Teaching Historical Thinking to 10th Graders Through Photography

James Miles teaches social studies at West Vancouver Secondary School in Canada.  In this post at the blog of The Historical Thinking Project, he describes an exercise he uses to teach his students continuity and change over time.  Here is the crux of the lesson:

After some thought, I planned several lessons on local history that involved using then and now images to encourage students to ‘see’ where change has occurred and where continuities remain. After showing examples to my students, I had them delve into the online catalogue of our local municipal archives to find a historical photograph that interested them. (I have found that over the past few years most municipalities have begun to digitize their visual records, allowing the public much more access.) The guidelines I offered my students were to find an image that revealed something about the community in the past that could be compared and contrasted with the current municipality, such as: methods of transportation, economic activity, clothing and dress, and cultural, social, and sporting activities.  I also suggested going back at least 50 years, so that there would likely be more evidence of change. 

After finding an image, students went out into the community (armed with their smart phones) to find the setting of the original historical photograph and then take a new photograph documenting how that place appears now. The students then uploaded their images and placed them side by side the historical photograph. Using both images as evidence, students then wrote an analysis examining ways in which the community has changed or stayed the same over time. 

Read more about it here.  I am going to introduce this exercise to my students the next time I offer my “Teaching History” course at Messiah College.

2 thoughts on “Teaching Historical Thinking to 10th Graders Through Photography

Comments are closed.