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Gene V. Gandelman
New Haven neighborhoods in the past were some of the finest residential areas in which to raise a family and live until retirement in the entire country. People knew and respected each other. Neighborhoods were like extended families where everyone helped each other and looked after one another and their property.
Problems are nothing new to New Haven or any other city. The World War I years saw a deadly influenza epidemic sweep the nation. The 1930’s saw unprecedented unemployment and bread lines. In the 1960’s urban riots scarred many of our cities, including New Haven. Urban ills like any other problems are solvable. History has shown this over and over.
Today’s problems of crime, violence and general lack of civility among the residents can be overcome. However, first the people must have confidence and a strong unified will to do it.
Little children and senior citizens could safely walk the streets of their neighborhood at any time, night or day, as recently as 1960. However, conditions which have changed rapidly have made the neighborhoods unsafe, unfriendly and unlivable.
The youth of New Haven have to know what it used to be like and be able to believe that the neighborhoods of our city can come back to life again. They must be given the opportunity to see how much better life used to be in the city and to have it back. Only when people have a sense of the past and present, by comparing what the neighborhoods used to be and what they are today, can they hope for the future. New Haven used to serve everyone—residents, university community, and out-of-towners. Today it’s a city being used with little or nothing being put back for the people who live there. These people pay a tax rate that is threatening to send more walls crumbling as abandoned, vacant houses appear at an unprecedented rate.
Flight does not have to be the only answer. Neighbors can take a stand and fight against crippling taxes. After all, they are the City. People don’t have to abandon their homes. They need only to be shown how they have the power to affect change.
The only hope is that the city becomes a place its people believe is worth saving. This curriculum unit tries to educate the youth of New Haven so that it may lead the way.
Objective Students will gain a new perspective of their immediate world.
This lesson should serve as the first or literal overview of the series of lessons to follow. The teacher should emphasize components of the city below i.e. the neighborhoods, major arteries, transportation centers, historical sites, etc.
It is important, from time to time, that students be allowed to leave the classroom to experience and make observations of the surrounding areas. In this lesson, the “world” is the City and surrounding areas. We are fortunate in New Haven to have two high vantage points on opposite ends of the city in a spacious park environment. Both locations rise approximately 400 feet above the City, allowing a spectacular, unencumbered view for miles.
The lesson involves a field trip to the summit of East Rock overlooking downtown New Haven, Fair Have, North Haven, East Haven, and other areas. The view provides an extensive panorama of the harbor, Lighthouse, the Quinipiac bridge, and other New Haven landmarks. On a clear day the hills of Eastern Long Island can be seen nearly thirty miles away.
Students will gain a sense of the City in which they live and how it connects and leads to the world beyond. Teachers can explain the way our world expands as we grow—from the womb, to our home, our neighborhood, out town or city, our state, and so on.
Students will literally be exposed to “the whole picture” to see how neighborhoods blend into one another. Students will then be able to think in terms of one city as their home rather than separate hostile neighborhoods.
How many neighborhoods can you identify? (Fair Haven, East Rock, Westville, The Hill, Newhallville, etc.) An alternative or follow-up to taking students to East Rock is a trip to the summit of West Rock. The view there is of the northern and western area inside and beyond the city. Together these two locations offer a complete view of the city and its surroundings.
Objective To teach students that above all a city is where people live together.
This lesson is to follow the East Rock visit. While at East Rock try to locate and make a list of all the New Haven neighborhoods you can see. What are the major streets in each? Which grade schools are in each? What middle school serves each neighborhood?
Objective To teach students the early history of the formation of New Haven’s neighborhoods and their diversity.
