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Lesson Plan: Ethnicity

For Teachers - An Introduction:
This lesson is designed to introduce your students to historical research with primary sources. They will be presented with a set of six primary sources relating to a milestone in Minnesota history. Students will be provided with source data, online activity questions to direct their study, and a worksheet designed to help them draw conclusions about the sources they have seen and about primary source research in general. The sections of this site are not intended to be complete histories of the people or events involved, but rather serve as examples of what students might find in their own research attempts.

How did ethnicity affect Hibbing?
Work on the Iron Range brought large numbers of immigrants to northern Minnesota during the early twentieth century. While the workers contributed a great deal to the Hibbing cultural landscape, there were also challenges to be overcome. Mining companies hired interpreters to translate work instructions for the immigrants, and contract disputes often arose between workers and management about wages or working conditions that had not been clearly described or understood by one or both parties.

What You Will Need for This Lesson:

  • Access to a computer lab with Internet capability for at least one 40 minute class period.
  • Photocopies of the worksheet and a printed key (download both in the Student Materials section of the site).
  • If you have not already done so, we encourage you to explore the site for yourself ahead of time to become familiar with the navigation and features available to you and your students.

Skills Objectives:
The student will be able to:

  1. access primary sources online for research and study
  2. identify and summarize the different kinds of sources in the exercise
  3. identify advantages and disadvantages to using particular primary sources
  4. explain and synthesize source information to evaluate its usefulness and reliability

Using this Lesson in Your Classroom:
When the students are in the computer lab, lead them through the following sequence (you may wish to use an overhead projector screen):

  1. Go to the Communities web site.
  2. Click on Communities on the left hand side of the screen.
  3. Click on Hibbing.
  4. Click on Ethnicity.
  5. Read the introductory material on Ethnicity and click Enter.
  6. This will bring you to a screen with a graph showing the ratio of native to foreign-born residents. This is the first primary source the students will encounter. Let them know that they can see a larger version of this graph by clicking on the View button underneath the thumbnail image. Show students the Activity button and have them click on it to view questions and possible answers about each source.
  7. Once students have studied this graph and read the appropriate questions about it in the Activity section, direct them to the other sources that are accessible through the blue menu bar running across the top of the page. Each of these buttons will take them to another source to explore.
  8. Remind students to use the Activity button on each source to help direct their research.
  9. When the students have completed studying each source and reading the questions for each item, they should be able to complete the worksheet they were given (see below).

What Your Students Will See In This Lesson Online:
Below is a listing of each source provided on the Ethnicity section of the web site and a transcript of the activity questions for each source. (The questions are found on the site by clicking on the Activity button.)

Data 1
Click on the Data 1 button to open the primary source.
This is a chart showing the populations of four Minnesota towns in 1900.

    1.1) What might explain the large number of foreign-born residents in Hibbing?

    Possible Answer: Since Hibbing had just been founded about 10 years earlier, it is likely that many new immigrants came to Hibbing to find work in the new town.

    1.2) What does it mean to be a first generation, native-born resident?

    Possible Answer: "First generation, native born" means that your parents were born in their home country and then moved here, and you are part of the first generation in your family to be born here after your parents arrived.

    1.3) How might this chart look for Hibbing today? How could we find out?

    Possible Answer: The ratio of foreign-born residents to native-born residents is probably not nearly as high today as it was in 1900. We could check this by studying the most recent composite census report for the area.

    1.4) What would bring immigrants to Hibbing in 1900?

    Possible Answer: Many immigrants came to Hibbing to get jobs working in the iron mines.

Data 2

Click on the Data 2 button to open the primary source.
This is a census report from Hibbing in 1900.

    2.1) What information can we learn from this census page?

    Possible Answer: This page can give us a "snapshot" of the people who lived in Hibbing at the time. We can learn their name, age, family relationship, home country and the home country of their parents, and their occupation.

    2.2) Why might it be important to know where a person's parents were born?

    Possible Answer: If we know where a person's parents were born, we might be able to understand what brought them here (there may have been a famine or other disaster pushing them from their home country) and what needs they might have had once they arrived (such as what language they could speak and understand).

    2.3) What could the government do with the information gathered on the census?

    Possible Answer: By knowing the number of people in an area, their ages and places of origin, the government could encourage certain programs to help them or plan government aid for public facilities or improvements.

    2.4) How do you think this information was gathered?

    Possible Answer: Local citizens were hired by the federal government as temporary census-takers and went door to door to get the information.

Data 3
Click on the Data 3 button to open the primary source.
This chart was created by Oliver Mining Company to determine the national backgrounds of their employees.

    3.1) Why would a mining company want to compile these statistics?

