SUBJECT: Michigan History, Geography, Economics
TOPIC: Detroit
GRADE LEVEL: Upper Elementary
CREATORS: Phenecia Brown, Geral Archutowski, Dan'elle Nelson, Meredith Summer, Jill Butkiewicz

Schedule of Events for Detroit Unit Plan

Day 1 Introduction, Motown music, KWL poster
Day 2 Indians in Detroit. Discuss artifacts. Make Indian head dress.
Day 3 Cadillac arrives. Role playing.
Day 4 Growth of city. Geography mapping.
Day 5 Famous figures of Detroit. Pocketful of history.
Day 6 Henry Ford-video with semantic mapping.
Day 7 Auto industry and unions, second part of video. Make a production line.
Day 8 Same as day 7, Student forum about pros and cons of unions. Short essays.
Day 9 Riots and protests, students summarize old newspaper articles. Discuss riot effects in reports.
Day 10 Places in Detroit. Internet activity. Students use information to make travel brochures.
Day 11 Belle Isle. Students will create their own island.
Day 12 Detroit and it's waterways. Guest speaker from Great Lakes Museum. Students create waterways.
Day 13 Taste of Detroit. Luncheon of Detroit foods.
Day 14 Field trip to Detroit Historical Museum. Handout to complete about the museum.
Day 15 Unit conclusion and evaluation. Students write in reflective journal. Handout covering unit.

Unit Goals


Current Student Skills


Skills to Teach with this Unit

Michigan Social Studies Framework Strands and Benchmarks
Historical Perspective Students use knowledge of the past to construct meaningful understanding of our diverse cultural heritage and to inform their civic judgments.
Geographic Perspective Students will use knowledge of spatial patterns on Earth to understand processes that shape human environments and to make decisions about society.
Economic Perspective Students will use knowledge of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services to make personal and societal decisions about the use of scarce resources. 
Inquiry Students will use methods of social science investigation to answer questions about society. 
1.2.5 Summarize the sequence of key events in stories describing life from the past in their local community, the state of Michigan, and their parts of the United States. 
1.2.7  Recount the lives and characters of a variety of individuals from the past representing their local community, the state of Michigan, and other parts of the United States with present day life in those places. 
1.3.4 Use primary sources to reconstruct past event in their local community. 
1.3.6 Compose simple narratives of events from the history of the state of Michigan and of the United States.
1.4.3 Identify problems from the past that divided their local community, the state of Michigan and the United States and analyze the interests and values of those involved.
2.4.6 Describe the geography of Michigan at major times in it's history and explain the reasons for it's change. 
4.2.5 Examine the historical and contemporary role a major industry has played in the state of Michigan and in the United States.
5.1.5 Organize the social science information to make and interpret maps, graphs and tables. 
5.2.7 Construct an answer to the question posed and support their answer with evidence.
6.2.2 Engage each other in conversations which attempt to clarify and resolve national and international policy issues.



Detroit Unit Plan Road Map

Week One

Monday, Day One
Introduction to Detroit Unit.
Click here for lesson plan.
KWL Strategy
Activity-Will brainstorm and organize their thoughts about the subject of Detroit.

Tuesday, Day Two
Indians in Detroit.
We will discuss various artifacts borrowed from a local Chippewa spokesman.
Activity-The students will create their own Indian headdress.

Wednesday, Day Three
Cadillac Arrives in Detroit.
Handouts: The students will read two brief handouts. The first handout provides a short history of Cadillac's arrival and stay in Detroit. The second handout is a description of Cadillac's account of Detroit.
(History of Detroit, Farmer, p11)
(Michigan: A history of the Great Lakes State, Rubenstein and Aiewacz, pp.30-24)
Activity- The students will perform a skit which shows Cadillac's arrival in Detroit.

Thursday, Day Four
Growth of a City.
Activity- Students develop a map detailing the growth of the city based on information from a handout. They will create a key for the map which will include color coding the areas of the city based on their acquisition.

Friday, Day Five
Famous people of Detroit.
Click here for lesson plan.
Activity- The class will try to determine the identity of recent people in Detroit's history based on various items pulled out of a pocket. The class will then create their own "Pocketful of History" for a person who lived in the 19th or 20th century in Detroit.

Week Two

Monday, Day Six
America- Henry Ford and his horseless carriage.
Video: Model T. Man From Michigan.
Activity- The class will create a semantic map based on information from the video.

Tuesday, Day Seven
Automobile Industry
Video: Henry Ford's America (Part One)
Activity- The students will work in groups to develop their own production line for the product of their own choice.

Wednesday, Day Eight
Automobile Industry
Video: Henry Ford's America (Part Two)
Activity- The students will write a short paper explaining the impact of the car upon society.

