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Let's Go Shopping 1948! Elementary Webquest

Introduction | Task | Process | Evaluation | Conclusion



Descriptions of families
[ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ] [ 4 ] [ 5 ]
Map of Canada

1. Worksheets #1 and #2
    (one per group)

2. Worksheets #3, #4 and #5
    (one per student)

3. Order form

If you don't have access to a printer ask your teacher for help.

Eaton's Fall and Winter
1948-49 catalogue


For over one hundred years, mail-order catalogues have been used to sell things to Canadians. Before many people lived in cities and could easily travel to stores, most people bought their clothing, toys, kitchen appliances, furniture, and even homes from these catalogues. Your grandparents or great-grandparents may well be able to tell you about the fun they had dreaming about the things they would buy from the Eaton's catalogue, if only they had magic powers and all the money in the world!

In this Webquest, you will have the chance to go shopping! You will learn about a family that lived long ago, and you and your classmates will decide what you will buy from the latest Eaton's catalogue: the Eaton's Fall and Winter 1948-49 catalogue. You will have to balance your wishes with your needs, and, as a family, decide what you can afford to buy.

When you are finished each day's tasks, or when you have completed the entire Webquest, try out other fun things to do.

Happy shopping!

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It is September 1948. You live with your family in or near a small town in Canada. Your family just received the Eaton's Fall and Winter catalogue, the only major catalogue you will receive before Christmas. Each member of your family would like to order a few items from this catalogue. However, you have a limited amount of money and must stay within your budget. Your task is to learn about your family and your own character, think of what you would want to order as a member of that family, discuss as a group what you really need and can afford, and then fill out an order form with your family's final choices. You will then return to the 21st century, make a collage of the items you ordered, and make a presentation about your family and its order to the rest of your class.

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With the help of your teacher, divide into groups of 4 or 5 students. These will be your 1948 families.

  1. As a group, ask your teacher to help you select a family:

    Each group should select a different family.

  2. Read about your family. Fill in Worksheet #1 as a group.
  3. On a map of Canada, locate the town where you live.

    Fill in Worksheet #2 as a group.

    Before you complete the final Worksheet question, get together as a class. Ensure a large map of Canada is posted or projected onto a screen. As a group, make a presentation to your class about your family and where you live, based on Worksheets #1 and #2. Place a pin or sticky paper at the location of your family's home. Place another pin at the location of the nearest Eaton's warehouse. Together as a class, determine how each family's mail-order goods would arrive at their homes. Trace the routes taken by each family's goods on the map of Canada; use a different coloured marker or string for each family.

    Hint: Goods were shipped by train from the Eaton's warehouse to the closest post office or mail-order outlet. People had to travel by foot, horse and buggy, horse and sleigh, or car to the post office or outlet to pick them up.

  4. Return to working in your family groups. Decide which family member each of you will be: father, mother, or child 1, 2, or 3. Each student must take on a different character.
  5. Now find out about your character. Working on your own, go to the Roles section, to your Family section, and then to your character. Fill in Worksheet #3 on your own.
  6. As a group, meet with your family members. Each family member presents their name, age, place of birth, role in family, occupation and interests, income source and amount, and what they want to buy. Then go back to working on your own.
  7. Look through the Eaton's Fall and Winter 1948-49 catalogue. Start with the links that are provided for your family member. You may then search for other pages of the catalogue. Make notes of all the items you would like to buy. Fill in Worksheet #4 on your own.
  8. Narrow down your list to the items you would most like to buy. Think of why you really want each of these items. Fill in Worksheet #5 on your own.
  9. Optional: If you have access to a printer, print out the catalogue page with each item from your Needs List.
  10. Fill out an order form. Be sure to include the item name and page number, size, colour and other specific information needed, and cost. Calculate the total cost of your order. How much will it cost?
  11. Meet with the rest of your family. Go over each person's order. Add up the total cost of all orders. Are you within budget? If not, as a group, discuss which items can be deleted. You must come up with a list that fits within your budget. When you have a list that each family member is satisfied with and that your family can afford, fill out another order form.
  12. If you printed out your items in Step 9, assemble one collage of all items each person ordered, and a second collage of all the items you didn't order.
  13. Plan your presentation. You will need to make an individual presentation and a group presentation about yourself and your order. Assemble your Worksheets, Wish List and Needs List. Think of how you will use your collages and final order form to make your presentation. You may wish to display your two collages and final order form on the wall of the classroom.
  14. Make your presentation.
    • Individually, make a presentation to class members about:
      • your family member (name, age, occupation, interests, and income); and
      • what was on your Wish List and your Needs List.
    • As a family, make a presentation of:
      • what you finally ordered; and
      • an explanation of how you proceeded from your wants to your needs.
    • As a class, compare the orders of the different families.
      • How were they similar?
      • How were they different?
      • What are some explanations for the differences?
    • Finally, discuss what was challenging about this task.

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Here is the grading rubric.

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In 1948, mail-order catalogues were an important part of the lives and dreams of most Canadians. With the help of an efficient postal system and the railways, mail-order catalogues provided the means of selling a wide variety of clothing, toys, furniture, and other items to rural Canadian families. These catalogues must have inspired a lot of dreaming, bringing the images of clothing and other items from across Canada and all around the world into people's lives.

After completing this Webquest, we hope that you have a better understanding of the clothes and other items that were available to Canadians in catalogues in 1948 and of some families who lived back then. We also hope you have learned how challenging it can be to balance a family's wishes with their needs and the money they have available. Finally, we hope you have learned how you can use these catalogues to learn about life in the past.


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