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May 24

The Brooklyn Bridge opened on this day in 1883.

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The Brooklyn Bridge opened on this day in 1883.

Grades 5 – 12
Calendar Activity Type Historical Figure & Event

 

EVENT DESCRIPTION

 

 

When the Brooklyn Bridge was opened, its span across the East River in New York was the longest in the world, and its two stone landings were the tallest structures in North America. Designed by John Roebling and completed by his son and daughter-in-law Washington and Emily Roebling, the bridge stirred controversy over its cost, size, safety, and even its very necessity.

CLASSROOM ACTIVITY

 

 

Celebrate the Roebling family's achievement and explore the literary concept of point of view by sharing with students a pair picture books that highlight the controversies over the construction and opening of the Brooklyn Bridge. The two books, Twenty-One Elephants by Phil Bildner and Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing by April Jones Prince use the same historical event as their centerpiece: the crossing of the bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn by the elephants from P. T. Barnum's circus.

  • Begin by showing students the first pictures of the two books and asking them to predict how the stories might be similar and different. Students will note that both stories will likely discuss the construction of the bridge, but will have different points of view.
  • Ask students to confirm or clarify their predictions as you read the two stories.
  • After reading, have students discuss the similarities and differences between the books based on the two points of view. Which book had a more personal perspective? Which was more informative? How were similar events portrayed differently? Which book did they prefer?
  • Have pairs of students apply their observations by writing two complementary pieces about a recent classroom event (e.g., a school performance, a field trip, or a classroom party). Have one student write an account from a general observer's perspective, while the other writes from the perspective of a student in the classroom.
  • Ask students to share their writing and discuss how they chose different details, used different forms of expression, and conveyed different stories about the same event.

WEBSITES

 

 
  • The Brooklyn Bridge for Educators

    This resource focuses on construction of the Brooklyn Bridge within the historical and political context of the late 19th century. It also treats the bridge as a geographic symbol and work of art which inspires writers, artists, and ordinary Americans who cross the bridge or view it from afar.

  • History Channel: Brooklyn Bridge

    This site provides history, video, pictures, and speeches associated with the bridge.

  • Roebling and the Brooklyn Bridge

    This page features the American Memory entry for John A. Roebling's birthday. Included is a collection of primary documents on the Brooklyn Bridge and bridges throughout the United States.

  • Building Big: Bridges

    The bridges section of PBS's Building Big website offers information about the science behind bridges, bridge architects, and some famous bridges.

RELATED RESOURCES

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Timelines and Texts: Motivating Students to Read Nonfiction

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Students explore their towns' landmarks, symbols, and people; look at brochures and other informational tools; practice writing for a specific audience and revising; and work collaboratively to create a brochure.