Lesson Plans for Teachers: (Grades 2-5)

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Maps are available on this website. Click here to download an archive with Evanston, Illinois, USA and world maps.

Lesson 1: What do we already know?

Lesson 2: How to be a history detective!

Lesson 3: Where in the world in Evanston?

Lesson 4: Native Americans and Evanston

Lesson 5: Early immigrants to Evanston

Lesson 6: Living without lights

Lesson 7: Being a kid 100 years ago

Lesson 8: Memories

Worksheet: “Interview form”
Worksheet: “Invented in Evanston” word search game

Lesson 9: Family trees

Worksheet: “My Family Tree”
Worksheet: “Charles Gates Dawes House” drawing activity

Lesson 10: Timelines

Lesson 1:
What do we already know?


  • Discuss what students already know about Evanston history.
  • The laminated or mounted photos could be used as a springboard for discussion. Ask students to talk about what they see or notice in the photos.
  • Keep a K.W.L. chart. Record in 3 columns what students “Know,” “Want to Know” and (later on) “Learned”


  • Go on a scavenger hunt while walking around Evanston. Look for evidence of the ridges (Ridge Rd., Chicago Ave.), old houses and other buildings, buildings where the top half has changed, old street names, and so on.
  • Take a field trip to the Charles Gates Dawes House, the Frances Willard House, or the Grosse Point Lighthouse.

Lesson 2:
How to be a history detective!


• Photos depicting life in the past in Evanston

• Artifacts of your choice


  • Brainstorm with students all the ways we have to learn about the past (interviews, memoirs, journals, newspapers, letters, buildings, official records, people, etc.) Point out that objects and photographs can tell us about the past as well.
  • Use a detective approach to identify one or more of the artifacts you bring in to the classroom (ie, old milk jig, toy, etc.) Hold up an item and ask students to answer simple questions:
    o What is it made from?
    o How was it used?
    o Do we still use something like this? If not, what do we use instead?
    o How do we know life was different years ago, based on this artifact?
  • Share one of the photos in the kit and ask students what they see:
    o What is in the photo?
    o What do you see in the background?
    o What are the people doing?
    o When do you think the photo was taken? Why do you think so?
    o What objects are in the photo?
    o How does this photo look different from photos taken today?
    o Do the people look happy? Sad? Tired? Relaxed?
  • Once students have shared all their initial impressions, ask them to look again, even more closely. What do they see now, when they look more carefully?
  • Use the information on the back of the photo to give the actual answers to the questions above. Point out how much they were able to learn about how people lived in the past just by looking at these photos.
  • Share other photos with the class, asking similar questions and talking about what we know from just looking at the photo and what we don’t know.
  • Ask students to brainstorm how we might learn more about the people and places in the photo (talk to someone who knew the people or their relatives, learn about the professions of these people, research the history of the buildings or places in the photo, etc.


  • Ask students which objects that we use today would be considered old-fashioned artifacts 100 years from now.
  • Break students into small groups. Give each group a photo and have them use their imagination to make up a story about the photo. Who are these people? What happened 5 minutes before the picture was taken and 5 minutes after it was taken? Have each group share their story with the class. Discuss the difference between the imagined information in the story and the facts we know from the photo.

Lesson 3:
Where in the world is Evanston?

Meets Dist 65 Standard:
Describe the physical characteristics of places, both local and global

World map, U.S. map, Illinois map, Evanston map. (Maps available on this website. Click here to download an archive with Evanston, Illinois, USA and world maps.)


  • As a class, find the approximate location of Evanston on the world, U.S., and Illinois maps. Specifically, find Evanston on the map of Illinois.
  • Using the map of the world, locate the continents, oceans, equator, poles and hemispheres.
  • Examine the map of Evanston and locate your school/location on the map.
  • Discuss the symbols on the map


  • Using the map of Evanston as a model, draw a large outline of the city on butcher paper. The teacher or leader can draw in simple landmarks to give students a reference point. You might draw in Lake Michigan, Northwestern University, the Metra tracks and/or El tracks, Fountain Square, major roads such as Oakton, Main, Dempster, Dodge, Davis, Central, Ridge, Sheridan, etc. Once the basic outline of the city is laid out, the group can locate familiar landmarks: their homes, schools, grocery store, park, library, museum or beach. This could become a 3-dimensional map, with buildings and houses made out of cereal boxes, old milk cartons, fabric scraps, and so on.

