Title: Generational Geovision: People's Perceptions of Place Over Time323

Key Words: Place, cultural perceptions, experiential perceptions

National Standard: 6
How culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions.

State Standard: 11
Students will demonstrate an understanding of the physical and human geographical features that define places and regions.

Teaching Level: H

Lesson Introduction: While many students learn quickly to identify the physical and cultural characteristics of places and regions, it is more difficult to see how perceptions of those characteristics may be influenced by the cultural background and experiences of the observer. This lesson is designed to illustrate how people within the student's own community have different perceptions of the area, based on their age and experiences.

Objectives/Purpose: To analyze how perceptions of place are influenced by time, cultural setting, and experience; to ask questions in oral history interviews.

Materials: Overhead projector, blank overheads, overhead pen; subjects for interviews.

Procedure: l. Ask students to brainstorm a list of words describing their own community, writing their answers on the overhead. Discuss.

2. From the list of words, write a paragraph describing the community as a class.

3. Working from the description, students are to work in groups to come up with a list of topics included in the paragraph. Then students should create questions which would elicit more specific information about these topics. They are then to add at least five additional questions which they think would add significant information to the description. Group roles should include a recorder to write down the questions, a leader to keep the discussion on track, and a idea initiator. Of course, all students should contribute their insights.

4. Note for students that questions should be specific enough to be clear, yet open-ended enough that the respondent will have an opportunity to add his/her individual insights. Sample questions might include: "What is the most important landmark in our community? Why do you think it is the most important?" "How do you think the community has changed over the past fifty years? Are these changes positive or negative? Why do you think so?"

"What changes would you like to see in the community in the future? Why? What would you most like to see preserved? Why?"

5. Allow time for small group work, then meet as a whole group to share small group products and to develop a list of common questions for oral interviews.

6. Each student will be responsible for interviewing one younger student (middle or elementary school), one contemporary who is not in the class, and one older person, perhaps a parent, grandparent, or older acquaintance.

7. After interviews are conducted, students should work in groups to discuss and tabulate the results of the interviews, noting both differences and similarities across the generations.

8. Have each small group present their findings to the class as a whole. Write down their conclusions on a blank overhead.

9. Ask students to suggest reasons for the differences across the generations, as well as the similarities. Note the role of cultural and temporal setting, as well as experience, in creating changing perceptions of place. Note as well the role of cultural conditioning in creating common perceptions of a community.

Evaluation/Assessment: Student group work in devising questions; student evaluation in groups of interview results.

Enrichment/Extension: Oral history interviews may be conducted on a much more extensive basis to investigate more specific topics in the history of the community. An invaluable resource available at the N. H. Historical Society is Judith Moyers' book, Ask and Listen: Oral History for the Classroom, Concord: New Hampshire Council for the Social Studies and the New Hampshire Historical Society, 1993.

Additional Standards: National standard 2 (mental maps); standard 4 (physical and cultural characteristics of places); standard 12 (settlements); standard 17 (interpret the past); standard 18 (interpret the present and plan for the future); state standard 10 (maps, technologies, and mental maps); standard 11 (physical/human geographic features and regions) standard 13 (human systems; cooperation and conflict); standard 15 (interpret the past and present and plan for the future).

Reflection: How successful was this lesson? Did all students benefit? Were there any surprises? What might you do differently another time? Please note any changes that will make this lesson more effective and useful in the future and pass them along to the NHGA. We appreciate your comments.

Thank you,

The authors.


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