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Overview:
Historical research is an inexact science, even when dealing with a city as young as Denver. The last 150 years have to be pieced together using the letters people wrote to their relatives back east, the company records and government documents pertaining to the period, and even objects and buildings left behind by past generations. Really, discovering history is like being a detective!
Vital Stats:
Associated Subjects: History, Social Studies
Grade Levels: 3-6
Time Required: one class period, maybe two
Skills Used: critical thinking; essay writing; working collaboratively
CO Curriculum Standards Addressed: History 2, 3, 4; Reading & Writing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

This lesson focuses on using resources to attempt to describe the past. It is meant to be a fun way to discuss the difficulties in coming up with “exactly” what may have happened even as little as 100 years ago—let alone 500, or even a thousand years!


Resources:
Guiding Questions:
How can you use people’s letters, photographs, magazines, and even objects to learn about the history of a place and the people living there?


Suggested Activities:
This is meant to be a very “hands on” lesson utilizing a variety of old documents (or copies thereof) that the students will use to attempt to answer questions about the history of Denver. To that end, gather letters, old photos, old magazines, and even objects from roughly the same time period (but at least 40 years ago) and distribute these (or copies) to groups of students. Give a different set of items to each group. (A sample group of items is suggested in the Resources section, above; these items are readily available from the Internet, local libraries, or the Telecommunications History Group.)

Each group is to examine their items and try to answer the following questions about the time period (or others along the same lines): After this activity, the groups should present their findings. The students should note what the answers are, and how the answers differ between groups. Is there a way to find out who is right (if anyone)? What other items could be used to tell the truth, or at least find other clues to the truth?


Assessment:
The class discussion about discovering history through the clues their items hold is one means of assessment. Another is to have the students write an essay about finding the “truth” about history, utilizing the questions above (e.g., Is there a way to find out who is right (if anyone)? What other items could be used to tell the truth, or at least find other clues to the truth?).


Extension: If a newspaper or magazine article says something happened, does that make it the truth? What if another magazine says something different happened? How do you know which is right? What ways are there to find out? What reasons might a newspaper or magazine have to print something that isn’t accurate? What about believing everything you read on the Internet?


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