    Possible Answer: This information would help them to know what kinds of resources they would need for their employees. For example, if there were many Italian-speaking employees in an area, they would need to consider hiring an Italian interpreter or translator for work in that mine. The mining companies also thought that certain nationalities were better suited to certain kinds of jobs. Some nationalities were even considered more likely to go on strike than others.

    3.2) Which nationalities are not found on the Mesabi Range? How could we find out why this is true?

    Possible Answer: There are no Arabians, Bulgarians, Danes, Hebrews (Jews), Hollanders, or American Indians working for the Oliver Mining Company on the Mesabi Range at this time. We can't know for sure why this is true, but we might guess that there were fewer immigrants from these areas at that time.

    3.3) Which nationality on the range has the largest number of members, according to this chart?

    Possible Answer: The chart lists 1,299 Austrians (South Slavs) working on the Mesabi Range. The actual largest group on the range was the Finns.

    3.4) What challenges might the number of immigrants pose for the mining companies?

    Possible Answer: The companies would need to hire some translators to help hire and train those who don't speak English. Many immigrants may have had little or no familiarity with mining.

Map 1
Click on the Map 1 button to open the primary source.
This is an insurance map from Hibbing.

    4.1) Why would a town need an insurance map like this one?

    Possible Answer: Insurance maps like this one were designed to identify fire risks in a town and to set insurance rates.

    4.2) There are two Lutheran churches on this map situated across the street from each other. Why would this be?

    Possible Answer: Since there were so many different nationalities in Hibbing at this time, some of the immigrants formed churches that presented services in their own language. So, even though the church denomination was the same, the Swedish Lutheran Church and the Finnish Lutheran Church would each hold services in their own language and with their own customs.

    4.3) If you wanted to locate a certain home on this map, what symbols or tools on this map might help you?

    Possible Answer: The streets are marked, so if you know the street address, you should be able to find the location of the home. The house numbers are written directly in front of each building (for example, the Swedish Lutheran Church address is 329 Superior Street).

    4.4) The numbers in the corners of the buildings tell us the number of stories in a building. At 325 Superior Street, there is a two- story house. What do you think the dotted line and the "1" in the corner of the front could possibly mean?

    Possible Answer: The small rectangle on the front of the house is a porch or entryway that is only one-story high.

Document 1
Click on the Document 1 button to open the primary source.
This report describes costs associated with the hiring of interpreters for foreign-born workers.

    5.1) The money for the interpreters was taken from the wages of the workers at the rates listed on the chart. How could a $5 reduction in wages affect a worker?

    Possible Answer: Since many workers got less than $3 a day for their work in the mines, losing $5 a month could make a big impact on a workers income and buying power.

    5.2) What does the investigator suggest when he writes that the money was deducted "ostensibly to pay interpreters"?

    Possible Answer: His use of the word "ostensibly" suggests that the investigator wasn't convinced that all of the money was really being used for interpreters, and it was possible that workers were overcharged for the use of interpreters and the mining company made money on the arrangement.

    5.3) Why would an interpreter be necessary for the mine workers?

    Possible Answer: When workers were unable to speak English, it was necessary to provide training and information in a language they could understand. Because mining is a dangerous occupation, providing information and instructions the miner could understand was very important.

    5.4) Some of the workers listed on this chart were charged for interpreters more than once. Why would this be?

    Possible Answer: It is possible that they were charged for using interpreters by the month, or that there were special situations in which an interpreter was needed more frequently.

Thought Questions for online Exploration:
During the online lesson, your students should complete the accompanying worksheet for this section. (Download from the student materials the pdf file containing the worksheet and key.) The questions for this worksheet are provided below. Since questions relating to specific sources are used during the online activity, the following worksheet questions are designed to help students synthesize and apply the material they have learned from the online activity and to analyze the kinds of information and the credibility of various types of primary sources when taken as a whole.

  1. The insurance map in this unit can reveal much about the homes and other buildings in Hibbing. What changes might you see between the 1900 insurance map we see here and an insurance map of the same area from 1905? What information might you learn from an insurance map of your own neighborhood today?

  2. Census records can be very helpful in our research. What information can you learn from a census report that you can't learn in other sources? What challenges does a census report present for the researcher? For what topics of research might a census report be most helpful?

  3. Learning about the traditions represented in certain communities can tell us about the people and customs of the area at that time. What other information might we find from Hibbing that would show us the diversity of the population?

  4. Since the mining companies hired many immigrants to work in the mines, what kinds of accommodations (other than interpreters) might they have made for the immigrants? What challenges might the immigrants face when coming to work for a mining company? What other sources might show us examples of these accommodations and challenges?

