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Thinking Historically about Leisure in Toronto’s High Park

Posted by Katy Whitfield
20 November 2013 - 3:08pm

This Teaching the Past post is inspired by the last Approaching the Past event at Colborne Lodge, in High Park Toronto. TDSB teacher and OISE graduate student Katy Whitfield has created a curriculum-rich and disarmingly fun activity, using six photographs that deal with leisure and landscapes in the city of Toronto and hand-made historical thinking ‘die’[singular form of 'dice']. This lesson plan serves as a useful idea if you are wondering how to engage with the six historical thinking concepts in ways that will engage your students.

Thinking Historically about Leisure and Park Use in Toronto’s High Park by Examining Historical Photographs

A Brief Introduction to the Big Six Historical Thinking Concepts

The new curriculum encourages teachers to facilitate student’s learning and use of 6 Historical Thinking Concepts (Seixas and Morton, 2013). These concepts: Evidence, Historical Significance, Cause and Consequence, Continuity and Change, Historical Perspectives and Ethical Dimension (outlined on the website), each have suggested Guideposts which are in fact big ideas related to each concept that give us a “way-in” to the historian’s way of thinking. The concepts themselves can only be understood with historical content and can be seen as strategies that historians use in response to six key historical problems.

Context: There are many photographs of people doing leisure activities in High Park over the course of the 20th century, as well as photographs of the changing use of the land in the park space. Some of these photographs are housed in the Toronto Archives and others are housed on a Facebook Group called Vintage Toronto

Purpose of the activity: To do some of the historical thinking, using the guideposts of the Big 6 historical thinking concepts while using primary source photographs of various uses of High Park as the content focus.


·         A series of photographs from a variety of different eras

·         Big Six Die (see template attached here in pdf). I created this die template during the Historical Thinking Summer Institute in July 2013 that was led by Dr. Peter Seixas in Toronto. The die is to be used to create a game (of change of sorts) in having students work with the Historical Thinking Concepts.

·         A copy of the Guideposts for Historical Thinking


·         Each group of participants is to be given a series of primary photographs (3 to 5) complete with captions and dates.

·         Each group is then to roll the die. Whichever side the die lands on will determine the historical thinking concept focus of their discussion and analysis.

o   Ex. Cause and Consequence, Continuity and Change etc. 

·         Using the suggested Guideposts provided, each group is to interpret and analyze the photographs in order to gain understanding of the leisure activities that took place in the park and/or to understanding the different ways that the landscape and spaces in the park have been used.

·         Time permitting, each group will share their analysis of one of their photographs, while connecting it to one of the Historical Thinking Concepts

Created by Katy Whitfield, Canadian and World history teacher at Vaughan Road Academy, Toronto District School Board, and Graduate Student in Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at OISE-UT.

Photo: Forest School, High Park.James and Sons, Toronto, 1922. Toronto Public Library, public domain.




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Thinking Historically about Leisure and Park Use in Toronto's High Park.pdf1.92 MB