Using a computer-connected projector, visit the Museum’s “What If?” landing page. The Museum will be adding more options to this site periodically, but this lesson focuses on the first two: What If…Immigrants stopped coming to New York?, and What If…New York City relied on 100% renewable energy sources?. (Note that a third question – What If…Schools selected their students to reflect the racial and economic diversity of the city? – is also available but might be deemed difficult for younger students. Teachers are encouraged to review all questions in advance.)
Lead students through each “What If?” series (be sure to click in to the main page of each question for full details, including the original visitor questions and experts’ responses). Note that the main question is a combination, or synthesis, of questions asked by at least three different visitors. (Note, too, that you may need to define problems and terms according to your class’s grade and knowledge level – scale up or down within the “What If?” framework and only use those examples that work for your class.)
For each “What If?” series, complete the following steps:
1.) Review each visitor question. How are they different?
2.) Most “What If?” questions posed by visitors are asked because there is a problem. What problem is this “What If?” question trying to address?
3.) What do we know about the current state of that problem in New York City? How can we find out more so we can be more knowledgeable? (Note: students can research any of these issues as part of a class extension activity.)
4.) Review each expert response. How are they different? Are there any clues about this person’s point of view? (Note that each expert’s affiliation or credentials are listed at the top of their response.)
5.) Which expert’s response do you find most convincing? Have any of the responses changed your own thinking on the topic?
6.) Can we discuss the issue as a group and try to think of more results (“Then…”) from the “What If?” What more do we need to know to do this?