The Land of Promise

The Land of Promise

Case Study

Ulster-Scots in curriculum-based learning

A number of primary schools in Northern Ireland have been involved in a pilot programme involving teaching ‘Land of Promise’ – a curriculum-based teaching and learning experience developed by the Ulster-Scots Agency based on 18th century migration of Ulster-Scots to the north-east of America (present day Maine).

The focus of Land of Promise is the organised migration of Ulster-Scots families to America in the 18th century and to make it engaging for young children the story is focused on the McFadden family who left County Londonderry in 1718 and settled in Merrymeeting Bay in what is now the state of Maine.

This family was chosen because a descendent of the family (Brad McFadden) owns the site where the family settled and an archaeological dig of the McFadden homestead has been taking place for some years and is ongoing.

This provides a tangible link with history and adds considerable value to learning through ‘living history’ opportunities.

The ‘Land of Promise’ Programme has a number of elements which are designed to help schools embed an Ulster-Scots based thematic approach and provide active learning opportunities through engaging resources and experiences.

Principal’s Perspective

The Land of Promise experience has proved to be much more than a fantastic set of teaching resources to facilitate learning about the McFadden story. The initiative is curriculum-based and designed for schools in Northern Ireland. For the first time we have a beautifully crafted and meaningful resource which not only serves as a vehicle for delivering many aspects of the NI Curriculum (including literacy, maths, ICT, geography, history, science, technology, music, exploring cultural diversity and issues around migration which are particularly pertinent at present), but importantly, enables us to embed learning in a sustainable and readily identifiable way in our planning and in our day-to-day class teaching.

- Dr J Harper – Derryboy Primary School

Live video meeting with America – a home-based learning experience

School closures due to Covid-19 interrupted classroom-based study and the Ulster-Scots Agency adapted learning resources designed to be teacher-led by making them accessible for home learning.

To enhance learning and to ensure continuity of study during school closures, the Ulster-Scots Agency in partnership with the Maine Ulster-Scots Project organised a live video link between pupils from Derryboy Primary School, Culcrow Primary School, Brad McFadden (descendent of the family that migrated in 1718 and owner of the McFadden homestead archaeological site in Maine) and Pam Crane, archaeologist on the dig.

The live link allowed children to engage directly with Pam and Brad on the site in Maine and ask questions about the dig, the history of the settlement, learning about the lives of early Ulster-Scots settlers in America.

Brad and Pam showed artefacts that had been found on the site including grains that demonstrated collaboration with the native American population as well as window glass and personal/domestic artefacts.

The opportunity provided children with a direct link to a member of the McFadden family and helped their understanding of what life was like for early Ulster-Scots settlers in America.

The live link provided opportunities for children to continue their learning from home during a period of school closure.

Some personal reflections of the live link experience


This was a great opportunity for the children to ask questions about what had been discovered and what life was like for the new settlers. It was a unique learning opportunity for the pupils and will be something they will not forget.

- Mrs E Johnston - Culcrow Primary School

Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of what was arguably an historically significant event. The children have taken a great deal away from today, not least a better understanding of our Ulster-Scots heritage and how important it is to those whose families left our shores – even to this day. Meeting Brad McFadden, listening to Pam, and finally seeing the actual homestead which his family built so long ago has been the culmination of the children’s learning. I hope and trust that this will continue. Thank you for the Land of Promise resources, for the terrific experience today, and for the support of the Ulster-Scots Agency. It has also been a wonderful opportunity to work with Elaine and the children of Culcrow Primary. I hope that this is something on which we can build.

- Dr J Harper – Derryboy Primary School


I was very excited to see the place where the McFaddens landed.

I didn't think I would be very interested at first, but when I saw the arrowheads and old pipes, I was very interested.

It must be very special for Brad to be able to find connections to his family from hundreds of years ago.

It was really interesting to see how archaeologists work and discover clues to the past. I enjoyed meeting the pupils from Derryboy Primary School too.


My son found the whole lesson on Land of Promise very interesting; learning about the migration in class, self -studying using the websites and having a Zoom meeting with Brad and Pam. The Zoom meeting was a highlight for my son seeing the site and things they found and being able to ask questions directly. He couldn’t stop talking about it after the interview. It really showed the opportunities modern technology can create in education.

Joel really enjoyed today’s Zoom. He keeps talking about what he learned today. I think it was a really great project for the kids. Thank you for organising it.

Charlie really enjoyed watching the dig and even though I wasn’t sure how much he was taking in he managed to tell his granny all about it later. Many thanks for that rare opportunity to talk with Brad and Pam. Another fantastic lockdown memory.

Land of Promise provided a wonderful opportunity for my son to learn about and connect with living descendants of the McFadden family. This exciting initiative engaged and captured my son's imagination and very much brought this piece of history to life. The Zoom link up with other pupils and the family in America was the icing on the cake!

Brad McFadden – site owner and descendent of Andrew and Jane McFadden

I think it was a great success! The children really seemed to enjoy the experience.

Pam Crane – Archaeologist on the Mc Fadden homestead in Maine

Thank you for yesterday. I had fun and it was great to meet the kids.  Archaeology has no value if the information we gather is not shared.  The comments about nettle soup were especially enjoyable.  A real link from the past to the present.

- In a response to a question from one of the students Pam mentioned that he settlers would have eaten nettles. One of the children commented that he had tasted nettle soup at home!

The Ulster-Scots Agency - Richard Hanna – Director of Education and Language

The ‘Land of Promise’ experience has been developed to support curriculum-based classroom teaching and learning about Ulster-Scots in Key Stage 2. There are many opportunities in the NI curriculum where aspects of Ulster-Scots can be used to develop learning at the same time developing a better understanding of the importance and influence of Ulster-Scots both at home and abroad. An enormous thank you to Brad and Pam and all our friends at The Maine Ulster-Scots Project for helping us make it happen.

Rebecca Graham – President, The Maine Ulster-Scots Project (MUSP)

Our mission is to save and share stories of Maine’s Ulster-Scots families and the indelible marks they have left and continue to make on our communities. MUSP was delighted to have the opportunity to share our most tangible project – the archaeology of the Merrymeeting Bay settlement of 1718 with students from Northern Ireland. Each time we share our work we deepen our own learning about the communities these families left behind and strengthen our connections to each other. Many thanks to the teachers who helped facilitate this opportunity, the students who asked brilliant questions and to the Ulster-Scots Agency for connecting us all.

Supported by Maine Ulster Scots Project
In partnership with