Back to Lesson Menu
Lesson Plan: The Falls
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 landform in Minnesota history. Your 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 itself. The sections of this site are not intended to be complete histories of the people or events involved, but examples of what students might find in their own research attempts.
Why are the Falls important?
St. Anthony Falls became a valuable source of energy for the Minneapolis area. Saw and flour mills were built to utilize the power of the falls and tourists came to visit the local landmark. In its earlier times, the Falls was a navigational landmark for explorers who traveled the area and descriptions of it were written in many travel guides. The Falls was a catalyst for the growth of the city of Minneapolis and its development as an international force in the milling industry. Consequently, attempts to save the falls from erosion were numerous but not always successful. The work of the Army Corps of Engineers eventually managed to stabilize the falls and protect it as an energy source.
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.
The student will be able to:
access primary sources online for research and study
identify and summarize the different kinds of sources in the exercise
identify advantages and disadvantages to using particular primary sources
explain and synthesize source information to evaluate its usefulness and
Using This Lesson in Your Classroom:
When the students are in the computer lab, instruct them to do the following in this order (you may wish to do this with them on an overhead projector screen):
Go to the Communities web site.
Click on Communities on the left hand side of the screen.
Click on St. Anthony.
Click on Falls.
Read the introductory material about the falls and click Enter.
This will bring you to a screen with a painting of Hennepin at the Falls. This is the first primary source the students will encounter. Let them know that they can see a larger version of this painting by clicking on the View button underneath the thumbnail image. Show students the activity button and have them click on it to view questions an possible answers about each source.
Once students have studied this painting 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.
Remind students to use the Activity button on each source to help direct their research.
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:
What follows is a listing of each source provided on the Falls section of the web site and a transcript of the activity questions for each source (these are found on the site by clicking on the Activity button).
Click on the Art 1 button to open the primary source..
This is a painting of Father Hennepin naming St. Anthony Falls.
1.1) Father Hennepin had been captured by the Dakota Indians shortly before locating the Falls. What about the Indians in this picture would suggest to you that the artist had not taken that fact into account?
The Indians in this picture seem to be following Father Hennepin, as if he were their leader, which would probably not be the case if he had been captured.
1.2) This painting was done in the 1800s almost 200 years after Hennepin discovered the Falls. What does this suggest about the accuracy of the painting itself?
The artist was not there at the time and would not have been able to interview anyone who might have been there, so he painted it as he imagined it. This makes the source less accurate for researchers.
1.3) Sometimes artists will paint pictures that are not completely realistic. What about this picture do you think might be more imagined than real?
Hennepin's clothes appear clean and pressed after months in the wilderness, the Indians are accompanying him (from what we know, he was alone at the time) and the Falls are situated where they were in the artist's time period, not downstream where they were when Hennepin saw them.
1.4) How might this painting have been different if a Dakota Indian had painted it?
This painting is done from a white European perspective, and the Dakota Indians in the picture are not necessarily drawn accurately. A Dakota Indian painting a picture of the same event would probably more accurately show the role Hennepin did or did not have in the event and the role of the Dakota in the event.
Click on the Diagram 1 button to open the primary source.
This is cross section of the dike at St. Anthony Falls.
2.1) This is a "cross-section" diagram, meaning it shows a cutaway view so you can see the Falls better. What is your view of the Falls in this digram?
You are looking at the Falls, the underlying rock, and the dike from the side. The water would flow from left to right.
2.2) The concrete dike at the Falls was designed to hold up the narrow limestone layer under the water. Why do you think this might be necessary?
The limestone layer is not very thick and the sandstone underneath is a soft material. It would be easy for limestone to break and cause the Falls to collapse.
2.3) Why might it be so important for the engineers at the Falls to create a dike to protect it?
If the Falls collapsed, there would not be waterpower for the factories and businesses in the area to use. The area below the Falls would also be likely to flood.
2.4) Since engineers were trying to protect the Falls, what role do you think the apron could have had in that effort?
The apron covered the Falls and prevented crashing water from washing away the sandstone layer underneath.
Click on the Map 1 button to open the primary source.
This is a map showing the recession of the Falls over time.
3.1) How would the fact that the Falls changed over time affect the descriptions explorers gave of the area?