Teachers should cover the following topics of early New Haven Colony history:
- 1. The Reverend John Davenport and his following
- 2. Seeking a safe harbor
- 3. The Quinipiac Indians
- 4. The growing Colony from Stamford to Saybrook
- 5. The original Nine Squares and the New Haven Green
- 6. The Ghost Ship
- 7. Loss of Charter and absorption into the Connecticut Colony
- 8. The regicides and Three Judges Cave
- 9. The transfer and growth of Yale College
- 10. Emergence as a major colonial center
Additional Topics for Discussion
How did New Haven’s residential zones emerge and evolve throughout the first century? Before there were actual neighborhoods there were different kinds and sizes of houses.
Discuss the original Nine Squares as the city’s first neighborhood? Why did the earliest founders have a central home or town houses and spacious farming lands far away from the settlement’s center?
How were law and order and civility maintained without a police force? What role did the church play in directing and controlling people’s lives? How did pacts, covenants, and agreements operate to allow interaction and prosperity?
Who were the leaders of the early colony? Where were their powers derived from with which to serve as the elect of the people?
How did things social and political change over the course of the colony’s first one hundred years right up to the eve of independence?
Why did some people start moving away from the center to areas that are now Westville, Fair Haven, and various other sections?
Why did others go even further to being new villages as Milford, Branford, and Guilford?
There are numerous books available in the New Haven Public Library, Yale Library and school libraries which provide detailed descriptions of New Haven’s past as a colony and as an important city. I recommend the book, “Connecticut” by Alfred E. Van Dusen, published by Random House, for an exciting and detailed account of New Haven history which is very good for lesson planning. Other suggested readings are listed in the end of unit biography.
- 1. Have students research an aspect of early New Haven history and write a report to read to the class.
- 2. Write and perform a brief skit pertaining to New Haven’s early history. The tale of the Ghost Ship would make an excellent story to act out. Also, the hiding of the Three Judges, the planning of the Nine Squares, meeting the friendly Qunipiacs, and sailing into New Haven for the first time would make very good choices.
- 3. Field trips to the New Haven Colony Historical Society, Three Judges Cave, Lighthouse, Grove Street Cemetery and other historic sites will provide students with an opportunity to “feel” the past.
Objective To give students the opportunity to think about the boundaries of their neighborhoods and design a map, showing the streets and other features, to share with others.
This lesson is designed to provide students the chance to think about their immediate world—the neighborhood. They will be able to demonstrate a knowledge of the streets and landmarks around their home. This exercise will enhance the students’ map-making skills, ability to give directions, and who how to translate movement to paragraph form.
The lesson will give students a sense of where they live and how their neighborhood is merely a piece of the large puzzle called the city. Students can compare their neighborhoods and even put them together to form a section of the city.
Write a 3-5 paragraph essay describing your neighborhood. Be sure to include descriptions of neighbors, special places, parks, friends’ homes, schools, stores. Write what you like about your area and what you don’t like.
Make a map of the route you take to school. Using you map, describe places you walk past or see along the way. Write about the streets you travel along and the people you see or walk with. It may help for you to write notes while going to school one (or more) day.
This lesson teaches the following skills:
- 1. Descriptive writing
- 2. Direction following
- 3. Making and recording observations
- 4. Organizing thoughts
- 5. Sequencing
- 6. Collaborative learning
- 7. Cartography skills
Objective To teach students the value and importance of being a good neighbor and make city life better for all its inhabitants.
A neighborhood consists of neighbors. When people live close to each other in an urban environment, the quality of life is directly related to the way they treat each other.
The teacher should lead class discussion on what the qualities of a good neighbor are. Discuss such topics as friendship, accommodations, courtesy, respect, interaction, common needs and interests, sharing, respect for property and other related terms.
- 1. Have students write about their neighbors including that they like about them and dislike. How could they make them better neighbors?
- 2. Pretend you are moving to a new house. Describe the family you hope lives next door. Be sure to include details about their personalities.
- 3. Are you a good neighbor? Have the class list as many criteria as possible which characterize a good neighbor. Then see how many fit you or describe you as a neighbor. Are you a 100% good neighbor, 90% or less? Think about that you might add or change to improve yourself for your neighbors.
