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Lesson Ideas for the 1950s Gallery

The study of the 1950s decade in Michigan can provide lessons across the curriculum:

  • Young children can color 1950s cars. Use the activity to inspire them to share stories about their own travel by automobile. Compare auto travel to travel by wagon on a plank road during settlement days as described in Asa Stoddard's poem, Riding on the Plank. Older children can use the pictures of the cars to spur discussion related to the "My Dream Car" class activity.
  • Play the 1950s Guessing Game after you've learned about the decade of the fifties. Encourage students to test their knowledge by finding or drawing pictures of objects or events from other decades they've studied for each other to guess.
  • Safety or styling? Science or art class? Address both with the "My Dream Car" activity. Explore technological advances in automobiles while you design cars for the future.
  • Need a fundraiser—or just a way to pull all you've learned about the fifties together in a fun way? "A 1950s Kind of Day" lets students put all their research and study about the decade on display.
  • Self-esteem, good citizenship, fair play—all take a beating when name-calling surfaces in the classroom or on the recess yard. Do your students know how adults used name-calling to ruin the reputations of so-called "subversives" or "Communist sympathizers" during the 1950s. "Propaganda: Name-calling" teaches about that ugly period of our history while letting students look at how they form opinions about others.
  • Studying law? Public Act 117 of 1952, the Michigan Communist Control Law, was repealed in 1979. Measure this law against the protections granted citizens in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Discuss the motivations that created this law and the reasons for its repeal.
  • Bring the Mackinac Bridge into your math and science classrooms. Have students develop their own math problems with bridge statistics. Study different types of bridge design from the covered bridges of the past to the suspension-style Mackinac Bridge. What are the merits of each? Have students design their own bridges, making models of their designs from a variety of materials. Check out a model bridge building competition for high school students!

Contact the Michigan Historical Museum.

Updated 08/10/2010

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