The explorers saw the Falls at different stages, so their descriptions were different. Some of them noticed islands in the middle of the Falls, and some of them measured the Falls at a time when they were higher.
3.2) Why did the recession of the Falls stop in 1887?
Workers at the Falls constructed an apron (a chute for the water to run over) to keep the sandstone layer underneath from eroding and causing the Falls to recede.
3.3) From looking at the map and the lines that show when the explorers reached the Falls, in what years would you expect to see an 'island' in the middle of the Falls?
Islands would have appeared in the Falls in 1680, 1766, 1805, and 1817.
3.4) According to this picture, what industries were built directly on top of the river? Why was this desirable?
Two sawmills are built on the river. This provided easy access to waterpower and to logs from the north that lumber men floated downstream to the sawmills.
Click on the News 1 button to open the primary source.
This is an engineer's description of the layers under the Falls.
4.1) Why would sandstone be considered a soft material?
Sandstone is made out of pieces of sand compressed together that are easily broken apart.
4.2) Why would man-made dams cause the erosion of the Falls?
People have built dams near the Falls to direct the water. This causes the water to rush more forcefully through a smaller area and cause more erosion in that area.
4.3) If the sandstone erodes, but the limestone above it does not, why would that cause problems for the Falls?
The limestone would not have the support of the sandstone and would crack and break up, causing the Falls to recede (move back).
4.4) What do you think a cubic foot of water is?
A cubic foot of water is the amount of water it would take to fill a cube one foot high, one foot deep, and one foot wide. 50,000 cubic feet of water flowed over the falls per second at high water.
Click on the Photo 1 button to open the primary source.
This is a photograph of St. Anthony Falls in 1865.
5.1) The building in the upper left of this photograph is the Winslow House Hotel, which was designed for wealthy travelers. Why would you build a hotel near a waterfall?
Hotels were built overlooking the Falls for the scenic view and also because many travelers came to do business with industries at the Falls.
5.2) Looking at this picture, what can you tell about the status of the Falls at this time?
The apron has not been built yet, so the Falls are still receding.
5.3) What in the picture shows you that a lot of power is being generated by the Falls?
The churning white water at the bottom of the Falls suggests that the water is falling rapidly and forcefully.
5.4) From what you have already seen, what would be the pros and cons of building an apron over a waterfall?
An apron preserves the waterpower, but the Falls themselves lose their natural beauty.
Click on the Photo 2 button to open the primary source.
This is a photograph of St. Anthony Falls in 1910.
6.1) What evidence of industries can you see in this photograph?
The Pillsbury Flour mills have a billboard near the Falls, and logs in the river at the lower right suggest a sawmill is nearby.
6.2) The large building in the middle right of the picture is the Pillsbury A Mill. Since it used waterpower and the river seems in this photograph to be distant from the mill, how do you think the mill got waterpower?
Underground canals brought water to the mills where it was used to cause turbines to turn, giving power to the mill.
6.3) The Stone Arch Bridge on the photograph was built by J. J. Hill and was used at the time for railroad transportation. What resources did the mills need that could be transported by railroad?
Grain for the flour mills was delivered by train. Some of the mills had railroad tracks running through their buildings for easier unloading of grain.
6.4) Looking at this photograph, how would you compare it to the photograph of St. Anthony in 1865?
The 1910 photograph shows more industry and development, and it lacks the natural rugged look of the earlier photograph because the apron has been installed.
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.
- One way to examine change over time in an area is to look at "before and after" photographs. What details can we learn about how an area changed from "before and after" photographs that we couldn't learn as easily from other sources? How can we use before and after photographs to draw some conclusions about changes in the lives of people who lived in an area?
- Since photographs have not always been available, historians have often had to rely on works of art as historical sources. What are some of the dangers in trusting a work of art as a historical source? What issues might you need to consider when studying artwork as a source? What other sources might you use to prove or disprove any questions you might have about the subject the work of art portrays?
- Scholarly articles like the one about the geology of the Falls can help us to better understand how a landform is created and how it might be preserved. How might we be able to tell if the author of a scholarly article is our best source for information? What other sources might we use to determine how reliable his or her article might be? Why would this be important for our research?