- 4. Discuss healthy competition vs. destructive conflict—How one builds while the other destroys.
- 5. Discuss the problems in our neighborhoods and how that could be solved.
- 6. Regardless of race or ethnic background, what do the people of all neighborhoods want for themselves and their families?
Objective Students will gain insight into contemporary urban life and the cause and effects of human interaction.
Class discussion and writing exercise of a film with graphically depicts contemporary, American inner city life. The 1991 movie “Boyz ‘n the ‘Hood” is perhaps the most valid video presentation ever produced that deals with modern day-to-day life in urban ghetto neighborhood, especially for young people. The video tape is available in nearly every video store and in many local libraries. Many students have private copies available. Although the language and some scenes are extremely graphic, they are not unfamiliar to today’s youth. If a teacher wishes not to view this film in class, he or she can still use this lesson because an extremely high percentage(upwards of 90%) of urban youth have already seen the film.
Questions for Discussion or Writing:
- 1. What role does their environment play in influencing the lives of people (adult and youth) in the ‘hood’? Let the discussion lead to explorations of the potential and negative environmental factors in the neighborhood.
- 2. Why are the leading characters first shown in the mid 1980’s as small children? What is the significance of the clash between older and younger boys? (In the beginning they are innocent and unspoiled. They are soon taught that might is the only right.)
- 3. What is the significance of the body in the bushes at the beginning of the story? (It signifies the lack of respect for life which progresses to the point where taking a life means little or nothing.)
- 4. What happened to Doughboy from 1984-1991? What does his character represent? (He starts stealing as a young child and spends the next five or six years in and out of reform school. He represents the end of innocence and the transformation into a dangerous sociopath.)
- 5. What is the significance of Ricky’s role? (He represents the aspiring athlete who is trying to get out on his football skills. He is the film’s most innocent victim.)
- 6. What does Trae’s character represent? (He is the “good kid” who doesn’t want to hurt anyone, even his best friends’ killers.)
- 7. What does the movie say about parental responsibility? (If you have a child, you have to support it like Ricky did. You have to do everything possible to protect your children from danger as Trae’s father tried to do.)
- 8. Why is the role of the Black police officer significant? (this shows the intense violence and hatred often displayed by a member of one race towards his own. It is an especially sad commentary.)
- 9. What does the movie say about guns and kids in the ‘hood? (It says that everyone either has one or can easily get one.)
- 10. How many youths make it out of the “hood” and go on to college like Trae did? (Very few, about one in ten according to government statistics.)
- 11. What is the overall message that this movie tries to send? (Life in the ghetto is like living in a war zone with everyone armed, angry and ready to fight.)
- 12. What are some of the comparisons and contrasts between Los Angeles and New Haven?
Objective Students will be able to give and receive important advice from their peers to survive life in the City today.
Life is hard in the city today fro young people. Survival is not as easy as it was for the last generation. Too many social ills are either ending or running young lives today, especially in our urban centers. Drugs, AIDS, gangs, crime, homelessness, poverty, unemployment, pregnancy, rape are but some of the landmines our youth must steer clear of today.
Writing about one or more of these serious problems either from experience or perception with the intent to advise, admonish or enlighten your peers is an invaluable contribution one child can give another.
I have had extensive experience teaching students how and why to share experiences and advice and essays for magazines and newspapers for the benefit of other students.
Some examples of topics are:
- 1. How to diffuse a violent confrontation
- 2. How to be a safe latchkey child
- 3. Surviving the death of a loved one
- 4. Avoiding the pitfall of teen pregnancy
- 5. Staying clear of drugs as a dealer or user
- 6. Don’t be a drop out
Objective To teach student about the many different kinds of people who make up our neighborhoods and contribute to their vitality.
Discuss the different ethnic groups who live in New Haven. Talk about the periods in history when they came to the City in large numbers. Include the mention of churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship. Trace any flow or migration from one neighborhood to another of the ethnic groups you are discussing.
