Making Curriculum Pop

Another great lesson plan from the New York Times Learning Network

April 15, 2010, 2:10 PM

The Power of Place: Doing Ethnographic Studies of Local Sites

Avenue D in Fort Pierce, Fla.Chip Litherland for The New York TimesAvenue D in Fort Pierce, Fla., where Zora Neale Hurston spent her later years.Go to related article »

Materials | Computer with Internet access and a projector or print-outs of images (see warm-up), copies of the handout.

Overview | How do writers create or defy popular images of settings? What is ethnography, and how can it be used to reveal the meanings of places? In this lesson, students consider the power of place in their own lives, and then execute an ethnographic research project that dispels clichéd notions about where they live.

Warm-up | In their journals, students write down whatever comes to mind when they think of Florida – words, images, place names, etc. After giving them some time to brainstorm, invite students to share their ideas on the board. Discuss where their ideas come from and why they have these impressions of Florida. Also, ask: Was this brainstorm an easy or difficult task? Why?

Then, show students the Times slide show “Zora Neale Hurston’s Florida.”Then ask: Did these photographs fit the ideas you shared about Florida at the beginning of class? Why or why not? Would any of these photos be used to market tourist vacations? If so, which ones? If not, why? How do these photographs resist cliché? How did they alter your views of Florida?

Finally, ask: How are stereotyped notions about places like Florida useful, both for natives and locals as well as for outsiders and visitors? How are they limiting?

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