- The diagram of the dike at St. Anthony Falls shows us how a cross-section can be used as a source of information for our research. How is studying a cross-section different from studying a map or a simple drawing? What special information or perspective can a cross-section give us that other sources cannot? In what topics of study do you think a cross-section might be most useful to you as source?
Extending the Lesson: Historical Themes in the Falls
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 the Falls. Below are possible activities/discussion starters to extend student application of the content material provided in the sources. The information provided in the sources about St. Anthony Falls does not give us 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.
2. Art and History
The student will be able to :
- identify important natural resources and historic sites in
their own community and evaluate their local impact
- examine the role of resource and historic site preservation in their own community
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.
- List resources and historic sites in your community that are being preserved or that you think should be preserved. Use your list to answer the following questions.
What efforts have been made in your community in order to preserve natural resources or historic sites? (you may wish to look in a local tourism guide or newspaper for information about this)
- How would your town be affected if these resources or historic sites weren't preserved? How would it affect you directly?
- How do you think a community decides which resources or sites to preserve? What would you use to decide which were most or least important to your community?
- What organizations or jobs are there in your community to preserve or protect resources or community history? Where does the money to do this come from? What can you to do to help preserve these features of your community?
- Have students simulate a preservation activity in their own home by thinking about and responding (in written or oral form to the class) to the following: If you were a historian 100 years from now, what one thing in your home or community would you like to preserve? What do you think that item or building would tell historians of the future? How would you go about preserving it?
- Take a field trip to a local historic site and ask the guides to describe how artifacts are preserved for future study. Discuss with the students how learning from a historic site is different from learning the same or similar information from a book. Have students write a journal entry about what they learned at the historic site.
- Assign students to groups and give them each a natural resource (such as a river, farmland, waterfall, ore, etc.) used in your community to study. Ask them to contact people who work with that resource and get information about how that resource is used and preserved for the community. Have each group describe to the class how their community could or would adjust to the loss of a natural resource. Discuss why preservation of these resources can have a big impact on the welfare of their community.
- Locate some before and after photographs or maps of your community from your local historical society. Have students analyze these materials for change over time. Note on the board which things in the two sources change and which stay the same. How could the discovery or use of natural resources have contributed to the changes your community has made? What might your town be like if these resources had not been found or used efficiently? Speculate about what the future might hold for your community.
Art and History
The student will be able to:
- describe and evaluate the uses of art in the study of history
- determine the advantages and disadvantages of artwork as an historical source
Either as a class or in small groups, ask students to respond to the following questions:
- Why can studying a photograph of an event and a painting of the same event tell you very different things?
- Which do you think would be more reliable?
- What might the photograph tell you that the painting would not?
- What might the painting tell you that would be different from the photograph?
- Can a photograph be biased in its interpretation of an event? Why or why not?
- Can a painting be biased? Why or why not?
- How can knowing the bias of the photographer or artist change your opinion of the event?
- Ask students to draw a picture of an event from their history book or current events without using any photographs or artworks of the event. Have students exchange pictures and evaluate them using the following questions: If you didn't know how the picture had been created, how might you tell if it was accurate or not? What other sources might help you determine a picture's accuracy? Can you tell from your partner's picture if they had an opinion about the event or not? How does their picture differ from what you might have expected the event to look like? How is it similar?
- Before photographs, people relied on the interpretations of writers and artists to describe events for them. How does this change your opinion of their accuracy? What advantages do written and artistic accounts have over current technology like television and photography? Have students chose sides to debate which might be more accurate.
- On a field trip, visit an art museum and specifically ask the guide to point out artists who depicted historical events in their works. What effects did these events have on the artists? Can you tell any bias on the part of the artist from their work? Ask each student to choose one artwork to study. How accurate do they think the depiction of the event might be? What in the work might demonstrate the artist's bias? What might be unrealistic in the depiction of the event? How much about the event can you really learn from one artwork? Does it matter if the artist was alive when the event happened or if they created the work years later?
- Ask students to study and report on an artist that interests them. This could be a musician, painter, sculptor, author, or other artist who commented on the times in which they lived. Have students provide the class with a short oral biography of the artist and show examples (photocopies, transparencies, etc.) of the artist's work. Ask students to discuss which events of national or world significance affected the artist's work and how that is shown in the work. Evaluate the work for bias and historical accuracy (as far as you can tell).