Investigating a Shotgun House

“Investigating A Shotgun House” Curriculum Guide

In the Fall of 2016, KAS completed the Kentucky-focused “Investigating a Shotgun House,” Investigation No. 12 in the Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter curriculum database. The national office launched it nationally in August 2017 (see the launch announcement here). It was developed as part of the Davis Bottom History Preservation Project, a multifaceted, multicomponent public education project as part of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s mitigation of the Newtown Pike Extension Project’s adverse impacts to the archaeological sites and buildings in the Davis Bottom community, a working-class neighborhood located near downtown Lexington, Kentucky.

“Investigating a Shotgun House” is divided into four parts. In parts One through Three, students explore the size of a shotgun house. They use a map of the archaeological site at 712 DeRoode Street, privy stratigraphy, and images and information on artifacts similar to the ones found in the privy and in the house excavations to establish a context for their study. They make inferences about the activities that took place there, about the people who lived there, and about how the house was built and how the site was created. Archival and manuscript sources including Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, U.S. Federal census records, recordings of interviews with black and white residents, and historic photographs provide further evidence of what life was like in the neighborhood.

In Part Four, students connect the past with the present. They learn about the environmental/social justice issues linked to construction of the Newtown Pike Extension through the neighborhood: the responsibilities Lexington had vis-à-vis the residents and how city officials went about meeting them, as well as the residents’ differing perspectives about the road. Students also learn about the importance of preserving archaeological sites. In an assessment, students write an essay describing what they learned and design a project (examples include a short PowerPoint; a poster; a museum display; a magazine article) for a local historical society about the Davis Bottom neighborhood. The final unit activity asks students to consider the fate of a poor urban neighborhood threatened with destruction by a proposed road. They argue the point of view of different groups involved and decide on the fate of the neighborhood.

Unit materials consist of Instructions for the Teacher and diverse instructional support materials.

Four PowerPoints support instruction of “Investigating a Shotgun House.” A lesson targeting pages from the 1931-1932 and the 1948-1949 Lexington City Directories, which includes instructions, data, and a PowerPoint, provides supplemental historical information about the DeRoode Street residents that students study in Part Two. Fourteen short video clips of first-person narratives from videotaped interviews with Davis Bottom residents are accessible through the Davis Bottom Historic Preservation Project Webpage. The documentary can be viewed online here or teachers can purchase copies of the DVD from KAS. Links to mural lesson sets in the Teaching Through Documentary Art unit are indicated within the teacher instructions. A separate Archaeology Notebook is provided for students.

The unit’s Instructions for the Teacher and the Archaeology Notebook are available for download through the Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter on-line Shelter Database. After purchasing the main educational curriculum guide, Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter, from the national office or receiving it by attending a state or national workshop, teachers can download “Investigating A Shotgun House” from the database through a password in the printed guide. Instructions for the Teacher and the Archaeology Notebook, as well as the supporting PowerPoints and other documents for the curriculum, also are accessible through the Davis Bottom History Preservation Project Website, as well as on this web page below.

Project Archaeology
Investigating a Shotgun House
A Curriculum Guide for Grades 3-5

Discover the past through evidence from a mid-20th century archaeological site at Davis Bottom, a multiracial, urban, working-class neighborhood in Lexington, Kentucky! In this investigation, students will use geography, history, and archaeology to learn about a Kentucky shotgun house and the people who lived in it.

Examine historic photographs, primary documents, artifacts, and maps of a Shotgun House shelter. Students meet Kenny Demus and the Laffoon sisters – Cissy and Mary – who grew up in rented shotgun houses, by reading their biographies. Then they “uncover” a real archaeological site, classify artifacts, study the contents of a privy, and infer how Lexington’s urban geography influenced the neighborhood and its future.

Explore the history of Lexington’s working class, the meaning of neighborhood, and the definition of family. Engage students in a debate on a current civic dilemma involving archaeology and preservation, and the stereotypes we hold about the working poor.

Includes texts about neighborhood history, using primary documents, investigating and interpreting privy deposits, and seeking justice for those displaced by urban development

Supports Common Core State Standards

Incorporates authentic data for students to analyze

Angela Buis, Jones Park Elementary School, Casey County, Kentucky

“This unit was something the kids loved. They learned a lot that we were able to tie into our tested content later in the year (like using tables, data, pictures to collect evidence). With fifth graders, they need to be interested in the content to apply themselves to learning the content.”