Extending the Lesson: Historical Themes Ethnicity
You can also use the sources provided on this site to encourage higher-order thinking about a number of historical themes and issues that relate to ethnicity in Hibbing. Below are possible activities and Discussion starters to extend student application of the content material provided in the sources. The information provided in the sources about Hibbing does not provide a comprehensive picture of these issues, but it can serve as an introduction to a theme or as supplementary material to enhance your work with a theme that is already part of your curriculum.

Possible Themes:
1. Diversity in your community
2. Immigration in American history

Theme One:
Diversity and community

The student will be able to:

  1. Examine and evaluate the role diversity plays in their community
  2. Demonstrate and prepare methods for encouraging and supporting diversity
Class Discussion:
In small groups, have students discuss the following questions. You may wish to provide these questions on an overhead transparency or supply a handout for student reference.

  • What does diversity mean to you? List the class' answers on the board for discussion.

  • What are some of the benefits that diversity brings to our community? What things can we learn from other cultures or traditions that can enrich our life and understanding of the world?

  • What challenges can diversity create for our community? What kinds of conflict can sometimes occur when people don't accept diversity or understand other cultures? Why do you think it is sometimes hard for people from different cultures to understand each other?

  • What things can we as students do to make our community more encouraging and more accepting of diversity?
Optional activities:
  • Have an "international week" in your classroom. Ask students to prepare and demonstrate some common foods, crafts, dances, songs, or traditions from their own heritage for the class and discuss what each of these traditions brings to your community.

  • Ask students to research the origins of some common traditions or objects. They might choose a favorite food, a holiday tradition or even a sport. Have students examine how that item or tradition enriches our lives and what might be different about our lives if the heritage that created that tradition had not brought it to America.

  • Have students prepare a list of positive responses for situations in which someone is being criticized or treated in a prejudicial manner. What can students say to make it clear that prejudice is not acceptable to them? What actions can students take that will help someone who is being treated in this way?

  • Ask students to research their own family history and country of origin. What challenges did their ancestors face to get here or stay here (in the case of American Indians)? How might other residents have treated them when they arrived? How do they think that would feel? You might want to ask students to think about what it would be like to move to a new town without knowing the language or customs of the townspeople. How would they feel? What could they do to survive? What would they need to learn how to function in that new society? You may wish to make a list of things the students can do to help others who might move into their community feel welcome.

Theme Two:
Immigration in American history :

The student will be able to:

  1. Define and discuss the role of immigration in American history
  2. Define and evaluate factors that caused people to emigrate from their home country
Class Discussion:
In small groups, have students discuss the following questions. You may wish to provide these questions on an overhead transparency or supply a handout for student reference.

  • What factors might cause your family to move from this community to a new one?

  • How would you react to such a move?

  • What concerns or fears might you have about the move?

  • How would you like people to treat you in your new community?

  • How do you think this is similar to and different from what someone experiences when they move from one country to another?

Optional activities:

  • Ask students to research the process immigrants encountered when they entered the United States through Ellis Island. What examinations and tests did the immigrants have to pass before entering this country? Ask students to write an essay describing whether or not they think those tests were fair or necessary. Have them consider both sides of the issue and encourage them to debate a position opposite of the one they actually hold.

  • Invite an immigration official to class (or write to one for information) and ask him or her to explain the process of immigrating to America today. Ask students to discuss why they think there are rules for immigration and whether or not they think those rules are fair. What would be some of the challenges the United States would face if it accepted everyone who wanted to come to this country? What problems can potential immigrants face if they are not accepted cause for immigration? Ask students to consider what they think America's role might be in helping people who are experiencing persecution or disaster in their home country.

  • Invite an ESL teacher to your class to discuss the specific challenges faced by students who do not speak English. What things do English-speakers take for granted that people who do not speak English might not understand? Ask the ESL teacher to suggest some ways students can help people who don't speak much English in day-to-day situations.

  • Ask your school's foreign language teacher to come to class and do a 10- to 15-minute presentation of class material or directions in another language (this should be a language most of the students will not know). Ask students how they felt when they were directed to do things in a language they could not understand. What adjectives would describe their feelings about the teacher, themselves, and the class during this experience? What (aside from speaking in their own language) would have helped them feel better or more confident during the experience? Ask students to write a short description of their feelings and how they think this experience could be similar for students who do not speak the language used most frequently in their school. (You may also wish to do an exercise similar to this one to encourage awareness of the challenges faced by people with disabilities such as blindness or hearing loss.)

  • Have your students research the dangers involved with choosing to leave your home country to come to America (or to leave America to go to another country) in its early years. What factors would make you decide that it was worth the risk? What might influence you in your decision to come to (or move from) America (advertising for America, relatives already living here, job opportunities, etc.)? What would you be leaving behind and how would you handle that separation from family and homeland? Ask students to write a journal entry or letter describing the things they are considering when making their decision and what their decision is going to be.

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