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Main Street USA: Concept & Community

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Cultures +6 Age Level Middle School (13 to 15 years old)

"In the United States, Main Street has always been two things—a place and an idea. As both, Main Street has embodied the contradictions of the country itself." - Miles Orvell

Conjuring images of simplicity, community, and harmony with the natural world, “Main Street” is a concept that continuously sparks the American imagination. Synonymous with small town America, popular depictions of Main Streets range from Disneyland’s Main Street USA, It’s A Wonderful Life’s Bedford Falls, to Norman Rockwell’s paintings. But is there a difference between the popularized concept of Main Street and the reality of today’s small town communities? How do people today experience their Main Streets, and do their experiences differ from each other?

In this collection, we’ll be exploring two central topics: Main Street as an IDEA, and Main Street as a PLACE. Students will be asked to analyze depictions of Main Street from art, literature, and historical documentation.