Discuss the various ethnic festivals, parades and celebrations which take place in the City. Have students list them on the board and relate individual experiences of attendance or participation.
How do the specific ethnic festivals differ from the multi-cultural ones like the Molson Street Festival? i.e. the people it attracts, the number and variety of foods, entertainment, exhibits, etc.
- 1. Describe the ethnic, racial and religious make-up of your neighbors in an essay. Include the different places of origin i.e. Puerto Rico, Jamaica.
- 2. Write a detailed report about your experience at a festival.
- 3. Discuss the contributions made by each ethnic group in New Haven. What do they contribute to the entire community? How are their prominent citizens? Where can we sample their cuisines around the City?
- 4. Choose one ethnic group from the discussion in Activity #3 (not your own) and write an essay about that ethnic, racial or religious group. Describe as many details as you can about their information and insight into their way of life for your essay. Students should read their report to the entire class.
- 5. Discuss Brotherhood/Sisterhood. What is it? Why is it important, especially in a country like ours that we learn to understand, tolerate and accept all people of any race, creed or color? Why do we need Brotherhood/Sisterhood today more than ever?
- 6. Write an essay on Brotherhood and Sisterhood and why its understanding and practice is vital to out survival as an America people.
Choose of the following topics to write about:
Have each student read his essay to the entire class.
- 1. How the Police could help the community more
- 2. Why we should learn all about our City
- 3. Ways in which people can learn to respect other’s culture
- 4. How to make living in the City for enjoyable
- 5. How more urban recreation programs would help the city dwellers
- 6. Why drugs can kill a City and how we can rid them from our streets
- 7. We should help the homeless in our community
- 8. Good affordable housing is needed today more than ever
- 9. Our Government should do more to help the cities
- 10. What the city of the future will be like is something isn’t done
Discuss the following urban issues of today:
- 1. How did the 1992 riots in Los Angeles hurt the community?
- 2. Why did they happen? Did they have to occur?
- 3. What happened in our state and in our City at the time?
- 4. Should New Haven build a new downtown mall?
- 5. Should Yale University do more for New Haven?
- 6. What the Quinipiac Bridge enlargement would mean for the City.
Objective Students will learn about city management and the function of key officials.
How do our elected officials and activists help promote and improve life in the neighborhood?
Discuss the leaders of our City. Who are they? What are their responsibilities? Describe their various jobs: Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Police Chief, School Superintendent, Health Director, Human Services Director, Fire Chief, Personnel Director and others.
After the discussion have students choose which city leader they would like to be for a day.
Drawing lots with the names of offices on them is an alternative to students choosing. They may all want to be Mayor of Police Chief, for example. Write about your day.
Questions to consider:
What kinds of meetings would you attend?
What people could you meet with?
What are some of the problems or issues you would try to solve?
What types of phone calls would you make and receive?
Are there any special events or ceremonies on your schedule?
What would you do if an emergency arose?
Objective To teach students about City government/operation and to allow them to “play” with the idea of having power and responsibility.
The teacher will discuss with the class the various city leaders, their titles, daily responsibilities, official duties, supervisor of roles. The students are to think about the ones which interest them the most.
Depending on which procedure works best for a particular class, the teacher either assigns or allows the students to choose the role of a city official i.e. Mayor, Police Chief, School Superintendent, Housing Director, Fire Chief, School Alderman, Yale President, Parks Director, Commissioner of Tourism, etc.
- #1 Have children learn about the positions they would like to have through research, interviews, or other methods. Then, have them write a paper describing why they should be appointed to the office; or in the case of Mayor or Alderman, be elected by the people. Make sure they cover qualifications, personal desire, specific needs, dedication, knowledge of the field, etc.