Lesson 4:
Evanston’s Native Americans

Map of Evanston (Maps Available on this website; Click here to obtain them.)


  • On the map of Evanston, ask students to locate the intersection of Ridge Avenue and Central Street. Explain that one of the last Native American tribes to live in this area, the Potawatomi, had a village at this site. Today, this is the location of the Evanston Hospital.
  • Explain that the Potawatomi traveled between this village and another village located near Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago (which would be below the bottom of this map).
  • Ask students to locate Ridge Avenue on the map. Do they notice anything unusual about the shape of this road? Help students distinguish between the straight lines of most Evanston streets and the crooked, meandering path that Ridge takes.
  • Explain that Ridge Avenue was originally a high, dry “ridge” left behind by glaciers as they melted. This high ground made a perfect road. The Potawatomi used it to travel between their villages in what are today Evanston and Chicago. Other roads in Evanston were laid out by people, so they are straighter and more even.
  • Learn some easy Potawatomi words! “Bozho” is a friendly greeting, like saying “hi.” “Iwgwien” (pronounced similar to “ee-gwee-EN”) means “thank you.”

Take a field trip to Evanston Hospital. There is a plaque marking the spot of the former Potawatomi village. It’s on the west side of Ridge Avenue, north of the entrance to the hospital (approximately across from Clinton Place). Ask students to imagine what this area looked like when the Potawatomi were living here. Can you see why this would make a good location for a village?

Lesson 5:
Early immigrants to Evanston

Meets Dist 65 Standard:
Understand the concepts of migration and immigration as they relate to the founding peoples of North America.


• Photos of early settlers
• U.S. map


  • Discuss whether any students moved to Evanston from another area. Did anyone’s parents or grandparents move here from another city, state or country?
  • Ask students who were the first people to live in the Evanston area (Native Americans) and who came next (early settlers from the east coast).
  • Share with students photos of early settlers and information about their families. Talk about how far these pioneer families had to travel from their original homes to Evanston. Discuss how they might have made that journey.
  • Create a bulletin board display as a class by pinning up the U.S. map. Pin up each pioneer photo card somewhere in the space around the map. Connect the card to the map by placing a pushpin in the loop at the end of the string and pinning it onto the state in which the family started.
  • Explain to the class that these are only a small number of the many families that came to the Evanston area and that many families came from other places.

Lesson 6:
Living without lights

Meets Dist 65 Standard:
Show awareness of the common needs of all people for food, shelter, and clothing


Ball-Mason jar
Milk bottle
Curling iron


  • Explain to students that everyday life was very different in Evanston in the past. One big difference between Evanstonians today and Evanstonians 100 years ago is that many residents then did not have electricity. Ask students to name all the devices around the house that require electricity.

Ask students, “What would you do for cooking and cleaning if you did not have electricity to power your oven, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, refrigerator, etc?”

Ask students if they already know any tools or objects that they know people in the past used in place of our modern objects.

Hold up the stereoscope and ask students if they can guess what it was used for. Point out clues to them:
– What is it made out of?
– Do you think it was used to clean, to entertain, to make something?
– Who do you think used it?
– What do you think it was used for? (Teachers might want to hold the stereoscope up so that students can come up, one by one, and look at the picture. The two images, seen together through the stereoscope, give an image that looks alive and “three-dimensional.”)
– Do we still use this? If so, what has changed? If not, what do we use instead? (to see pictures that look “alive” we use TV or movies)

When students have correctly guessed what the object is, discuss how life has changed today with the modern replacement.

Continue the guessing game with some or all of the other recommended objects (Ball Mason jar for storing preserved fruits and vegetables instead of a refrigerator, milk bottle in which milk would be delivered daily instead of refrigerators in stores, rug beater instead of a vacuum, washboard instead of a washing machine, curling iron without a cord that is heated on a stove instead of an electric curling iron).


