Credit: Photograph courtesy of NASA
Families connect us to our own history and to the history of the world around us. In this lesson, students explore this second set of connections, talking with family members about landmark events they have witnessed in their lifetimes to learn how history touches our lives.
How can we learn from those who have lived through important events in history?
After completing this lesson, students will be able to
The Past and Personal Experience Begin by talking with students about the relationship between history and personal experience. Ask, for example, how many could tell the history of what happened in class two weeks ago? How many could tell what happened in your classroom ten years ago? Help students recognize that our knowledge of the past is limited by our personal experience, but we can expand that knowledge by drawing on the personal experience of others. Explain that this is how historians work, by gathering evidence that can help them find out what happened in the past and what people who lived back then thought about it.
Tell students that in this lesson they will be working as historians to gather evidence about several important events from the past. Provide them with a set of the images shown below, which come from the National Archives and NASA, and ask if they can identify any of these events. Explain that all of these events occurred long before they were born, but that members of their families—parents, grandparents, and other older relatives—will probably remember them. It will be the students' job to find out what is happening in these pictures from family members who lived through one or more of these events.
Help students prepare for their research by having them caption each picture. (This will also help their families members recognize the event each picture represents.) Then have students prepare an interview chart with a list of questions for each picture. Explain that they will use this chart to gather information about each event, finding out when it happened, why it was important, what their family member can recall about it, and what they recall about events in the student's family at that time. (Younger students should ask their family member to fill out the chart as they talk about their recollections.)
When students have completed their research, explore the evidence they have gathered in a class discussion.
Close the lesson by asking students to think of an event they have witnessed during their lives that someone twenty-five years from now might consider historic. This could be an event in your local community, a scientific or technological development, a sports achievement, or a family milestone. Provide a suggestion or two to help jog your students' memories and steer them from very private events, like the death of a cherished pet, toward more public events. You might also guide students toward almanacs, newspapers, and online news sites to broaden their sense of significant events. Have each student draw a picture of the event they have witnessed and provide a brief caption, giving its date, a description of what happened, and an explanation of its importance. Then compare these "eyewitness reports" in a class discussion, imagining what historians of the future will write about our lives today.
Older students can continue their investigation of these landmark events using the EDSITEment resources listed above. Divide students into groups and have each group develop a dossier on one event, collecting evidence from assigned web pages. Ask each group to report on its event or to create a classroom display explaining its significance.
4 class periods