Classroom Resources, Educators

History Lab Introduction

Sep 22 2016

Inspired by the Museum’s collection, local classroom teachers wrote and tested History Lab lesson plans. They are grouped into twelve topics. Lessons from each unit may be used independently or as a set. Each lesson includes a lesson plan, student materials, and reproductions of artifacts and/or photographs from the Museum’s collection. These materials may be downloaded, copied, and adapted for use in your classroom.

America’s Documents of Freedom
Grades 6 to 12

The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the Emancipation Proclamation are often referred to collectively as the Documents of Freedom. As a group, these documents demonstrate the evolution of American democracy and freedoms. The lessons in this unit examine how changes in government impact individuals differently; how freedom is interpreted through the creation of federal documents; how legal systems are greatly influenced by earlier legal codes; and how interpretations of historical documents change over time. Explore America’s Documents of Freedom

Slavery and Freedom in America
Grades 5 to 8

This unit examines the broad meanings of slavery and freedom in America through the life of a woman named Hannah Harris. Hannah was a weaver on Robert Carter’s plantation in Virginia. In anticipation of her freedom, she sent Carter a note asking to purchase her loom. The lessons in this unit include detailed analysis of Hannah’s note as well as an examination of the changing nature of freedom in the United States. Explore Slavery and Freedom in America

Sew What! Samplers as part of American History
Grades 4 to 8

Samplers can teach us about the domestic arts, societal beliefs, and women’s education. During this unit, students will analyze samplers and other primary sources, including school records, advertisements, and photographs, to understand the connection women have had over time to the domestic arts, especially sewing. Students will learn about the process of and purposes for creating samplers, how to interpret the symbols found on samplers, and come to understand the skill necessary to make these pieces of art and history. Explore Sew What!

African American Life in the Nineteenth Century
Grades 6 to 8

John and Mary Jones were two of Chicago’s most influential and prominent black citizens in the late nineteenth century. By examining primary documents and artifacts related to the couple, students will learn about African American life in Illinois from 1818 to 1867. The lessons in this unit investigate the lives of John and Mary Jones and the historical interpretation of artifacts; the Black Laws of Illinois and their repercussions on blacks living in Illinois at that time; the fight for the repeal of the Black Laws of Illinois; and the importance of oral history in gathering historical data. Explore African American Life in the Nineteenth Century

Fighting for Freedom: African Americans in the Civil War
Grades 6 to 12

This unit explores the African American’s experiences during the Civil War. Students will learn how government policy evolved over time regarding African American service in the Union forces and examine issues of propaganda and unequal treatment. The unit utilizes a variety of primary source materials, including illustrations, photographs, and documents. Students will complete a variety of analysis, research, writing, and art activities as they examine the important contributions of African American soldiers to ultimate Union victory. Explore Fighting for Freedom: African Americans in the Civil War

The Civil War: Up Close and Personal
Grades 3 to 5

Confederate Private William D. Huff began a diary after he was captured during the Battle of Chickamauga, fought September 18 and 19, 1863. In his diary, Huff narrates his experiences at Camp Douglas, Chicago’s confederate prison camp. He includes descriptions of escape attempts, harsh punishments, and disease. The diary ends with Huff’s parole and return to his hometown of St. Mary’s Parish, Louisiana. The lessons in this unit use Huff’s diary to provide a new perspective of the Civil War by allowing students to look through the eyes of someone who lived it. Lessons cover photo analysis, deciphering Civil War era slang, journal writing, and drawing. Explore The Civil War: Up Close and Personal

Through the Camera’s Lens: The Civil War in Photographs
Grades 5 to 8

This unit uses the work of the studio of Mathew Brady to explore the process of photography during the Civil War, discuss issues of early photojournalism, and interpret specific events and places of the Union experience of the Civil War. Students will analyze a variety of photographs depicting naval scenes, images of battlefields, and camp life and explore how our understanding of the Civil War is impacted by these famous images: How are photographs different than artwork? In what ways do they depict reality? Do they represent the “truth”? How do photographs affect public opinion and support of war? Are these images journalistic or artistic? Explore Through the Camera’s Lens: The Civil War in Photographs

Chicago’s World’s Fairs
Grades 6 to 12

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, world’s fairs and expositions celebrated the past while introducing visions of the future. Chicago hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 and the A Century of Progress World’s Fair in 1933–34. The lessons in this unit cover the art and architecture of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition; the connections between agriculture, advertising, and mail-order catalogues as expressed at the World’s Columbian Exposition; transportation as a symbol of technological breakthrough at the 1933–34 A Century of Progress; and the correlation between art and science at the 1933–34 A Century of Progress. Explore Chicago’s World’s Fairs

The First Ferris Wheel
Grades 3 to 6

When the Ferris wheel was introduced it inspired awe and wonder. The world’s first Ferris wheel was invented for Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. Students will explore the creative inspiration behind the wheel, the collaborative process of fabricating the wheel, and the features of riding on the wheel. They will analyze primary source materials, including photographs, an advertising poster, and telegrams exchanged between George Ferris, the inventor of the wheel, and Luther Rice, the engineer supervising construction of the wheel. At the conclusion of this unit, students will appreciate the uniqueness of the Ferris wheel and the process and creativity necessary to generate an idea and then turn it into a physical reality. Explore The First Ferris Wheel

Playing in Chicago: Tootsie Toys, Tinker Toys, and Lincoln Logs
Grades 3 to 5

From bicycles to electric trains to paper dolls, Chicagoland was once home to an enormous toy industry. Chicago companies brought new kinds of toys to the market including transportation toys, like Tootsie Toys, and construction toys, such as Tinkertoys and Lincoln Logs. This unit will introduce students to the inventors of these toys, explore the purpose and history of toys, and analyze advertising techniques. Explore Playing in Chicago

Face-to-Face with the Great Depression
Grades 6 to 12

During the Great Depression approximately 25 percent of working Americans lost their jobs, but how did this really affect the people who lived through those years and how do our times relate to their experiences? In this unit, students will study the causes and effects of the Depression through the reflections of those who lived in America at that time. Students will explore both primary and secondary sources, largely from Studs Terkel’s Hard Times, and prepare oral and written analyses of the Great Depression. Students will learn the value of primary research and develop their skills as critical thinkers, interviewers, and debaters. Explore Face-to-Face with the Great Depression

History Through Opposing Eyes: America and Protest
Grades 4 to 8

Great changes and events in history have often started with protest. From town hall meetings and rallies to demonstrations and war, protest has instigated change in our society. The lessons in this unit will help students compare and contrast the different methods of protest and understand protest as a part of American history. Students will analyze how political cartoons work to convey messages and how organizing peacefully can often lead to change. Explore History Through Opposing Eyes



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