Thursday, Day Nine
Riots and Protests in the History of Detroit
Primary sources: The class will read accounts of riots and protests from actual newspapers.
Activity- the class will split into 4 groups. Each group will discuss one of the riots or protests to determine if they had any effect on society. Each group will report their findings to the class.

Friday, Day Ten
Places in Detroit
Click here for lesson plan.
Note: This lesson will require students to use the Internet to research the places in Detroit.
Activity- Students will create travel brochures detailing various places in Detroit. They will present their brochures to the class at the end of the period.

Week Three

Monday, Day Eleven
Belle Isle
Handout: The class will read the handout detailing the history of Belle Isle
(History of Detroit, Farmer, pp75-79)
Activity- The students will work individually to create their own islands.

Tuesday, Day Twelve
Detroit and It's Waterways
Guest Speakers: A speaker from the Dossin Great Lakes Museum will give a short presentation about local waterways
Activity- The students will add on to their own waterways which will surround their island projects.

Wednesday, Day Thirteen
Taste of Detroit
The students will discuss a variety of foods that are available to them in Detroit.
Activity- The students will prepare a lunch using products made in the Detroit area. ( example: the students can prepare Kowalski hotdogs on Wonder bread and have Vernors pop. For dessert they can prepare hot fudge sundaes using Sanders products.)

Thursday, Day Fourteen
Field Trip, Detroit Historical Museum
Click here for lesson plan.

Friday, Day Fifteen
Conclusion and Evaluation
Click here for lesson plan.
the students will do a reflective journal stating whether or not they would be better off living in "old time" Detroit or "modern" Detroit.
Unit Evaluation- The students will complete the handout covering the unit.


The Five Senses

The students will be viewing videos and looking at the various artifacts during the lessons.

The students will be listening to the sounds of Motown. They will be using their listening skills when viewing the videos.

The sense of touch will be used in several hands on activities that the students will be completing during the course of the unit.

Smell and Taste
The students will incorporate the senses of smell and taste in the lesson, "Taste of Detroit."


The Seven Intelligences

Verbal Linguistic
Students will have many opportunities to discuss their Detroit experiences and their ideas about it's history. (example: the riot discussion)

Students will learn about Henry Ford with a video that nurtures their inner thinking and learning at their own pace.

Logical Mathematic
The creation of their own island will nurture students special and geographical awareness.

The Detroit places bulletin board will offer a great visual learning supplement.

Body Kinesthetic
Students will be able to display kinesthetic awareness dramatically when they role play.

The class will be exposed to classic Motown music.

Students will form a bond as a class when they go on their field trip and will all the planned activities.


Bulletin Board

One of the bulletin boards in the classroom will have a map of Detroit featured in the center of the board. There will be photographs of various sites of Detroit surrounding the map. Each of the photographs will have the name of the site listed below the picture. 


Lesson Plan, Day 1


Students will actively participate in completing a class poster of the three KWL areas: What students already know; what students would like to know; and lastly what students will have learned at the end of the unit



Students will gain background knowledge about Detroit by hearing the ideas of their classmates on the topic. Students will gain knowledge of when and how issues about the city cam about comparing their thoughts to those of their peers.





Students will listen to Motown music to introduce the Detroit unit.



  1. The teacher will ask the students to think about what they can remember about Detroit.
  2. Students will be asked to go up and write the things that they already know about Detroit. With this, the entire class will be learning from each other's prior knowledge of the subject.
  3. When the column is filled, students will elaborate on what others have put on the class poster. This should lead to a motivating class discussion about Detroit.
  4. Students will then put on the poster things that they would like to learn about Detroit.
  5. The poster will be hung at the beginning of the unit. The poster will display the class thoughts and will help students organize their facts and thoughts about the subject.
  6. Lastly, when the unit comes to a close, the class will add a list of all the areas of information that they have learned from the Detroit unit.


Wrap up

Students will be able to discuss their ideas about the unit and Detroit in small groups.



This activity should lead nicely into the Detroit unit. The logical are to flow into learning is about the historical Indians.



Students will be monitoring each other's growth when they participate in the discussions. The teacher will be able to tell the individual students have gained knowledge about Detroit by the quality of information that they put on the class poster at the end of the unit. 


Lesson Plan Day 5


To have students become aware of the people that have influenced Detroit's past.



The students will be able to identify important aspects in the lives of the people who have had an influence in the history of Detroit.



It is important for the students to understand how various people have influenced the history of Detroit.



The class will listen to a song by Stevie Wonder.



