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POST-VISIT LESSON: Preserving Our Past

Grade Levels: This lesson can be modified easily to work at any grade level (K-12). Modifications would include doing the Preserving Our Past handout orally with younger or special needs children or having students draw pictures of the community asset they would like to preserve and how it could benefit the community.

Illinois State Learning Standards that can be covered with this lesson:

  • English – 4A: Listen effectively in formal and informal situations.
  • English – 4B: Speak effectively using language appropriate to the situation and audience.
  • English – 5C: Apply acquired information, concepts, and ideas to communicate in a variety of formats.
  • Social Science – 16A: Apply the skills of historical analysis and interpretation.
  • Social Science – 16B: Understand the development of significant political events.
  • Social Science – 16D: Understand Illinois, United States, and world social history.
  • Social Science – 16E: Understand Illinois, United States, and world environmental history.
  • Social Science – 17A: Locate, describe, and explain places, regions, and features on the Earth.
  • Social Science – 17C: Understand relationships between geographic factors and society.
  • Social Science – 18B: Understand the roles and interactions of individuals and groups in society.

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will comprehend the importance of preserving history in their communities.
  • Students will be able to identify historical assets within their communities.
  • Students will develop an action plan for preserving a historical community asset.
  • Students will understand the impact historical preservation has on a community.
  • Students who have visited the J.H. Hawes Grain Elevator will see, firsthand, the result of community action in preserving history.

Materials and Supplies:

  • Preserving Our Past handout
  • Chalkboard, whiteboard, or butcher’s block paper (or overhead projector or computer with display that can be seen by all)

Basic Steps:

    1. Discuss with students the ways in which the J.H. Hawes Grain Elevator had an impact on the growth and development of Atlanta and the surrounding communities.
    2. Discuss with students the idea that although the J.H. Hawes Grain Elevator is no longer in operation, it continues to have an impact on Atlanta today in its role as a museum. The community of Atlanta has chosen to preserve the grain elevator.
    3. Discuss other ways in which people preserve the past. Examples may include scrapbooks that preserve family history, photos or videos taken to preserve people or places that are no longer here, erecting monuments to tell about important historical people, places, and events, establishing museums, and restoring historical buildings, tools, vehicles, and other items.
    4. As a group, brainstorm a list of elements of your own community (such as businesses, churches, farms, schools, stories, groups of people, events, etc.) that have had an impact on the growth and development of the community. Write students’ ideas on the board (or use an overhead projector or electronic display). Point out that these historical elements may in danger of being forgotten or even destroyed and would not be there for future generations to learn from or appreciate.
    5. Either as groups, partners, or as individuals, have students select one “historical” community feature, story, event, or element that they feel is of historical importance to your community or to the world. Once they have selected a historical element, have them complete the Preserving Our Past handout.

Learning Extensions and Possible Products:

  • Have students write a persuasive letter (or essay) to the local mayor or other appropriate official that attempts to convince the mayor to take action in preserving the element they selected. (IL State Standards 3A, 3B, 3C in addition to those listed above)
  • With the help of local or state historical societies, start a community campaign to “save” one of your community’s historical assets.
  • Students can create a poster or website featuring the community historical asset to raise awareness. (IL State Standards 26B and 27B in addition to those listed above)
  • Older students could research actual costs and materials that would be needed for restoration (of a building) or publication of a book (if the item to be preserved is a story or involves photos). (IL State Standards 6A, 7C, 13A, 13B in addition to those listed above)
  • Have students work together to create a “community collage” that represents several of the important features or elements that make their community special. Use photos, found objects, newspaper articles, ticket stubs, fliers or menus from local businesses, and other items to capture the essence of your community so that someone from the future could look at the collage and understand what your community was like at the time. (26 B and C in addition to those listed above)

Helpful websites:

J.H. Hawes Grain Elevator Museum: Preservation Primer

Preserving Community History, by Craig White and Paul Castelloe

Maryland Municipal League: Preserving Municipal History

Society of California Archivists: Preserving Your History Brochure Series

PBS: Discover Your School History

Early American Museum: Using Your Community as a Learning Resource: “Whatever Happened to Main Street?” by David Weitzman.

Illinois Historic Preservation Agency

Additional Post-Visit Activities:

  • Have students build a model of the J.H. Hawes Grain Elevator.
  • Have students make posters advertising J.H. Hawes Grain Elevator and the exciting things people can do and learn there.
  • Have your students report on what they learned at the J.H. Hawes Grain Elevator to another class at the school.
  • Have your students write a story or poem about a grain elevator and the people who live near and work with it.
  • Read From the Top of a Grain Elevator by Barbara Nickel and write a poem or story about what you might see if you were at the top of a grain elevator.

Illinois. Mile After Magnificent Mile.