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Grades K-2
This lesson has students discuss the reasons why cities change over time and asks them to investigate how their own town has changed . If possible, invite a guest speaker to talk about what the town used to be like. If that is not feasible, locate some old pictures of the town to show the class. Students will conclude by drawing pictures of themselves in their town, both past and present.
Connections to the Curriculum:
Geography, history
Connections to the National Geography Standards:
Standard 17: "How to apply geography to interpret the past"
Standard 18: "How to apply geography to interpret the present and plan for the future"
Three hours

Materials Required:
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Photographs of the students' town or city in the past (especially if you are not having a guest speaker)
  • Drawing materials
Students will
  • take the Photo Quiz at the History Through the Headlines activity;
  • discuss how much the cities in the Photo Quiz have changed;
  • discuss reasons why cities change;
  • listen to a guest speaker or view pictures to learn what their town was like in the past;
  • discuss how their town has changed;
  • draw pictures of themselved in their town in the past and present; and
  • share their pictures with the class.
Geographic Skills:

Acquiring Geographic Information
Organizing Geographic Information
Analyzing Geographic Information

S u g g e s t e d   P r o c e d u r e
Have students go through the Photo Quiz at National Geographic's History Through the Headlines activity. The quiz asks them to look at the city pictured on the left and choose the photo at the right that shows the same city today. [Note: It would be ideal if you could project these pictures so the entire class can take the quiz together.]
Discuss what students saw in the Photo Quiz. How much have the cities changed?

Discuss the reasons why a city might change over time. What factors do students think would contribute to some of the changes they saw in the photographs or to other types of changes? They might mention wars, changes in population, or changes to the weather.

Explain that all cities change over time, but they don't all change for the same reason. For example, some cities have been built near gold mines or other natural resources. When those resources have been used up, the cities sometimes become ghost towns. Other cities keep growing and attracting more people, adding skyscrapers and other big-city features.

Ask students to think about what their city or town is like today. What are some of the most important things about the town? They might mention the park, downtown, the shopping mall, or their homes.

Invite a guest speaker into the class to talk about what the town looked like several decades ago. Or show students some pictures of the town in earlier times. Encourage students to ask questions such as "Where was that picture taken?" and "Why was that building torn down?"

Discuss the ways the town has changed, according to the guest speaker or the pictures.
Suggested Student Assessment:
Ask students to imagine that they live in their town during the time period discussed by the guest speaker or shown in the old photos. Have them draw pictures of themselves doing various activities in the town (or in the place where the town is now located) back then. For example, if their town consisted of farmland, they might draw pictures of themselves farming.

Have students draw additional pictures showing themselves in their town today. If their first drawing showed themselves working on a farm where the mall now stands, their second picture might depict themselves shopping at the mall.

Ask students to share their pictures with the class and describe the differences between the "then" and "now" pictures.

Extending the Lesson:
Read to the class the book The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. Ask them to pay close attention to the changes that occurred during the house's lifetime. After reading, discuss the reasons why those changes happened.
Related Links: