|How can we find out about places on Earth?|
The lives of children are much more intertwined with their natural surroundings than they may realize. Locally grown foods, how people dress, and the types of activities available to them vary, depending on if they live near an ocean, mountain range, plain, valley, or desert, and whether their area is urban, suburban, or rural. In this unit the children find out how maps, charts, photographs, and other tools can help them to learn more about geography.
What Primary Sources Can Tell Us about Exploring Our Earth
Given our planet’s size, it’s no surprise that representations of Earth and its resources—such as globes, maps, charts, and photographs—are often the best way to get a grasp of the big picture.
Ansel Adams’s Autumn Moon, the High Sierra from Glacier Point Photograph
Bridal Veil Waterfall in Yosemite National Park
By 7:00 p.m. on September 15, 2005, about 300 people gathered at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park. Many of them held cameras. Why were they there? Astronomers had concluded that Ansel Adams had taken his famous photograph, Autumn Moon, the High Sierra from Glacier Point, from that spot exactly 57 years before. The scientists had also figured out that the sky would be as close to the way it had looked that day as it would for another 19 years. The spectators had come to see just how close that would be. Most agreed that the sky was less cloudy and there was less snow in 2005—but the shadows cast by the moon were similar on both days. Matthew Adams, the famed photographer’s grandson, found it amusing that experts had determined exactly when the photograph was taken. This was something that Ansel Adams himself had not noted.
Another famous Adams photograph taken at Yosemite is titled Moon and Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California, 1960.
Bridal Veil Waterfall in Yosemite National Park
The Importance of Yosemite National Park to Ansel Adams
Many of Adams’ best-known works were shot at Yosemite. He had first persuaded his parents to take him there in 1916 when he was about 14 years old. It was that trip that catapulted his lifelong interest in both photography and the environment. An active member of the Sierra Club, he was elected to its board of directors in 1934. Over his lifetime he spoke before Congress often, and met with four presidents to discuss his concerns about the use of America’s land and resources. In 1980, Adams received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for “his efforts to preserve this country's wild and scenic areas, both on film and on earth.” But despite all this, he seemed to have remained modest about his work. Explaining the beauty of his photographs, Adams once said “Sometimes I get to places when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”
Creating Postcards of Appreciation for National Parks
1. Distribute a copy of Ansel Adams’s Autumn Moon, the High Sierra from Glacier Point photograph to each child. (His Moon and Half Dome photograph can be found on page 20 of your Primary Sources Handbook.) Explain to the children that this photograph is one of many that Adams took in Yosemite National Park.
2. Ask the children if they have ever visited Yosemite, or any other national park. Encourage the children to share their experiences and opinions related to national parks in general. If you would like, use these questions to help encourage discussion:
3. Once the children have had an opportunity to voice their opinions, share with them these facts related to the establishment of America’s national parks:
4. Ask the children to imagine that the photograph you distributed is actually a postcard they can send to whomever they would like. If they were going to write a postcard thanking someone for keeping national parks the way they are, who might it be? As a class, make a list of ideas. For example, possibilities include a park ranger or other park worker, a friend who may be supporting a national park by paying one a visit, or even the President of the United States. Have the children decide who they want to write to about the importance of national parks. Then encourage them to discuss some of the things they might want to put in their notes.
5. Show the children a postcard template as a reminder of where the stamp and address on a postcard should be placed. Then direct the children to turn over their copy of the photograph and use a marker or crayons to draw in a stamp in the appropriate spot. Help the children address their “paper postcards” to whoever they would like.
5. Using a pen or pencil, have the children complete their postcards, and then share what they wrote with the class. If you would like, these can then be placed in envelopes and mailed. (Given the large non-sturdy paper youngsters will be using, envelopes will have to be used.)
Additional Primary Sources
Image credits: a. © Dr. Parvinder Sethi; b. The McGraw-Hill Companies/John A. Karachewski, photographer