- #2 Hold a “public meeting” at which the Mayor introduces the various city officials to the community. Each one then stands and delivers a speech about what they do, have done, and will continue to do in their particular position. Speeches can be memorized, read or a combination of both.
- #3 Play the game of “Who Am I?” Students will take turns giving subtle hints of job-related experiences/responsibilities while other students try to guess their positions.
- #4. Have the students write about what it would actually feel like to have the power of authority to make real decisions that affect people’s lives.
Objective To teach students to think about problem solving and improving their community.
What are some of the things that ruin life in the City? What are some of the conditions we live with which need change or improvement?
Have the class discuss what’s wrong with city life today. The teacher will make a list on the board. You may need an extra blackboard.
Discuss why today’s urban problems exist, how they began, who they affect, and the need to address them. Take them one at a time i.e. ghetto life, poverty, crime, violence, etc. Talk about possible solutions and what the city, state or federal government could do.
Objective To teach students how to seek out and accentuate the positive.
Sometimes with all the negatives you read an hear about regarding the city, it’s hard to remember all the good things and advantages. For example, if you’re unable to drive, the city provides buses, trains, and taxis. Entertainment, shopping, restaurants, sports events, museums, cultural centers and much more are easily accessible. Employment and job opportunities are more abundant in cities than rural areas. People come into the city every day to take advantage of what you have right there.
Objective To teach students the way a city communicates with itself and the world beyond.
The teacher should bring in copies of the various newsprint media serving the City. They are the following:
The New Haven Register—daily
The Yale Daily Newspaper—daily
The New Haven Advocate—weekly
The New Haven New Times—weekly
The Elm City Trader—weekly
The Inner City Advertiser—monthly
Discuss each newspaper with such questions and issues as:
- 1. Who makes up the readership of each? i.e. The Register is countywide, while the Yale Newspaper serves the Yale community.
- 2. How are they alike and different?
- 3. How long have they been in print?
- 4. Which one do you or members of your family read?
- 5. What other newspapers serve New Haven readers? i.e. USA Today, New York and Boston newspapers, foreign language or ethnic newspapers.
- 6. How do you benefit from a newspaper? How is it a tool?
- 7. What responsibilities does a newspaper have to its readers?
- 8. In what way do they educate us?
- 9. Can you or anyone say something in the newspaper? How, where, or what?
- 10. What would life be like without newspapers?
Reading and Writing Activities:
Read the editorial pages from Monday through Thursday. Study the various sections i.e. the paper’s positions, letter to the editor, viewpoint, local op-ed, syndicated columnists, cartoons. On Friday write either a letter or op-ed taking a position in which you express your opinion about a major issue facing your community today. Why not send it to the newspaper?
Objective To teach students the value and importance of their senior neighbors and how much they can contribute to the community.
The teacher will arrange for her class to visit a Senior Center where seniors and students can talk with each other. An alternative might be to have seniors visit the school. The students can either ask a panel of seniors questions about their histories or interact on a one to one basis—or both.
The students should prepare a number of questions in advance. A good class exercise might be brainstorming to come up with as many questions about New Haven’s past as possible. The teacher should make sure that students know that the epoch involved would begin around 1910 to 1920. However, some seniors might be able to relate experiences from 19th century through stories that were passed on to them.
A sampling of questions might be like the following:
Students should be informed that they will be talking to actual “living history.” They should show respect and appreciation. Also, students should write down the information they are given and stress patience because retrieving memories can be a slow process for an elderly person. Teachers should explain this to the class first. Also, students should bring something of theirs to share with their new “old friend.”
- 1. What was New Haven’s 300th anniversary celebration of 1938 like?
- 2. How bad was the Great Depression in New Haven?
- 3. What were the Old Yale football games like when the bowl had 80,000 people every week and Yale was a national power?
- 4. What was downtown like in its heyday?
- 5. How many movie houses did the city once have?
- 6. What was Savin Rock?
- 7. What were trolleys like?
- 8. How safe were the neighborhoods?
