Then, Now, and Tomorrow

By Cassandra Kapsos-Scouten, October 22, 2006

Grade Level

  • High School


  • City of Neighborhoods

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

Five fifty-minute class periods


This unit will investigate the past, present, and future of the architecture and plan of New York’s Lower East Side. Students will research the history of the Lower East Side neighborhood in photographs used from the Tenement Museum in order to build an understanding of what the neighborhood was like 75-100 years ago. (This will be done through a PowerPoint presentation created by the teacher. Depending on time, the students could do their own photographic research.) Students will then explore the neighborhood now, taking digital photographs of buildings and other sites that interest them. They will use this knowledge to write a journal entry about what they expect to see in the LES in the future. Students should reflect on the perspectives of local residents and past newspaper articles to build on their point of view of the neighborhood.

National Standards

Standard 1. Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes
Standard 2. Using knowledge of structures and functions Standard 3. Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols and ideas Standard 4. Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures Standard 5. Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others Standard 6. Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines
F6-Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges.
G1-Science as a human endeavor.
Social Studies
I-Culture IV-Individual Development and Identity V-Individuals, groups, and institutions IX-Global Connections

Common Core Standards

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

Craft and Structure:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Anchor Standards for Writing:

Text Types and Purposes:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.


Students will:
  • explore the history of the LES neighborhood
  • research the history of their neighborhood, in conjunction with the history of their family
  • use digital photography to document the LES architecture
  • appreciate the change in the neighborhood over time
  • write several journal entries reflecting on their neighborhood
  • reflect on how the Lower East Side may change in the future



  • drawing paper
  • pens
  • pencils
  • journals
  • cameras
  • library photo archive, microfiche, and newspapers


Tenement housing, century, structural design, decorative, symbolic, immigrant, artifacts, sustainable design, tenement housing rights, column, facade


Prior to teaching the lesson, the teacher should prepare 2 PowerPoint or slide presentations, one consisting of pictures from the Lower East Side Neighborhood during the late 1800’s- 1930, the other of photos from the LES today. Key Questions: • What did the LES look like a century ago? • Who lived in this neighborhood? • What will it look like in another 100 years? • What styles of structures are in the LES? • Why are some of the buildings in Garaicoa’s photography gone? • What is he trying to say about society in these photographs? Motivation: Have students draw their favorite place when they were young using paper and pencil for 3 minutes and then share it in a group. Ask the students if this place is still around and if it has changed since they were young. Have a couple students share their experience. (This activity is used to get the students used to thinking about a place in the past and the changes it has gone through.) Inform the students that the city has been through many changes since the early 1900’s and give examples. Have the students think about the question: "What do you think your favorite place will look like in another 100 years?" and draw their ideas for 15 minutes. Part 1 1) Show Carlos Garaicoa’s photography/drawings for an example of buildings in the past and present. Encourage the students to think about why some of the buildings in Garaicoa’s photography are gone and what Garaicoa is trying to say about society in these photographs. Have the students discuss and/or write in their journals about these topics. Then play an audio piece about Garaicoa discussing his artwork Untitled. LA (2004). 2) Put up a map and have each student put a push pin into the place of their family origin. This will spark conversations about what was going on in the world that contributed to people’s moving and dealing with the poor living conditions in LES tenements in the past. Homework: Students will interview a relative about their family’s ethnic heritage. Encourage them to find out why their family came to America, when and how they got here, and where they first went in this country. Part 2 1) Teacher and students brainstorm about what they think the LES looked like a century ago. Teacher says: This lesson is about the LES past, present, and future. The city is always changing and evolving in terms of style, population, and technology. Why did immigrants move here? Why did immigrants live in poor conditions? Today we are going to look at the LES past from the late 1800’s to 1930’s. The teacher will show their PowerPoint or slide photos of the LES. 2) Students will sketch and take notes from the “Last Century LES Tenement PowerPoint.” This will help them gain perspective on the LES past and learn its history. Lead a discussion with students about which buildings they recognize today, what is missing form the photos today, why the buildings have changed (advancements in technology, change in people’s needs, change in the layout of the neighborhood plan, etc.). Discuss the history of the LES, the history of the time period (the Great Depression, immigration, etc.), and the reason for tenement housing. Teacher note: This is a very good way to cross curriculums and tie this activity into a Social Studies or History class. 3) For homework, the students will write a journal entry about what they saw in class in the PowerPoint presentation and how this makes them feel about their neighborhood. Encourage creativity in imagining how the neighborhood used to look, feel, smell, etc. Are they surprised by how their neighborhood used to look? Do they feel proud to be living/going to school in a neighborhood that has so much history? Part 3 1) In the next class period, the teacher will give a PowerPoint presentation of the LES now. Students will see the changes made to older building, recognize newer buildings, and tangibly see how the neighborhood has transformed. Encourage students to talk about how the neighborhood is used now in comparison to how it was used in the past, who lives there now rather than in the past, and how the residents now are influencing the design and style of the neighborhood. Teacher note: If possible, it would be very helpful to bring in an elder neighborhood community member, architect, community historian, etc. to speak to the class about changes. 2) Take the class on a neighborhood investigative walk, in order to gather information about buildings that exist now and how they might be changed to suit the future. Encourage thought by asking questions like: What will the LES look like in another 100 years? Who will be living here? What will the area be used for? How do you think things will change? Are you more proud of your neighborhood due to its rich history? Have the students answer these questions in their journal upon returning to class.


Students will discuss what they enjoyed, learned, and experienced with the class. They will also self-reflect in their journals. Students’ work will be displayed in the school hallway or in a local shop for the community to view and reflect upon.

Enrichment Extension Activities

The students could design a building they think will represent the future of the LES, showing the changes they expect to come to the neighborhood.

Teacher Reflection

Students will be working on this lesson for several weeks. As a class, we needed to revisit building parts and their relation to the outside world. We went over functions of certain building parts that are in the Lower East Side neighborhood on a Form follows Function worksheet. Students needed to revisit their knowledge of contour line drawing for the Extension activity. For this activity, the students worked in groups, which helped them brainstorm and discuss their own design. Next time I do this activity, I will have a table leader which will be in charge of making sure that everyone is on track with the form follows function worksheet. It was a difficult worksheet for my 11th grade to understand.

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