Dows Lane Elementary School Second Graders Study New York’s Changing Geography 

Dows Lane Elementary School Second Graders Study New York’s Changing Geography (Second Graders Study New York’s Changing Geography (Photos courtesy of the Irvington Union Free School District )

As part of a curriculum enrichment program through the New York Historical Society – sponsored by a generous grant from the Irvington Education Foundation – second graders at Dows Lane Elementary School have taken on the roles of historians to examine how geography of a city shapes its development.  

Throughout the learning experience, the students work with educator Daniela Pamplona to deepen their understanding and make strong connections to their studies. Using a combination of authentic objects, images of works of art, artifacts and documents from the collections of the New York Historical Society, the second graders have learned about the process historians use to examine artifacts and identify clues about our past. They’ve also learned how to read a map, examine maps for historical information, and learned the differences between and the benefits of rural and urban communities.  

During a recent lesson, the second graders examined one of the first maps of New York City from 1766 and, based on their observations of the map, they reflected on how the area has changed from rural to urban. They also looked at another historical map through their magnifying glasses and were challenged to determine the date on the map.   

“It really makes the students think,” said Kari Carlson, a second-grade teacher and curriculum leader. “We know it’s challenging, but they have to talk to each other and use good investigation skills to figure out what era the map came from and why. They do that for several different types of activities throughout the nine sessions.”

Over the next several sessions, the students will learn how the geography of New York City made it a great location for international trade and how it enabled it to become the primary port for new immigrants to the city. As a culminating project to their studies in January, the students will create a poster timeline of New York City and record what they have learned this year. 

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About the Author: Evelyn Mertens