Education: Heritage Discovery Center

Johnstown Area Heritage Association
Teachers' Guide: During your Visit

Making a Life

"Through Immigrants' Eyes" exhibit and walking tour

Materials for this lesson
Readings Activities Primary sources




     ** Referenced PA Standards **

At the museum

Your museum visit will be most effective if you divide your class into smaller groups (groups of five or six work well).

Let the museum staff know that you have been preparing for your visit using the Making a Life activities on this Web site. Tell them that the students already have their character assignments, so they can make sure students receive the correct ID card for their characters. They will need to present the ID at various points in the exhibit to receive customized feedback for their characters.

Culture Shocks - Building Blocks

This scavenger hunt style activity will help students focus and further explore the concept of "community" during their tour of the "Through Immigrant Eyes" exhibit. Specifically part 1 asks them to extrapolate from Old Country photos the "culture shocks" immigrants might face in the USA. In part 2, they will collect evidence of the many ways resourceful immigrants recreated communities in Johnstown to replace those they left behind.

Part 1 - Culture Shocks: Big Challenges

New immigrants often suffered “culture shock” adjusting to the big differences between their old lives and their new lives. In the first gallery at the Heritage Discovery Center, you will see photographs and hear stories about life in the “Old Country.”


  • Find three photos or quotes that hint about shocks newcomers will face adjusting to life in America;
  • Sketch the photo or write down the quote (in the left column);
  • Predict the challenges awaiting these immigrants (in the right column).

Part 2 - Building Blocks: Big Help

Immigrants making a new life in America did not go it alone. They built new communities that were just the cure for “culture shock.” But these communities were not built of brick and mortar!


  1. List the “building blocks” of community help system (person, organization, tradition, etc.) in the exhibit;
  2. Explain how each part of the system helped.

Walking Tour of Cambria City

After your tour of "Through Immigrants' Eyes," we hope you will help students put the exhibit in context by crossing Broad Street and exploring the Cambria City National Historic District, "a vibrant illustration of the strong cultural and religious ties that bound together a community of workers through the transitions of the Industrial Revolution" (from the "Historic Cambria City Walking Tour Guide").

Familiarize yourself with this ten-block community through our online version of the "Historic Cambria City Walking Tour Guide and Map," so you can lead a walk through the neighborhood (perhaps on your way to JAHA's Wagner-Ritter House museum). Some interesting patterns to point out to students:

  • How is the neighborhood of Cambria City different from housing plans, shopping districts, and new schools and churches being built today? Why? [Space is at a premium in neighborhoods where everyone walked everywhere and didn't own horses or cars.]
  • How is Cambria City built for pedestrians?

Some characteristics of pedestrian neighborhoods to point out (or ask students to point out) on your walk:

  • Few garages/stables or parking lots;
  • Buildings crowded close together (no space "wasted" on lawns) so distance between them is shorter;
  • Mixed use, no zoning means houses, churches, school, stores, bars, manufacturing businesses sat side-by-side.
  • How did mixed use help ethnic communities grow? [allowed whole ethnic communities (with schools, convents, rectories, social halls, shops, etc.) to cluster around churches.

Walking Tour Scavenger hunts

Choose among several activities to further engage students in exploring the architecture of Cambria City.

Steeple Chase

Any of the scavenger hunts can be adapted for any age (including adults!). However, the scavenger hunt "Steeple Chase' is helpful for younger students, since it eliminates everything but churches from the hunt.


"Steeple Chase" can be conducted in two ways:

Survey style

  • Each student receives one or both of the pages with photos of the steeples;
  • They must locate every steeple they on their page.

Treasure hunt style

  • Cut the photos into cards and give one to each student;
  • They must locate the one church on their card and find out its name.
  • Possible follow-up: of the Brick and Mortar Treasure Hunt Option 1 (Solo Hunt), in which they draw the rest of the building.

"Steeple Chase" answers

  1. St. Columba's - corner Broad St. and 10th Ave.
  2. Hungarian Reformed - corner Chestnut St. and 9th Ave.
  3. Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran - 711 Chestnut St
  4. St. Mary's Byzantine - corner Power St. and 4th Ave.
  5. Immaculate Conception - corner Broad St. and 3rd Ave.
  6. St. Casimir's - corner Power St. and 5th Ave.
  7. St. Stephen's - corner Chestnut St. and 4th Ave.
  8. St. Casimir's - corner Power St. and 5th Ave.
  9. St. Mary's Byzantine - corner Power St. and 4th Ave.
  10. St. George's Serbian Orthodox - Chestnut St.
  11. Immaculate Conception - corner Broad St. and 3rd Ave.
  12. St. Rochus - corner Chestnut St. and 8th Ave.

Discussion questions after "Steeple Chase"

  • What materials were used to build your steeple? How does it fit into its building (beside, on top or part of roof)?
  • Why are steeples, domes, and towers popular in religious buildings?
  • Which spires are fanciest? Which are plain? Which faiths use more decoration? Which use less?
  • How are domes, steeples and towers different? In construction? In function? In meaning?

Brick and Mortar Scavenger Hunt

Detail Cards (required for either option)

Cut the detail cards apart and give one to each student after you arrive in Cambria City. Save the left margin of the paper after cutting the cards, as these strips of paper include the key, so you can tell whether students successfully found their details!

Two "Scavenger Hunt" options

Option 1: Solo Hunt

Teacher directions from Detail Card pages

  1. Print out the Detail Card pages, in color, if possible.
  2. Cut the cards apart.
  3. Give a card to each student at the beginning of your walk. Distribute Option 1 worksheet (page 8 of the PDF, pencils, and glue stick or tape)
  4. Tell students to look for their detail during the walk. When they find it, write down the address on the back.
  5. When you tell them it is time, they will have 10-15 minutes to attach the card to the paper and draw in the rest of the building.

Examples of finished drawings are in the right top corner of the student worksheet.

Student directions from worksheet

Ethnic neighborhoods are full of treasures hidden in the architecture. How wide open are your eyes?

  1. Study the card you’re given with a close-up detail “hidden” in Cambria City.
  2. Look for your detail as you walk. Write down the address where you find it.
  3. Glue or tape the card in the space below.
  4. Take 10-15 minutes to draw in the rest of the building to the paper edges. Include as many details as you can.

Option 2: Team Hunt

Teacher Directions from Detail Card pages

  1. Print out the Detail Card pages, in color, if possible.
  2. Cut the cards apart.
  3. Shuffle the cards well.
  4. Group students into teams of four.
  5. Give each team a set of four cards and four Option 2 tally sheets.
  6. On the walk, team members are each responsible for listing names, addresses, function, and thumbnail sketch of the buildings where they found their details. By the end of the tour, teams ideally should have located and recorded all four details.
  7. Verify their finds with the key on the next pages.

Student directions from worksheet

Ethnic neighborhoods are full of treasures hidden in the architecture. Can you find them? By the end of your walk, your team should have located and recorded all four of its assigned details on your Tally Sheet.

  1. Work in teams of four. Your team will get a set of four cards with close-up details “hidden” in Cambria City. Each team member will keep a tally sheet
  2. Write the team’s card numbers on your tally sheet before you start.
  3. Look for the details as you walk.
  4. List the address and name and/or function of each place you find a detail
  5. Draw a thumbnail sketch of the buildings where you found each detail.
  6. Verify your finds with your teacher’s key at the end of your walk.


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