Going Ape and Having a Cow:

Teenage life in Champaign County and beyond in the 1950s

By Karen Klebbe

2006 Summer Fellowship at the Early American Museum


These lessons are written to be used with the 1950s Traveling Discovery Kit, available through the Early American Museum at the Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve in Mahomet, Illinois (217.586.2612).  The use of this kit is free with a refundable $50 deposit.


Unit: 1950s



Through various local and national primary sources, students will explore teenage life during the 1950s in four areas: school, music, leisure, and television.  Through written essays, research, and presentations, students will analyze how teenage life in Champaign County has changed/remained similar.


Essential Questions/Enduring Understandings:


Setting the Purpose:

Students will begin the unit by brainstorming what they already “know” about the 1950s. 

1.  Handout ABC Brainstorm worksheet.  Allow students approximately 15-20 minutes to complete the brainstorm on their own.

2.  Have a transparency of a blank brainstorm worksheet and project onto screen.

3.  Ask class for volunteer answers for each letter of the alphabet/box and write them in the corresponding box on the transparency.  Try to write 2-3 ideas per box from different people.  Proceeding in alphabetical order is not necessary.

4.  As ideas are being thrown out/written down, probe students about their ideas—i.e. where did they see/hear _______ before?

5.  Once brainstorm transparency is complete, introduce the unit and how students will learn about being a teenager in Champaign County in the 1950s by studying four areas: school, music, leisure, and television.






Unit Activities:





To download all four activities in PDF format, click here.