You will need:
- Historical maps of region
- Regional documents, archives etc, older people
Module 6: Stuff
The History of Stuff
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This group activity allows pupils to research how local trade and industry has changed over the years.
What to do:
For this activity you will need old maps and archives of the region, and any other kind of resource material you can find that is relevant – census data, artefacts, museum visits, people to come and speak.
The idea is for the pupils to research the material, either in groups, pairs, or as a class, and to gain a general idea of how industry, production and business in the region has changed and developed over time. If you like you can focus on a particular era, or you can build a more shallow but broad perspective. Allow the pupils to research the areas that interest them. Capturing their imagination and interest in the region is one of the key developments. The kind of information you can expect to find is related to census data – what kind of local trades existed in times gone past? Rope makers? Railwaymen? What kind of ‘stuff’ was sold locally?
You can spend as long on this activity as you see fit. Of course it is also relevant to all the other themes in this project – you could also find out about transport in the past, or food production, or energy, for example. You might discover quarries, railways and shipbuilding industries that have disappeared. For the purpose of this lesson, try and find out about the high street shops. What did they used to sell?
The main purpose of the lesson is for pupils to understand that there have been major changes in the way that people have lived and worked in the region. Ask them to account for these changes. You will need to help them by finding out about significant local or national events yourself. For example the coming of the railways may have significantly altered the area by opening up new trade routes. The invention of the domestic fridge will have significantly altered shopping habits. Try not to be too concerned about the level of detail – if pupils are inspired to find out more and have developed an interest in the region, that is enough to build on with future work.
Engage pupils in a discussion about the impact of goods and industries. Did people have fair working conditions? What about the impact on the local and global environments? What about the embodied energy of the goods that were sold?
You will uncover some interesting developments. When the coal powered railways first came, they were the most polluting forms of transport around. Now, travelling by train is one of the least polluting ways of getting about. Quarrying and mining for precious metals are toxic activities which pollute land and water systems. Some land is still unsuitable for arable agriculture as a result of a build up of heavy metals, years after the mines have closed. Ask the pupils whether we still rely on these practices? Are they still polluting even if no longer in our neighbourhood?
It is likely that the kind of ‘stuff’ sold in shops on the high street had a smaller impact than ‘stuff’ sold today. Ask the pupils to think about the reasons why this is. Goods were more likely to have been made from local materials, or from raw materials imported in bulk by ship. Goods were more simply engineered, built to last, and could be repaired. Have they managed to find evidence of repair services? What could be repaired? How does that compare to now?