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Urbanization and Industrialization

Identify the three or four biggest changes to Canadians' collective identities as a result of increased urbanization and industrialization between the 1870-1900 period and now.

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

In this challenge, students explore the demographic changes in urban and rural Canada over the past 100 or more years by using archival photographs and statistical information to determine the most significant changes in collective identities of Canadians that arose from urbanization and industrialization.

In preparation for this lesson, assemble images that depict rural and urban communities in the later half of the 19th century and in present-day Canada; e.g., typical farm operations, towns, farmlands, industries, use of machinery. Local and provincial archives are good sources of images (see References).

In addition, assemble or invite students to assemble demographic data, such as the following, for the two periods:

  • percentage of Canada's population involved in farming and manufacturing
  • number of workers involved in farming and manufacturing
  • number of farms and number of factories
  • population distribution in rural/urban areas
  • revenue, i.e., contribution to GNP, generated
  • immigration.

To gather this information, students might consult a variety of maps (i.e., historical maps, population density maps from Statistics Canada and the Canadian Council for Geographic Education) and statistical sources. You may want to supplement students' research with information contained in the chart found in Demographic Snapshots of Canada (Background Information).

Activity 1
Invite students to imagine how people might have thought and felt about themselves in the last half of the 19th century compared with today. It will help if students have completed the challenge, Our School's Identity (Critical Challenge), which explores the ways in which collective identities are influenced by political, economic, demographic and social factors. Invite students to list differences in daily life between then and now, and to speculate on how these might influence collective identity. For example,

  • If a community historically spoke a common language, other than English, and now English is the major language in the community, would people feel more or less connected to their cultural roots?
  • If the pace of change was slower then, would people have been more or less conservative in their outlook, more or less inclined to want to hold onto past traditions or more or less skeptical of innovative or technological changes?

Activity 2
Provide students, in groups or pairs, with the then and now photographs you collected. Ask students to record the changes they observe. See Investigating Pictures (Modelling the Tools) for detailed suggestions on how to teach and assess the tools for thoughtful analysis of pictures. When students have analyzed a number of images, invite them to share their identified differences with a partner or another pair of students. Ask each team to record its differences on individual slips of paper, eliminating any duplicate facts. Each team should then post its facts on a large chart titled, Changes in Canada: 19th and 21st Centuries. Ask students to post only those facts that have not already been recorded by another team.

Suggest to students that the details in images provide one source of information about how daily life has changed in the past one hundred years. Before arriving at firm conclusions it is important to corroborate the initial findings with additional information; i.e., statistical data from electronic and print sources (see References). Remind students that when examining online sources they need to consider which information is most relevant. Invite students to assemble information from statistical sources and maps. Ask them to generalize, from the data, about the relationship between technological change and evolving urbanization. As before, arrange for students to compile their facts on a shared class list.

Activity 3
Select a few changes as examples (e.g., much larger families then, increased reliance on machines now) and invite students to speculate on possible implications for collective identity, such as people may have felt a greater sense of belonging, people may now feel more removed from nature. Record the ideas on a chart, as illustrated below.

Changes in Canada: 19th and 21st Centuries

Nature of Demographic Changes

Implications for Collective Identity

  • families were much larger

  • people may now feel more isolated

  • farm machinery was much less common; people were much more reliant on manual labour

  • people may feel more removed from nature

Arrange for students to work in groups to speculate on the implications for the various changes on the collective identities of Canadians. Ask students to share their findings with the class.

Activity 4
Direct students to work independently or in pairs to identify three or four of the most significant differences in collective identities. Suggest that students consider two criteria when identifying the most significant differences:

  • plausible change in identity; e.g., Does it seem reasonable to believe that identities might have changed in this way? Do several demographic changes suggest that this change is likely?
  • significance of the implied change in identity; e.g., Would the change significantly alter deeply rooted perceptions of who we are as Canadians?

Discuss students' findings and conclusions as a class.

Invite students to create a digital presentation to demonstrate the connections among the images, statistics and maps to show how the collective Canadian identity changed most since 1870, as a result of increased urbanization and industrialization. Students may wish to create a slide show to capture the changes.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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