Walk into any elementary school classroom and ask, “Why are we here?” You will definitely get a variety of answers. Most children’s answers might well consist of replies that focus on their parent’s insistence that they attend school. Some might realize that the law dictates that they receive an education, still others might mention that they live in this school’s district, or in another situation that they are bussed to their magnet school. Perhaps someone might say that they attend this school because their parents live and work in this area. There might be a child who has recently moved and possibly could share some reasons his parents had for picking their new location. A list could be developed of the advantages one area might have over another. They might include: the safety of the area: the affordability of the housing, the quality of the education, the proximity of the school, work shopping areas, buss lines and relatives. Considerations of these more complex issues lead to the theme of this unit. The questions are investigated include: What made Connecticut a place that the Puritans would come to start a new community? and What is the history of the unique geological features that prompted settlement in this region. This curriculum unit seeks to emphasize the relationship between the settlers and the land that they came to inhabit.
Our New Haven Public School’s curriculum at the elementary level includes studies of both Colonial New Haven and Connecticut. It is a period in our history that is wonderfully alive in our area. The New Haven Green with its churches, Grove Street Cemetery, the Pardee Morris House, The New Haven Colony Historical Society, the American exhibit at the Yale University Art Gallery and many Colonial era homes allow for an insight for studies of our recent past. What is generally not acknowledged is that our geological past is ever present and with a little study equally fascinating. In fact, depending on where we are standing in the New Haven area, we may be on bedrock dating back 600,000,000, 400,000,000 or 200,000,000 years. The very material beneath our feet may have been created by heat a pressure miles below the surface of the earth, at one time the floor of an ocean or even finally uncovered lava. Eighteen years in the New Haven School System’s classrooms teaching grades three through six have given me a chance to develop an interdisciplinary approach to this area of study. During my last ten years I have been an itinerant instructor of the talented and gifted students in kindergarten, first, second and third grades in five schools. My colleagues and I develop curriculum around a yearly theme that thoroughly involves the students in a single area of study. Our Nation’s first two hundred years is one of the areas of emphasis. The more preparation I have done for this unit the more involved I have become in a new understanding of the history of New Haven. I grew up in New Haven and attended the public schools. I teach in New Haven and I teach about New Haven, but it was not until I undertook this unit that I began to understand the geological significance of the surrounding landscapes, their history and their relationship to the early settlers.