Changes Over Time
To foster historical thinking and understandings, children can analyze pictures and photographs to look at how a given place, such as their own Main Street, looked long ago and how it looks today. Prior to this study of their own community, or as a springboard to that study, there are many teacher resources with a specific focus on the changes of a community over time. Following is a list and brief review of these resources.
New Providence: A Changing Cityscape (Von Tscharner & Fleming, 1992), a softcover trade book, presents a very real looking city that cannot be found on any map because it is fictitious. The evolution of a small American city center is visually depicted from 1910 to 1992. Architectural styles, technological advances, and cultural nuances progress from the late nineteenth century through skirt changes, economic booms and busts, to resident hippies, graffiti, and eventual restoration via the route of fast food at McDonalds, shopping malls and a fitness center. Children can analyze this visual history of a community by looking for examples of continuity and change.
Two other fine examples of a visual history over time can be found in Muller's The Changing City (1977) and The Changing Countryside (1973). Each comes in a packet which contains a series of 12 1/2" by 33 1/2" full-color, fold-out study prints depicting the same location in intervals of approximately three years beginning in 1953. These pictures, rich in interesting detail, graphically illustrate the continuity and change that can occur within a community. Visual histories can introduce a study of changes over time within the students' own community. It can also spur children to look for signs of urban decay and engage in actions that might reverse the situation.
The study of people, places, and human-environment interactions assists students in developing spatial views and geographic perspectives of the world. "Where are things located?" "Why are they located where they are?" "What happens when people have wants that exceed the resources available to them?" Questions such as these are addressed in a practical resource published by The Joint Council/ National Council on Economic Education. Although the major focus is on economic content, Exploring the Community Marketplace: The Community Publishing Company (Reinke, D.W., McGuire M., & Reinke R. W., 1989), includes a series of lessons on the community in the study of a town and how it changes over time.
The first lessons include a map of "Communityville...A Long Time Ago" as well as a detailed script which guides the teacher and students through an analysis of the economic resources and how they are used by people to produce goods and services that they or others want. The next lessons include a map titled "Communityville...Growing." Communityville has now grown and students compare and contrast the changes between the two maps and analyze why the community has changed. Finally, students are introduced to "Communityville...Today."
The focus of these lessons is on how some capital resources disappear, the population and its economic wants increase, and old buildings are replaced by new buildings to reflect the changing needs for goods and services.
This resource-packed book lives up to its expensive price of $56. Carefully developed lessons lead students to construct a family community log showing where they go for goods and services, interview community members who produce goods and services, create a community report, and finally develop a publishing company that produces the community book.
The 33 detailed, sequentially arranged lessons on community can help children develop a deeper understanding of the impact of economic continuity and change on a community.
Built Environment Education is the study of architecture, preservation, design, city planning, and the issues and challenges of continuity and change which relate to these activities. The Center for Understanding the Built Environment (CUBE) provides resources for educators and interested citizens. Their publication, Walk Around the Block (Graves,1992), is a treasure house of self-discovery activities to guide students through a tour of their school neighborhood or community. The "block" to be researched can be as small as the school block for a first grade or an entire city for a high school class. The students are divided into teams, each of which adopts a section of the block to be researched. As you collect different maps of your community, your students can compare and contrast the past to the present. Lessons for creating map legends, scales, and land-use categories are included along with directions for such activities as how to "read" a building. Students can do oral histories, make photo records, and create timelines.
The chapter on Accepting Responsibility: The 4th R includes suggestions for adopting a building, developing a report card for your building, and writing action letters to express a concern for your building. The activities, most which are written for third through seventh graders, can be used sequentially or separately. The intent of Walk Around the Block is to study the community in the present, to learn about the past, and to plan for the future.
Using Children's Literature to Develop the Concepts of Continuity and Change
One technique for applying standards in the elementary school, is the "literature-centered" approach which focuses on compelling selections of literature appropriate for children. Following is a collection of literature books appropriate for the study of continuity and change within a community.
The Little House (Burton, 1942), a classic familiar to generations of youngsters, is the story of a little house in a countryside that develops from a rural to an urban community. Amid a nostalgic look at the advantages of the peaceful country versus the commotion of noise and traffic ever present in the city, the little house becomes a country haven where all is quiet and peaceful again. Children delight in studying the pictures on each new page to analyze the changes with the advancement of architecture and the growth of the population.
