Social Studies – Grade 4 Close this window
  What's this?

Evolving Communities

  • How significantly has the community changed?
  • Which five pictures best tell the story of how the community changed?

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

In this challenge, students determine how their community has evolved economically, socially and culturally since 1905 by examining archival images and selecting five that best tell the story of how the community has changed. The community selected might be a physical area (e.g., Edmonton, a local neighbourhood), a cultural group (e.g., Cree, Alberta Francophone, Ukrainian) or a linguistic group (e.g., the Algonquian language family).

To prepare for this challenge, obtain 15 to 30 historical images of the selected community from calendars, texts (e.g., the Heritage series), archival records or community members. The images should represent a variety of community dimensions, including:

  • economic; e.g., occupations, industry, agriculture, natural resources, transportation
  • social and cultural; e.g., tourism, recreation, ethnicity of community.

If possible, find several present day images that highlight the same aspects so students can make comparisons. See Investigating Pictures (Modelling the Tools) for detailed instruction for teaching and assessing picture analysis.

Activity 1
Create a historical picture display around the walls of the classroom. Invite students to conduct a gallery walk. As they examine the pictures, encourage them to think about how the images might be categorized; e.g., people, modes of transportation, buildings. When students return to their seat, gather the images and conduct a group sort. Ask students to name the categories and justify the placement of images in the respective categories.

Discuss how historical photographs can teach us about what life was like in the past and help us understand how it has changed. Explain that, for many historical images, there are no written explanations, so historians must study them carefully and make educated guesses as to what is going on, based on evidence in the pictures. Invite students to carefully look at the categories of images to determine how the community has grown and developed over time. Consider adapting one of the charts and strategies for Considering Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.

Activity 2
Select one image to project on the overhead; e.g., Harvesting in Edmonton: ea-10-1799, Woodland Dairy delivery truck: ea-10-1360, Homestead Bound: EA-10-1195 from the City of Edmonton Archives. Create a chart, like the following, on the board to help students focus their observations.

How Much Has It Changed? 

Subject of Photograph: Woodland Dairy Delivery Truck


What It Looked Like Back Then

What It Looks Like Today

Physical Description

  • delivery trucks were wooden delivery carriages with wooden, spoked wheels, a boxed body (2 m x 1.5 m) and slightly arched roof
  • company sign was hand-painted on the inside door and outside panel
  • they were pulled by two horses
  • glass milk bottles were stored in wooden crates; they were all the same size
  • the delivery man was wearing overalls, gloves, brimmed hat and shirt and tie

  • delivery trucks are much larger
  • their bodies are square or rectangular
  • the driver sits in a cab and drives the truck
  • they are powered with gasoline
  • refrigerated trucks transport most perishable goods
  • most milk is packaged in plastic containers or waxed, cardboard cartons of different sizes (i.e., 1L, 2L, 4L)
  • milk is transported in plastic crates or cardboard boxes
  • delivery people may wear overalls and gloves but most do not wear brimmed hats and ties

Made of

  • truck panels, roof and fittings were made of wood
  • carriages had wooden wheels and glass windows

  • delivery trucks are made of steel, aluminum and plastic
  • their wheels are rubber


  • dairy companies used to deliver milk door-to-door

  • most dairy companies do not deliver door-to-door; they sell their milk in supermarkets


  • delivery wagons had boxy carriages
  • they had a functional design

  • delivery trucks have boxy carriages
  • they have a functional design
  • larger bodies can hold more product
  • gasoline or diesel-powered trucks can transport goods more quickly and over greater distances

Ask students to assess how significantly this aspect of the community has changed; e.g., in a small way, in a moderate way, in a big way. Invite students to justify their rating. Consider adapting one of the charts and strategies for Comparing Differences (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.

Activity 3
When you have worked through a class example, assign students to work in pairs or small groups to conduct investigations. Direct each group to use the images to look for changes in one of the categories; e.g., transportation, occupations, industry, use of natural resources, tourism, recreation, ethnic groups, architecture. When their research is finished, challenge groups to arrange their images chronologically, using evidence from the pictures to justify the order. Then, invite groups to share, with the class, what they have learned, using the picture time line as a reference point.

Activity 4
After re-examining the images, direct students to select five pictures that best tell the story of how the community has grown and developed since 1905. The criteria for selection might include:

  • image clearly shows how the assigned aspect used to be
  • changes have had the greatest effect on the greatest number of people.

Ask students to provide reasons for their selections. Consider adapting one of the charts and strategies in Justifying My Choice (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.

You may want to invite community elders, cultural leaders, museum archivists or other guest speakers to share their stories of how the community has evolved over time.

Assemble approximately five front pages of archived newspapers, e.g., local or regional, that illustrate key community events over time. Teach students to infer the lead story by focusing on text features, such as headlines, pictures and captions. Invite students to select five stories that best tell the history of the community during a specific period; e.g., a decade. See the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project's Early Alberta Newspaper Collection for sources. Local archives or community papers often create anniversary or centennial editions that would also be suitable.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
Copyright | Feedback
Back to top