Yonkers History Project - Overview

  • The goal of The Yonkers History Project is for students to conduct an historical investigation in which they are using literacy skills to support their ideas. The culminating project should answer the question that you are posing at the beginning of the unit of study. For the YHP, the overarching question is Has Yonkers experienced a transformation? This allows for students to examine a theme (Community, Government/Founding, or Diversity/Immigration) and find out if there has been a change that has occurred, over a period of time, in one of those areas. The time period is up to you but also should be guided by the research that the students hone in on.

    Starting with a large question will get students researching, however breaking this down into more manageable pieces will help them to discover, through research and interest, what they would like to focus in on.

    For instance, within the “Community theme,” students may wish to look at one neighborhood or a school with Yonkers. What has happened there? Has it changed? What type of buildings exist? Have the people changed? This may even lead to study of transportation, trade, explorers, or even shifts in population.

    For a study of “Government,” What is the structure of our government? What was the first form of government? Who are some important leaders? What were some important events that occurred to shape our government? This could lead into a study of the Native Americans, the Dutch explorers, the Philipse family, the shift from rule by a king to that of a mayor, or even how Yonkers got its name.

    For a study of “Immigration,” Who are the people of Yonkers? Who settled here first? How has this changed over different decades? What has drawn people to Yonkers? What are some of the geographic features that make Yonkers desirable? Did different people settle into different areas? What has drawn their own families? Yonkers has such a rich tradition of being a place for diverse cultures. Student studies may look at how visual images have captured this diversity, 

    This project was designed to be interdisciplinary, although the content is history and ELA. Connections that may be made through this project include Science, Math, Art, Music, and Language. The project allows teachers and students to have many choices in which to make the project your own and to allow interdisciplinary research. Choice is the basis of project-based learning (PBL). PBL begins with a driving question or problem to solve. In The Yonkers History Project, the driving question is: Has a transformation occurred in Yonkers? Of course, you and your students will develop more narrow topics based on an area of interest either determined by student groups or the class as a whole.

    how people have come to Yonkers, the industries that immigrants have supported, housing patterns, etc.

    It is not necessary, or particularly desirable, for the entire class to do the exact same topic within the overarching theme. However the overarching theme should be what brings all of the student projects together under one essential question. It is, however, important for students to work collaboratively in small groups once areas of interest have been identified that engage students.

  • The Project-Based Learning (PBL) Process: Research and collaboration are important parts of the process. Through researching using a variety of sources (both primary and secondary), students will explore different aspects of the project and decide on an area that they would like to work on. In the PBL processes, students collaborate together in groups. This collaboration is essential to the process as students will learn from each other and also bring in different perspectives. Within the project are several Accountable Talk structures to assist students with their peer interactions and analysis. In addition to beginning with a Driving Question or Real- World Problem to solve, other aspects of PBL process include: research, collaboration, and creating a project that addresses the question or solves the problem, a student showcase for the community, and reflection.

    Length of Project: During the school year, the length of the project can vary. A very simple study of Geography of the local area (for example) may only last two weeks. A deeper study through multiple lenses (for instance studying the History of Your School through interviews, research, studying artifacts, making observations, and writing) may take longer. In this summer program, we are very limited in time so the project must be kicked off within the first days. The field trips are designed to assist with student research and understanding of the topics. In PBL projects, the process of exploration, investigation and responding to the driving question with a solution is as important (if not more so) than the final product. Finally, the project should include individual student reflections and participation in the showcase with an audience.

  • Deciding on a topic: While you all have large topics, you are free to narrow them in your classes. Some examples of Culminating Projects are below. Determine how some of these topics may fit into your theme. You may determine your own topics or brainstorm with your students.page3image64107456

    1. Investigate the history of your school (or one of the Yonkers Public Schools that either continues to exist or no longer exists). In this project, students may research the beginnings of their school and develop an historical project about its founding, its philosophy, its earliest students, and the changes it has gone through over time. What is life like now for a student? What was it like before? Has the curriculum changed or stayed the same? (See the video for other possible essential questions.)

    2. Investigate the changes in transportation over time in Yonkers. In this project, there are many different “tracks” and “avenues” that students may embark upon from the arrival of the stagecoach, to the busy ferry service, to the trolleys and buses, the trains
      and subways, or the advent of automobiles and parkways. [Classroom idea: Students may be assigned in small groups to research the growth of each form of transportation, create a timeline showing the transitions, and investigate how the city has changed through the different modes of transportation.] See the Transportation video for possible essential questions.

    3. Investigate the founding of Yonkers and the political leadership of Yonkers over time. Who is credited with founding Yonkers? How did it get its name? What were his or her ideas? What can you find out about the earliest political leaders? Has leadership in the city changed or largely stayed the same? Other avenues to explore may be the ways in which Yonkers has been a state-wide or national leader? Which presidents have visited Yonkers and why?

    4. Investigate immigration into Yonkers. Who were the earliest settlers in the city? Why did they come to Yonkers? What have immigrants brought to Yonkers (and New York)? What other groups of people arrived in Yonkers? Has the population changed over time and if so, how? What type of cultural celebrations or customs have been brought to Yonkers and how does the city celebrate diversity?

    5. Investigate the changes in the waterways. How has this led to a transformation for the people in this community? Why have the waterways changed? What is the daylight project? How have the waterways impacted life (both in and out of the water)? See the video on transportation for possible essential questions.

    6. Investigate the influence of the Native Americans or the Dutch on the Founding and development of Yonkers. Who were the Native Americans? What were their customs and traditions and is there evidence today or their influence?

    7. Investigate service during times of war. Which wars have Yonkers residents been involved in and why did they go to war? How is service memorialized in the city? Were there other ways that people served the community and country during war time?

    8. Investigate the Art of Yonkers. What does it show? Who creates art? Does art include music, photography and film? How does it reflect the people of Yonkers? How has it changed over time?

    9. Investigate a community in Yonkers. How long has it existed? Who lives there? What does it look like? What type of history has occurred there? What is the closest school? Are there shops and restaurants? What types? (Have there been movements? Famous people? Did it figure in a war?)

  • Display Ideas

    All displays should have the following in common: a written component, a demonstration of change over time (or indicating that there has not been a change), and must address the driving question: Has Yonkers undergone a transformation? However, the creation of the project is open to many interpretations Below are just a few ideas for culminating projects. A class may decide to engage in multiple displays or focus on one or two types.

    1. A timeline indicating major events and historic turning points

    2. Photo collage

    3. Essay or Research Paper

    4. Poem, Story, Song, Script

    5. Map, Chart, Graph, Drawing or other pictorial presentation

    6. A Graphic Novel or Comic Book

    7. Video or Audio presentation

    8. A Performance

    9. Interview transcript

    10. Performance

    11. Dioramas

    12. Architectural drawings or displays

    13. Community Service Project

    14. A quilt