Talk about changes in values and beliefs that have resulted from new technology today (we expect our clothes to be cleaner and our rugs less dusty)

Lesson 7:
Being a kid 100 years ago


  • Look at a historic school photos. Ask students how life was different and the same for these children, living in Evanston 100 years ago? Some of these questions might spark discussion:
  • Did students then go to school?
  • What are they wearing?
  • What kinds of chores did they do?
  • What did they do for fun?
  • What might have happened 5 minutes after this picture was taken?
  • Examine the photo more closely. How old are the students? How many teachers are there?
  • Ask students which one of these students reminds them of themselves. Which of these students would they like to meet and become friends with?
  • Try some of the games that children played 100 years ago. You might want to set up stations with different toys and let students travel among them. Or assign them as activities for students to explore.
  • The stereoscope is an antique and should only be used with teacher supervision.
  • After students have had an opportunity to play these games, compare and contrast how they are similar and different from games played today. Are there any games that children played then that are still popular today? Are there any games or toys here that aren’t played today but that would be fun to own?

Lesson 8:

Meets Dist 65 Standard:
Know the stories of many history-making individuals from different ethnic backgrounds who have influenced local history


  • Discuss how journals, stories, diaries and letters tell us information about the past.
  • Read some of the recommended short passages from the book Evanston’s Yesterdays (most of these passages are fairly short, but teachers might want to shorten them, or divide up the readings into several days). Ask students what we learn about the history of Evanston from these stories.
  • Tell the students to think of a memorable experience they have had. It could be the first time they tried something new, the happiest day they can remember, a special celebration, the time they traveled somewhere new. Remind the students that it can be about an event, a place, or a person, or it can simply be about something they enjoy doing in their spare time.
  • Have students write their own memories. Teachers might want to create a class book (Evanston’s Todays, perhaps!) about these modern memories.

Suggested readings from Evanston’s Yesterdays:

William Deering, 51-52; Luther L. Greenleaf, 231-33; Alexander Hesler, 8-11
William C. Levere, 143-46; “Uncle Jim” Lindsey, 22- 25
Cornelia Gray Lunt, p. 111-116; William T. Twiggs, 129-31
First Lady of Wilmette, 54-55; Frances Elizabeth Willard, 59-65


  • Give students a homework assignment to interview a family member or friend (preferably someone whose memories go back more than 30 years). Use the interview form to gather information. Students can then share the information with the class.

Lesson 9:
Family trees

Meets Dist 65 Standard:
Relate family history, including relevant history of ethnic membership group

“My Family Tree” worksheet


  • Ask students what a family tree looks like. Discuss why people keep family trees.
  • Talk about what might go on a family tree: names of family members, birth dates, marriage and death dates, photos, etc. How many years might a family tree document
  • Share the “family tree” worksheet, or let students create their own. Talk about how students can add information, such as great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, birthdates, even pets! Establish guidelines for what must be included and what is optional. If family members have remarried, write the new spouse’s name in under that person’s name.
  • Have students complete their own family tree. This works best as a homework assignment, since most children will need assistance from adults in their family. Caution: Not all students can do this assignment comfortably. Sometimes personal information can surface that the student’s family doesn’t want the entire class to know about. If the assignment seems potentially upsetting to a student, offer modifications to fit their comfort level or use an alternative method of recording family information, such as an oral history project.
  • Share the completed family trees as a class and discuss when each student’s family came to the Evanston area.
  • Each student can make a colorful tree from construction paper by drawing a large tree with many branches on a sheet of sky blue construction paper. Cut out leaves from green construction paper, making sure each leaf is big enough to write a person’s name on it. Cut enough leaves for each of the child’s siblings, parents, and grandparents (or more!). Write each person’s name on their leaf and include any other information you want. Glue the leaves to the trees, putting the child’s generation at the bottom, the parents above, and grandparents above them.
  • Visit the Dawes House, which has paintings of many of the people on Charles Gates Dawes’ family tree, as well as family furnishings and stories about the family.

Lesson 10:

Meets Dist 65 Standard:
Understand timeline; place events in personal life on a timeline


  • Discuss what a timeline is. As an introduction to timelines, each child can make a simple timeline of his or her own life. On a small strip of paper, students can mark off each year of their life with a date and a small drawing illustrating an event that happened that year (the year I lost my first tooth, the year my sister was born, the year I started kindergarten, etc).
  • Share the timeline of Evanston without any information cards attached. Discuss the dates on the timeline and ask how these dates compare with those on the students’ life timelines.
  • Pass out the information cards to small groups or partners. Have students read, discuss, and share the information on their cards.
  • Students can discuss which cards go with which dates and then attach their cards to the timeline in chronological order.
  • Share the photos to go with each decade and ask if the images match what students imagined. Attach these photos to the timeline if you like (they might need to hang down).
  • Discuss the changes that have occurred over time.