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Discovering a Landmark: An Inquiry Lesson

Grades 7 & 8
3 Class Periods

In this lesson students will use an inquiry chart to determine that the Richardson Olmsted Campus was once the Buffalo State Hospital, and answer other student-generated guiding questions.

Program Segments

Program Segment for Lesson PlanRichardson Olmsted Campus History

The history and origin of the Richardson Olmsted Campus as the Buffalo State Asylum.

Program Segment for lesson planEvolution of Treatment

Discover Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride’s contribution to the Richardson Olmsted Campus.


Students will be able to:

  • Analyze photographs to develop questions about what they see.
  • Investigate answers to student-created guiding questions.
  • Identify, through research, a location in a photograph and its function.
  • Describe the phases of the Buffalo State Hospital over time.

Instructional Resources



  1. Break students into groups of 4-5.
  2. Give each group a different series of pictures (one at a time) of the asylum and give the students “Think Time” to consider what they are observing in the pictures. Then have students discuss what they notice.
  3. Each group should generate 4 guiding questions for each picture (they can be similar), and write them down on their Inquiry Chart. Examples of questions may include:
    • What is this place?
    • Where is place?
    • Did someone live here?
    • How did it turn into this poor condition?
    • Does this place still exist today?
    • What did this place look like when it was first created?


  1. Students will be given a few minutes to review and complete their Inquiry Charts.
  2. Students will watch the Reimagining a Buffalo Landmark segments and take any related notes on their Inquiry Charts.
  3. After the video segments, time will be allowed to do any additional research on the Richard Olmsted Campus website.
  4. The teacher should circulate around the groups, facilitating the inquiry process by guiding students to find evidence to help answer their questions. They should record their findings for each source in their Inquiry Chart.
  5. Students should record a summary of their findings from different sources for each question. They can also record any interesting facts or new questions that emerged during their inquiry.


  1. Students will have a whole class discussion regarding how their findings from their Inquiry Charts were confirmed or changed based on what they observed originally and what they learned in the Reimagining a Buffalo Landmark video segments.
  2. Classmates may have questions or observations that support or conflict with groups’ theories, which should also be based on evidence. Groups may have similar understandings, or have chosen very different guiding questions for their inquiries. The goal is to facilitate curiosity and dialogue.

Adaptations (grades 9-12)

  • In addition to seeking answers to their guiding questions, high school students could also consider point-of-view, authorship bias, purpose, format and audience of the resources they study.
  • High school students could also be paired to conduct deeper research and discuss theories on the series of the photographs. What factors led to the building of the asylum in the first place? What factors led to it becoming decrepit (economical, advances/changes in medical treatments, etc.)? What factors led to its current preservation and use?

Assessment Task

  • Students will turn in their completed Inquiry Charts. All students should actively participate in the whole class discussion.

Extension Activities (optional)

  • Students can create captions or labels for the photographs, based on their discussions and what they learned from the program.

New York State Learning Standards

Learning Standards for Social Studies (Intermediate)
Standard 1: History of the United States and New York – 2, 3, 4

Common Core Learning Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy (grades 6-12)
Speaking and Listening Standards – 1, 2, 4, 5
Language Standards – 1, 3, 4
Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies – 7
Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies – 4, 7, 8

Learning Standards for the Arts – Visual Arts (grades 7 & 8)
Responding – Anchor Standards 7, 8

Learning Standards for Health, Physical Education, and Family and Consumer Sciences (Intermediate)
Standard 2: A Safe and Healthy Environment – Health Education - 1

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Reimagining a Buffalo Landmark is funded by the Peter C. Cornell Trust, The Zemsky Family and the Members of Buffalo Toronto Public Media.