Architecture as a Primary Source in the Classroom

Tue 11 2008

People use buildings for a wide range of activities related to family life, work, shopping, religion, recreation, entertainment, and so on. Structures reflect the needs, style preferences, and sensibilities of the people who designed and used them. Over time, some structures may be neglected and fall into disrepair, while others are torn down to make way for new construction. Buildings may also be preserved or restored for continued use—often for a completely different purpose.

This lesson plan on the restoration of Montpelier, home of James Madison, appears in the free digital Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Gazette and guides teachers to help students begin viewing buildings as primary sources. Just like documents, buildings can yield information about how people in the past lived and what they valued. Students can begin to think in terms of preserving and restoring the architectural history around them.

The lesson plan includes a feature article, slideshow, worksheets and samples of completed worksheets with guided discussion questions.

About the Author

Lee Ann Ghajar is a digital history associate in Public Projects at CHNM and a PhD candidate in American history at George Mason University.