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The New York Public Library's Picture Collection Online In The Social Studies Classroom

The Picture Collection Online gives you the chance to integrate images of a variety of types into the social studies classroom. The following are some examples, organized by grade level and with correlations to the New York State Learning Standards. Many of the ideas included support Learning Standards in curriculum areas other than social studies. However, only the social studies standards are listed here. Although these ideas are organized by age group you will find many are adaptable to younger or older ages.

Elementary School

Use images from The Picture Collection Online in a study of community helpers and the jobs people perform. Search The Picture Collection Online for images of people at work. In the collection you will find images of police officers, firefighters, zoo employees, grocers, etc. Print out the pictures and create a display so students can see the different types of jobs people have performed throughout history. Facilitate a discussion with students about the jobs displayed in the images you selected and ask them to talk about how the jobs portrayed have changed over the years. [New York State Social Studies Standard 4 - Economics]

Start a study of North American Indians by having students search The Picture Collection Online for images of Indian tribes around the country and from different time periods. Show the full class how to find images at The Picture Collection Online. Make sure to show how to use the browse function in order to find images in a specific subject area, and point out how to find out about a particular image - the title and date of creation in particular. Divide students into groups and ask each group to locate one image they would like to use as a starting point in a study of North American Indians. After each group has selected an image facilitate a KWL (Know, Want to know, and Learned) about the image with which they are going to work. The KWL can lead to developing a set of research questions for each group to use when they go to the library to locate print and online resources for their research on the Indian tribe shown in the picture selected. After the groups have completed their research have them present an oral report to the full class. Make sure they show the picture they started with and discuss what they knew about the topic from looking at the picture, when they started their research, and what they learned through print and online research. [New York State Social Studies Standard 1 - United States and New York History]

Intermediate School

Students can use images from The Picture Collection Online in timelines depicting historic events, places, people, etc. For example, have students depict developments in New York City via a visual timeline. Divide students into groups and show them how to browse through The Picture Collection Online for images related to New York City. Explain to the students that they need to find images that show how New York has grown and changed between 1700 and 1900. Facilitate a brainstorming session with students to come up with a list of what they will be looking for in order to find images that show that change. For example, show the students The Picture Collection Online image titled View from a school house 42nd street between 2nd & 3rd Avenues and ask them to explain why that image would be a good one to add to their visual timelines. After the students have created a list of criteria have them collect images from The Picture Collection Online to use in their timelines. Students should print out the images and make sure the printouts include the date and title of the image. [After all of the images are collected have students create their visual timelines and then mount a display around the room of the student work. Have each group talk about why and how they made their selections for the timeline. New York State Social Studies Standard 1 - United States and New York History]

detailSelect images from The Picture Collection Online of people from various times in history. For example, you might find images of men and women that demonstrate the types of clothing worn in earlier decades and centuries, you might find images of people outside or inside buildings, or you might find images of people working in a particular setting. Divide students into groups and give each group one of the images you pre-selected. Ask each group to design an invention that would make the life of the person(s) displayed in a particular image easier. You can start the students off by talking about what they think life must have been like before electricity, telephones, computers, etc. and facilitate a discussion about how different inventions helped to change people's lives. Have each group research the time period of the image they are working from to learn what people's lives were like during that period. Have each group design a model of their invention and write a summary about how the invention would help the people shown in their image. Host an invention showcase in which the images from The Picture Collection Online are displayed along with the inventions students designed. [New York State Social Studies Standard 2 - World History]

High School

detail The Picture Collection Online includes an image titled, In the heart of New York's ghetto. You can use this image as a starting point for a discussion of immigration, the history of New York City, and economics. Show students the photo and ask them to give their impressions of what the photo is showing. Ask them to consider what the term ghetto means - what it meant at the time the picture was taken and what it means today. Have students talk about who the people in the picture are, where they came from, and how they got to the place shown in the picture? Ask students to consider how immigration to the United States, and to New York City, has had an impact on economics in the country, the city, and the world. Following the discussion, have students select one of the topics covered - immigration, economics, New York City history, etc. - and research the topic of their choice in print and online resources. [New York State Social Studies Standard 1 - United States and New York History; New York State Social Studies Standard 4 - Economics]