  1. The teacher will explain the "Pocketful of History" concept.
  2. The teacher will provide the students with examples of the concept.
    1. Keybaord, harmonica, record album, sunglasses (Stevie Wonder)
    2. Violin, Hitler, bum, IRS tax form, casino, boxing glove (Joe Louis)
    3. Farm, freedom train, "white only" sign, empty bus (Rosa Parks)
    4. Farm, watch, $5 bill, huge factory, car (Henry Ford)
  3. The class will be divided into 8 groups of 4.
  4. Each group will be assigned one name from Detroit's past. ( Cass, Cobo, Lodge, Young, Woodward, Reuther, Pingree, Murphy)
  5. The groups will research the person and create their own "pocket" of history.
  6. The students will present their activity to the class.



Students will be given a group grade based on the number of items that are appropriately placed in the "pockets" according to the following rubric: 

Appropriately Placed Item Grade
5 or more items A
3 to 4 items B
2 items C
1 item D
0 items E



Lesson Plan Day 10





  1. Bring in examples of travel brochures. Ask students, "Why would you want to visit these places?" Discuss what makes the brochures interesting and exciting. Then brainstorm on the board things that should be included in a travel brochure such as climate, historical sites, points of interest.
  2. Discuss how having a brochure which looks appealing would encourage tourists to visit a location. Pass the "grab-bag" around, and have each student pick a location to research.
  3. Have each student do research on the Internet to find out at least three reasons why this place might attract visitors.
  4. Tell each student to print out the information they find on the Internet. This will be compiled in a class book of Places to See in Detroit.
  5. When students are ready to create their brochures, show them that one way is to fold a piece construction paper into three sections. Remind students to include enough information so that anyone reading the brochure can make an informed decision about whether or not to visit the location. Students can illustrate their brochures with drawing or pictures from magazines.
  6. At the end of the lesson, have a "Day of Detroit" in which students present their brochures to the class, giving reasons why people should visit their location.



The finished travel brochures will reflect the students' knowledge of the Internet, as well as their knowledge of their locations.

Language arts skills can be evaluated by the brochures as well, along with the oral presentation at the end of the lesson. 


Lesson Plan Day 14



The morning of the field trip, develop a semantic map on the historical topics that have been discussed with the students over the past week and a half. Show the students pictures of historical sights from the past and present. Ask the students questions with regards to how things were in the past. Tell the students to look at the clothes people wore, the type of transportation used, the type of houses during the era begin observed, etc.



  1. Develop a semantic map as per motivational strategy above.
  2. After discussing the semantic map. Let students know they will visit the Detroit Historical Museum and the type of things they should look for while on tour at the museum. This should include the above areas as noted in the opener. Students should also be aware of the biographical sketches that are on display throughout the museum.
  3. After discussing things the students should be aware of during the museum tour, discuss proper behavior when going on a field trip with the class. Ask for students' input, webbing it on the board. Agree on rules for the class to abide by.
  4. Assign students into five groups, four groups with a parent volunteer, one group to supervise yourself.
  5. Give everyone a name tag and make sure each parent has a list of the students they are supervising.
  6. When students arrive back to school, have them write a summary on an exhibit they observed during the tour. The summary can include a person, place, or event historical in Detroit.



Students will be evaluated based on their participation in the class discussion (semantic map) and their written and oral activities.


Field Trip Information

Detroit Historical Museum
5401 Woodward
Detroit, MI
(313) 833-1805
Tour Duration: 90 minutes
Education programs for this unit: Students will see exhibits during a variety of time periods throughout Detroit. The program will enhance each students' knowledge of historical sites and time periods throughout the history of Detroit. This will also allow students to view first-hand historical perspectives within Detroit that are evident in today's contemporary society. 


Lesson Plan Day 15



After the students have discussed, watched videos, read books and walked through the history of Detroit with their teacher's guidance, the students will learn:





What have we learned about the city of Detroit that we didn't know before this theme?



  1. Have students create a play. They will be able to use all of the information that they have learned about the city of Detroit in the past and in the present. Begin by comparing the past way the people used to dress and the present way they dress. "What have we learned about Detroit that we didn't know before this them?" Have another group of students to record whether or not they are acting out a role of the past or the present.
  2. Have a language arts activity where the students will draw pictures of the building in the past and pictures of the building in the present. With another group of students, have them compare the pictures and see if they can tell which building belongs in the past and which belongs in the present.
  3. As the students are beginning to utilize their communication skills along with cooperating with their peers have them to orally respond to this question. They may chose a spokesperson from each group to give the answer. What did you like most about the Detroit theme unit?



The students will write a reflective journal stating whether or not they would be better off living in Detroit in the past or the present Detroit.



The students will receive a handout entitled My City. With this they may express what they have learned throughout the entire unit. They may now put everything together.


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