Step onto the New Haven Green today, and take in the landscape-particularly the objects that surround the perimeter of The Green. Saunter along Dwight Street or through the Wooster Square historic District. Tour the Grove Street Cemetery or stroll around the surrounding Yale campus. Once again, look closely, for you will find fascinating-often overlooked-remnants of the past in the form of everyday objects… fences! Students will learn that these utilitarian objects were used as both functional objects and representations of class, cultural, and ethnic identities within the New Haven community spanning four centuries beginning with the early 1600s. To explore this reality, students will use a research-based form of inquiry: How do fences and gates speak to the history of New Haven? Did they exist long ago, and if so, how far back can they be traced? For what purposes were they made, and how did their creation impact the New Haven community? What resources and types of labor were used to create them? Who contributed to their creation, and how were they crafted? Are cultural and socio-economic diversity in any way reflected in these functional objects? Can this look at material culture be carried over into other communities? These questions and more will be explored and evaluated in my curriculum unit, Breaking Down Fences - Revealing The Past.
Breaking Down Fences
takes an engaging, hands-on look at New Haven history. Targeted at students in Grades 3 and upward, this unit inspires young learners to question their surroundings, to speculate what life could have been like in our city past and present, and to delve into often overlooked aspects of the great city in which we currently reside. With camera in hand, our young researchers will tour specific New Haven locales as previously noted herein, closely examining fences. This exploration will be complemented by research visits to the Center Church on the Green, the New Haven Museum and Historical Society, the Yale Art Gallery and the British Art Museum, and Yale Sterling Library. Coupled with independent readings and creative writing exercises, our young historians will embrace life in New Haven from the 17
centuries. Using fences as material culture, students will describe, deduce, speculate, research, analyze, compare and contrast gathered information to grasp life in the New Haven community during each specified time period.
Breaking Down Fences
will be implemented for an eight-week duration. Because of the outdoor nature of this interactive field study, excursions should be strategically planned for the spring. Implementation of the unit between April and June is strongly recommended.
Bus reservations for spring excursions should be booked at the start of the school year, preferably reserved post month-end March, so that CMT prep and subsequent testing schedules do not interfere with curriculum unit implementation.
Breaking Down Fences is aligned with New Haven Public School Curriculum Unit Standards, i.e., Language Arts/Writing Content Standard 2.0; SSCPS (students will demonstrate their understanding through written, verbal, visual, and/or technological formats and will pre-edit, draft, revise, edit and publish/showcase one or more final literary products) and Social Studies Curriculum Unit Standard S 3.0 (Using maps, architectural layout, globes, and related resources, students will identify specific locales within the New Haven district. They too will envision and embrace the people, culture, and societal trends that existed therein.)
This curriculum unit
concludes with two engaging activities that reach students across academic abilities levels. Students will create a three-dimensional fence design, accompanied by a historical fiction journal-writing piece highlighting how and why the fence or gate was created. Through this interactive experience, students will reinforce and internalize their understanding of material culture as it pertains to community, culture, and history!
Note: To facilitate the process of implementing this unit, a Day Trip Time Line is included as a quick-reference resource.