- 9. What was the steamer to New York like?
- 10. What did kids do for fun in the City 60 or 70 years ago?
Objective Students will learn how to use and stretch their imagination to develop creativity.
What will the City of the future look like? What will transportation, housing, shopping, recreation be like in a hundred years. What will the environment and public health be like?
Students will user everything that they have learned and experiences to project themselves into the future. Recalling science fiction, movies like “Back to the Future” and even the hopes and aspirations expressed by out political and social leaders.
This lesson will allow students to be creative, imaginative and have an opportunity to express concerns for the future and the environment.
In writing about the city of the future, students will give reasons why they believe conditions are the way they will be. For example , if a student writes that in the year 2092 no one will smoke, he/she must answer the question “why?” The reason may be that cigarettes are illegal or that tobacco doesn’t grow on earth anymore.
When writing your predictions, hopes and expectations, rely heavily on your heart, your conscience, and your creativity. The teacher may wish to read science fiction stories by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and others that address human behavior and response now and in the future.
- 1. Write about the neighborhoods of the future. How will people interact with each other? Will they be more friendly, helpful and more concerned? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?
- 2. What do you think urban living conditions will be like in twenty or fifty years? Will everyone have enough of life’s essentials thereby eliminating the scourge of crime and violence?
- 3. Could city life actually become desirable causing influx rather than exodus?
- 4. How might family units and structures differ from today? What changes would neighborhood schools experience or education in general?
This book examines street gangs in America; their origin, purpose and effects on members and the neighborhood.
Bing, Leon, “Do Or Die,” Harper Collins, 1991.
Here an in depth look into the lives of the two most notorious gangs in Los Angeles, the Crips and the Bloods.
Darwin, Charles Galtor, “The Next Million Years,” Doubleday and Company, Garden City, New York.
A look into the future of human interaction, population, and the survival of the human race is offered in this book.
Finegan, William, “Out There,” New Yorker Magazine, September 10 and 17, 1990 issues.
This extensive and lengthy article, in two parts, goes into the lives of New Haven youth who operate in the drug commerce world.
Gladwin, Thomas, “Poverty USA,” Little Brown and Company, 1967.
The fact that poverty is being powerless is explored in this book. If the poor had the power to lift themselves of poverty they would.
Glazier, Nathan and Moynihan, Daniel Patrick, “Beyond the Melting Pot,” The City in American Life edited by Paul Kramer and Freferick L. Holborn, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, New York.
This essay takes a close look at ethnicity and its influence on American cities.
Hallibarton, Warren J., “The People of Connecticut,” Connecticut Yankee Publishers, Inc. 1984.
This detailed look at the demographic diversity of Connecticut and its history would make an excellent text book for middle school use.
Stark, Evan, “Everything You Need To Know About Gangs,” Rosen Group, 1991.
Every aspect of gangs and gang life is discussed in this very contemporary edition.
Switzer, Ellen, “Our Urban Planet,” Atheneum, New York, New York, 1980.
City planning must bring a measure of beauty and order even in the poorest neighborhoods.
Tretten, Rudie, “Cities In Crisis,” “Slums and Suburbs—Two Nations Divisible,” Prentice Hall, 1970.
This work looks into America’s slums and its inhabitants who have been cut off from middle class affluence.
Van Dusen, Alfred E., “Connecticut,” “The Founding of New Haven,” Random House, 1961.
This extensive chapter presents a detailed look at the formation and growth of New Haven.
Whitman, Walt, “Leaves of Green,” “Mannahatta,” American Library Mentor Edition, New York, New York, 1855.
“Mannahatta” is an emotional poem which allows the reader to feel the power of a burgeoning megalopolis.
“The New Haven Register,” “New Haven Advocate,” and “The Connecticut Post” are excellent sources for classroom use and discussions or urban issues.
Contents of 1992 Volume III | Directory of Volumes | Index | Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute