiential learning project with the Portland Observatory as the focus.

The curriculum is divided into sections:

Lesson Plans, Background Information & Activities:

Museum Practices for Students

Included here are some basics about general museum etiquette and ways to enable your students a greater understanding of museums, artifacts and their significance in illustrating history.

Download Museum Practices for Students lesson plan (PDF)

Observatory Vocabulary

An understanding of these words will allow students to be better engaged on their trip to the Portland Observatory.

Download Observatory Vocabulary lesson plan (PDF)


Set into four sections of historically significant events surrounding the Portland Observatory, City of Portland, Maine and the United States, the timeline is designed to help you and your students place significant events at the Portland Observatory within a global context.

Download Timeline lesson plan (PDF)

Lemuel Moody and the Portland Observatory

Lemuel Moody and the Portland Observatory Included are interesting facts to share with your students and for students, an interactive slide show available on-line at Maine Memory Network. The "Images" slide show allows students to place historical images of the Observatory in a timeline. Utilizing their observation skills students will place these images in chronological order by looking for changes within the built environment for clues. Also available is the "Maps" slide show, a series of maps from key eras in Portland's history. Students will answer the questions in the slide show to better understand the topography of Portland, the need for an Observatory and the changes in the landscape and the population centers.

Download Lemuel Moody and the Portland Observatory lesson plan (PDF)
Access slideshow of the Observatory to accompany lesson plan
Access slideshow of maps to accompany lesson plan

Signalizing and Non-Verbal Communications

This section is an overview of Captain Lemuel Moody's (builder of the Observatory) signaling system used at the Portland Observatory. Activities range from flag making to mapping and journal writing. The "Signals" slide show allows students to look at Captain Moody's general and private signals notebooks. Students are asked a series of questions about the notebooks and Moody's signaling system allowing for a better understanding of the principles behind the Observatory.

Download Signalizing and Non-Verbal Communications lesson plan (PDF)
Access slideshow of signals to accompany the lesson plan


Thermometrics is a term coined by Moody to describe his weather recording activities. Included here are some cross-curricula lesson plans and activities for students to use their knowledge in science, math and social studies while acting as weather forecasters. Check out the web-sites listed in this section for information on building your own barometer and anemometer.

Download Thermometrics (PDF)

Construction, Preservation and Restoration

Included here are activities based in economics, mathematics, physics, social studies, civics and language arts. Students can debate the issues surrounding preservation and urban development as well as the changing value of money.

Download Construction, Preservation and Restoration lesson plan (PDF)
Access slideshow related to the construction of the Observatory

Visual Aids

Maine Memory Network

All visual aids are available on-line at www.mainememory.net either within the context of the Portland Observatory ready made slide shows with exploratory questions for students or as an individual search within the web-site. Maine Memory Network houses a plethora of primary sources for teachers and students to explore history. Diaries, journals, maps and photographs are just a few of the ways in which you and your students can explore history through the eyes of those who were there.

Slides and Prints

All the images used as a part of this curriculum can be printed from the web-site and will contain the Maine Memory Network stamp. Most of the images you will find available at Maine Memory Network are also available as prints and transparencies for you to use with your class. There is a nominal fee for this service and if you are interested you should contact the Maine Historical Society for more information (207) 774-1822. Greater Portland Landmarks also has slides available for teachers to use in the classroom, please call the education department at (207) 774-5561 extension 104 for more information.

Portland's Pride Binder

A binder of information and images about the Observatory's history and the community effort to save the building was put together in concert with the 1998 Maine Historical Society and Greater Portland Landmarks exhibition, "Portland's Pride". This binder is still available for rental at Greater Portland Landmarks, please call the education department at (207) 774-5561 extension 104 for more information and current availability.

Field Trips to Portland Observatory

Field trips to the Portland Observatory must be arranged in advance by calling Greater Portland Landmarks at (207) 774-5561 extension 104. Field trips include a tour of the Portland Observatory and a tour of Eastern Cemetery both tours are linked to the Maine State Learning Results. Please call for current availability and pricing.

Thank you for using this resource. Please be sure to fill out an evaluation form and send to:

Greater Portland Landmarks
165 State Street
Portland, ME 04101-3797
Phone: 207-774-5561
Fax: 207-774-2509

Sincerely, Education Department, Portland Observatory Greater Portland Landmarks