My students just didn't understand why it was such a big deal for the kids in a story to get out and visit the circus. Then I explained that the homesteaders didn't have a whole lot for their kids to do. "Was that before or after WWI?" someone asked.
It didn't bother me all that much that the students didn't know which century we we discussing, but the story didn't make sense if they thought the desire to get out once in a while was pointless. This assignment was created so that students today can get an idea about historical context for kids in the stories we read. It's easily adjusted so that you could be talking about the kids in Will Cather's "The Sentimentality of William Tavener" or Antigone. Or kids in the 70s. The purpose is to identify differences in everyday life in order to better understand perspective.
Use this assignment in English or Social Studies. You may not believe it, but students don't always know whether or not radio was around during the Civil War or if Alexander the Great wore tennis shoes. Or played tennis.