20 Children Now and Then

Competencies: Social Studies, History

Geography 3.2.2: Understands the cultural universals of place, time, family life, economics, communiocations, arts, recreation, food, clothing, shelter, transportation, government and education.


Objective: Students compare and contrast a child’s life at school and at play, now and 100 years ago.

Materials: School section of photo prompt slide show, McGuffey spelling book, McGuffey reading book, slate, chalk for the slate, string or shadow book, deck of cards, marbles, jacks, top, tiddly winks, Edison record, stereograph or toy bank, article for teachers “Early Schools in Issaquah Area” (see attached)

Note to teacher: There are five Issaquah History Kits. The materials listed above are divided amongst the four kits.  When there are two items listed, such as toy bank or stereograph, this designates that each kit will contain one or the other, not both.


  1. Look at a historic school photo in the kit.  How do students think life was different and the same for children 100 years ago?  The following are some questions to stimulate a brainstorm:
    • Did children go to school?
    • Did they have friends?
    • Did they have homework?
    • What kind of chores did they have?
    • What kind of games did they play?
    • Did they dress the same?
  2. Examine the photo closely.  What are the ages of the children in the photo?  How many teachers are there?  Discuss multi-age, one-room schools.  Why were children of all different ages in the same class?  (These were all of the children in the entire area.  There were not enough students to create a grade for every age group.)  Do some of the children have the same cloth pattern on their clothes? (Families bought material and made clothes for many family members out of the same piece of cloth.)
  3. Ask students, if they were one of these children in the photo, which child would they be and why?  With whom would they like to meet and be friends with in the photo?
  4. Share the slate and chalk and discuss how limited resources were for early pioneer schools compared to today (slates instead of paper, chalk instead of paints, crayons, pens, pastels, colorful construction paper, fewer text books, one dictionary for the entire school/no library filled with fun children’s books).
  5. Teach a lesson from a McGuffey reading or spelling book.
  6. Try some of the games that children played 100 years ago.  There are hand shadow or string books, jacks, cards, marbles, tiddly winks, and tops.  These can be set up as a learning center or as assigned activities for students to explore.
  7. The stereograph and Edison records are antiques and should only be used with teacher supervision.
  8. After students have had an opportunity to play these games, compare and contrast how games are similar or different from games children play today.  Are there any games that children played 100 years ago that are still popular games today?  Are there any games that were played in the past that students would like to own and play with today?


Activity 20 (DOC)
Activity 20 (PDF)
Early Schools article
Photo Prompt Slide Show

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