Lesson Plan

Teaching with Primary Resources: High School

Primary source documents help us learn about people, places, and events from the past.

Grade Levels

High School; Grades 9-12


1‐3 class periods. This activity has been designed to be customized to your learning goals and your students’ individual needs. Choose to do the complete lesson plan or select parts with your students based on your schedule and objectives.


Students examine primary source documents to reconstruct part of the history of the Lower East Side between the years 1870 and 2010

Related Museum Programs: All

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Understand that primary source documents can help us understand people, places, and events from the past.
  • Think critically about historic records.
  • Explore change over time.
  • Explore the strengths and limitations of using primary source documents as a research tool.

Essential Questions

  • How do historians learn about the past?
  • How can primary source documents help us to understand the past and the present?
  • What are the strengths and limitations of primary sources?


  • Census Guide (located in appendix)
  • Census Packet (located in appendix)
  • Photograph of 97 Orchard Street (located in appendix)
  • Loose‐leaf paper
  • Pens or pencils



  • Primary source
  • Census

Questions on lessons and activities?

The materials on this page can enrich a visit to the Museum or help you teach about immigration. If you have questions or comments, please e-mail us.

Are you an Educator?

Sign-up here to receive information on upcoming workshops and school program opportunities.