Since 1920 (Wallner, 1992) is a similar tale that traces the transformation of a neighborhood from a quiet countryside to a busy commercial zone, and later from a run-down area with boarded up and abandoned buildings to a redeveloped neighborhood which is once again a nice place to live. The charming folk-art illustrations beautifully enhance this storybook, also appropriate for young children. In the book, Window (Baker, 1991), a young boy matures to manhood as we look out the window of his house from year to year and see the wilderness transformed. Throughout this wordless book, you can trace the changing of the environment as more and more buildings and roads are constructed. Children become historians as they study the changes from page to page.
Everything from a Nail to a Coffin (Van Rynbach, 1991) traces the history of one building, a commercial structure, from its construction in 1874 in Glastonbury, Connecticut to the present day. Social forces and historic events are portrayed in this book. It is filled with authentic details about how one enterprise supplies goods and services to a community over time. Cooperative groups of students can divide the book into eras for research into the many historic events mentioned in the story. The result is a fascinating social history.
Letting Swift River Go (Yolan, 1992) is a story told through the eyes of six-year-old Sally Jane who witnesses the intentional flooding of her hometown in Swift River Valley which became the Quabbin Reservoir in New England. The changing landscape is exquisitely captured in the illustrations that show the drowning of a thriving hometown to provide for the thirst of nearby Boston. The fate of another river, the Nashua, is highlighted as it is restored to its original state in A River Ran Wild (Cherry, 1992). This richly illustrated history traces the development of the river prior to English settlement, to the growth of factories, to its eventual ecological death, and, in 1965, to the passage of the Clean Water Act. Once again, because of the actions of local citizens, the bass, pickerel, perch, trout, bald eagles, osprey, and blue heron have returned to the Nashua River.
The literature books described above begin in the past and build toward the present. Other literature books begin with present time and move backwards to look at what came before. This is an appropriate developmental approach since children are more familiar with the present and they can investigate change by peeling back layers to learn about the past. My Place (Wheatley & Rawlins, 1992), moves backwards in time from 1988 to 1788 in 10-year segments with each page featuring a map drawn by a different child who lives in the same location.
The maps charmingly drawn with "kid-like" descriptions provide a stimulus for investigating change. Sandy Kaser, in her article "Creating a Learning Environment that Invites Connections" (1994), recommends that when reading My Place, you compare and contrast the maps from just two of the decade stories each day. Then, after completing the entire book, she suggests you organize the book by discussion topics and have groups of students revisit the book to do research on a topic. These topics include "the pets the children had through the years, the way the children used the big tree found on each map, the connections to events in the broader society, Australian terms, the family history throughout the book, and the jobs people had throughout the years." The projects developed by students illustrate the collecting, organizing, and sharing of information as well as an authentic response to literature. A perfect companion for My Place is Walk Around the Block which was described earlier in this article.
Another book that begins with the present is In My Own Backyard (Kurjian, 1993). The focus here is on changes in geologic times. The text and full-page illustrations move you quickly from today to a farm of 100 years ago, early settlers and Native Americans, the ice age, pre-historic times and finally to the beginning of life on our planet 4 billion years ago. This brief picture book begins to plant the seeds of historic inquiry and certainly integrates the concepts of continuity and change with scientific study. The House on Maple Street (Pryor, 1987) begins with today but moves directly to 300 years ago when there were no houses or even streets. Indians came to the area following buffalo herds and set up their teepees by the stream. A young boy learns how to make an arrowhead which he looses while playing with his friends. Years later when the settlers arrive, a young girl finds the arrowhead which she places in her tiny china cup. As the neighborhood grows and changes, two modern day girls dream about who might have held these treasures of the past when they discover the broken china cup and ancient arrowhead. This delightful story encourages student historians to create stories around artifacts of the past as they try to interpret how life has changed and how it stays the same.
Thus, literature provides an avenue for children to study the concepts of continuity and change within a community. It can also act as a springboard to the study of the student's own local history. Resources for local history are often limited and the use of children's literature books can help to fill this void.
