The school's theme for January and February is Cities. For our first activity the children got into small groups and brainstormed what things are found in a city. Buildings, sky scrapers, and roads were included in all the lists. With this brief foundation, we now are going to turn back time and see how Ann Arbor started and grew over the years. John Allen (from Virginia) and Elisha Rumsey (from New York) first registered "Annarbour" the town plat in May 25, 1824.
In order to establish a context for what life was like in Michigan in the early 1800s, I am reading the novel Next Spring an Oriole by Gloria Whelan, to the class. This story is about a girl and her family moving from the Virginia to Michigan to buy land and build a home.
In the first chapter, the family stops in Detroit to pick up a deed to the property they purchased. They bought 80 acres at $1.25 per acre. We discussed what this meant. I explained that an acre is about the size of 3 football fields. One child said, $1.25 is a lot of money. Another child said, it isn't a lot of money because it is only 5 quarters. The children started talking about what you can buy today for $1.25. Many things were mentioned but it was finally decided that you could maybe buy a pack of gum for the same amount of money that Libby's family could buy an acre of land. Everyone was in awe. Then a child said that it cost a thousand dollars to buy a house today in Ann Arbor. Obviously, money is still a very abstract concept for first and second graders.