The purpose of the standards is to provide a foundation upon which educators can build excellence and equity in the nation's schools. Thousands of educators and policymakers have struggled toward this vision, but beyond all of the controversy about the standards rests the teachers who will apply these standards in their own classroom. The study of continuity and change can be implemented throughout the elementary school and there are many excellent resources available to make this happen.
Content Standards: Telephone numbers are included for direct inquiries. Each of the standards documents is also available with "one-stop shopping," at a reduced rate for members, from the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). 800-683-0812.
Expanding children's world in time and space: National standards for history for grades K-4. (1994). Los Angeles: National Center for History in the Schools. ISBN
0-9633218-3-8. Softcover. $7.95. (NCSS members $7.25).
Expectations of excellence: Curriculum standards for social studies. (1994). Washington, DC: National Council for the Social Studies. ISBN 0-87986-065-0. Softcover. $15. (NCSS members $12). 800-683-0812.
Geography for life: National geography standards. (1994). Washington, DC: National Council for Geographic Education, the National Geographic Society, the Association of American Geographers, and the American Geographic Society. ISBN 0-7922-2775-1. Softcover. $9. (NCSS members $7.50). 800-368-2728.
National standards for civics and government. Calabasas, CA:
The Center for Civic Education. ISBN 0-89818-155-0 Softcover. $12. (NCSS members $10).
National standards for United States history: Exploring the American experience. (1994).
Los Angeles: National Center for History in the Schools. Softcover. $18.95 (NCSS members $17.95). 310-825-4702.
National standards for world
history: Exploring paths to the present. (1994). Los Angeles: National Center for History in the Schools. Softcover. $18.95 (NCSS members $17.95).
Graves, G. (1992). Walk around the block. Prairie Village, Kansas: Center for Understanding the Built Environment.
ISBN: 0-9632033-0-4. $30.00.
Kaser, S. (1994). Creating a learning environment that invites connections. In Steffy, S., & Hood, W. (Eds.). If this is social studies, why isn't it boring? York, ME: Stenhouse Pub. ISBN: 1-57110-003-2. Softcover. $18.50.
Muller, J. (1976). The changing city. New York: Atheneum Pub. ISBN: 0-689-50084-X. $18.95.
Muller, J. (1973). The changing countryside. New York: Atheneum Pub. ISBN:
Reinke, D. W., McGuire, M., & Reinke, R. W. (1989). Exploring the community marketplace:
The community publishing company. Joint Council on Economic Education. ISBN: 1-56183-397-5. Softcover. $56.95.
Von Tscharner, R., & Fleming,
R. L. (1992). New providence:
A changing cityscape. Washington, DC: The Preservation Press. ISBN
0-89133-191-3. Softcover $9.95.
Baker, J. ( 1991). Window. New York: Puffin Books for Penquin Books. ISBN 0-14-054830-0. Softcover $4.99.
Burton, V. L. (1942). The little house. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN: 0-395-25938-X.
Cherry, L. (1992). A river ran wild. New York: Gulliver Green Books (Harcourt Brace & Co.).
Kurjian, J. (1993). In my own backyard. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge Pub. ISBN: 0-88106-442-4. Hardcover $14.95.
Pryor, B. (1987). The house on maple street. New York: William Morrow & Co., Inc. ISBN:
0-688-12031-8. Softcover $4.95.
Van Rynbach, I. (1991). Everything from a nail to a coffin. New York: Orchard Books (A division of Franklin Watts, Inc.).
Wallner, A. (1992). Since 1920. New York: Delacorte Press. ISBN: 0-385-41216-9.
Wheatley, N., & Rawlins, D. (1992). My place. Brooklyn, NY: Kane/Miller Book Pub. ISBN:
0-916291-42-1. Softcover $14.95.
Yolan, J. (1992). Letting swift river go. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. ISBN: 0-316-96899-4.
This regular feature of SSL provides descriptions of effective resources for use by teachers. Suggestions on materials to review and descriptions from teachers of their experiences using materials reviewed in this column are invited. Please send correspondence to Dr. Priscilla Porter, School of Education, California State University, Dominguez Hills, Carson, CA 90747.