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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 an event 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 conducting primary source research. The units within this site are not offered as comprehensive histories of the people or events involved, but as examples of what students might find in their own research efforts.

Why Was Hydropower Important?
St. Anthony Falls was a major landmark long before hydropower was used there. The beginnings of the milling industry in St. Anthony centered around the waterfall as a source of power. The use of waterpower in the area made St. Anthony one of the largest milling districts in the United States. In later years, St. Anthony provided the first working hydroelectric station in the United States.

What You Will Need for This Lesson:

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, instruct them to do the following in this order (you may wish to do this with them on 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 St. Anthony.
  4. Click on Hydropower.
  5. Read the introductory information about hydropower and click Enter.
  6. This will bring you to a screen with a map of St. Anthony Falls. This is the first primary source the students will view. Let them know that they can see a larger version of this map 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 map 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 examine.
  8. Remind students to use the Activity button on each source to help direct their research.
  9. When the students have examined each source and read the questions for each item, they should be able to complete the worksheet provided (see below).

What Your Students Will See In This Lesson Online:
Below is a list of each source provided on the Hydropower 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.)

Map 1
Click on the Map 1 button to open the primary source.
This is a map of the flow of the river and the different water levels.

    1.1) If the lightest color of blue represents the highest water level, how many times does the water level drop by the time it flows past the falls?

    Possible Answer:
    It drops once by the upper dams (by the word RIVER), then a second time as it flows over the apron (the section where the word MAIN begins).

    1.2) What might be the purpose of the first drop the water level takes by the upper dams?

    Possible Answer:
    The first drop in level helps move the flow of the river in three directions: toward the Mill Pond, toward the covered canal, and over the Falls itself.

    1.3) What do you think the dark rectangles along the covered canal are supposed to represent on the map?

    Possible Answer:
    The black regions represent various mills or mill buildings that existed along the edge of the Minneapolis Water-power company canal.

    1.4) If the lightest blue shows the highest water and the darkest shows the lowest, how might the high water in the covered canal (at the bottom) reach the lower water?

    Possible Answer:
    The water along the edge of the man-made canal actually flowed through the mills, dropping from the upper level of the river to the level below. The pressure of the falling water turned the turbines that powered the mills.

Diagram 1
Click on the Diagram 1 button to open the primary source.
This is a diagram of a waterwheel.

    2.1) What do you think is the purpose of the wooden structure at the top of the diagram?

    Possible Answer:
    The wooden structure is a chute that was used to direct the flow of river water at the top of the waterwheel.

    2.2) The lines drawn at an agle on the outer part of the wheel represent buckets that filled with water. The weight of the water turns the wheel. Why might the buckets be built at an angle instead of pointing straight out?

    Possible Answer:
    The angle of the buckets made sure that the water stayed in the buckets for as long as possible before being poured back into the river.

    2.3) What would be the effect of increasing the amount of water flowing through the chute?

    Possible Answer:
    As more water flowed, the wheel would fill faster and turn more quickly.

    2.4) How might a wheel be made to spin more quickly?

    Possible Answer:
    If the water fell from higher up, gravity would make it move faster, making it spin more quickly.

Diagram 2
Click on the Diagram 2 button to open the primary source.
This is a diagram of a flume pit used to turn a turbine.

    3.1) The turbine is located at the bottom of the water-filled pit or flume. Knowing what you do about waterwheels and turbines, what is the purpose of the flume?

    Possible Answer:
    The flume is the large chute into which the river water flows in order to turn the turbine.

    3.2) The description along the side of the diagram says that the unit has a 50 foot "head," meaning a drop of 50 feet. Is there any benefit in making the water go so far to reach the turbine?

    Possible Answer:
    Making the water fall father to reach the turbine lets gravity add more energy to the water. This will make the turbine spin more powerfully.

    3.3) Can you tell from the source about how big this turbine is?

    Possible Answer:
    The diagram says the flume is 11 feet wide. The turbine looks to be about half of this: 5 to 6 feet wide and just about as tall. Careful reading also shows that it is called a 55" (inch) turbine, which is nearly 5 feet.

    3.4) Beside the words that tell you this flume was at a mill in Minneapolis (across from St. Anthony), what else might be a clue to where this mill was located?

    Possible Answer:
    The diagram shows that the ground the flume is built into is a layer of limestone and sandstone. These are the soft rocks that made erosion a problem at the falls.

Diagram 3
Click on the Diagram 3 button to open the primary source.
This is a drawing of a machine called a turbine.

    4.1) This machine replaced the older, less efficient waterwheels. What features on it are similar to ones found on waterwheels?

    Possible Answer:
    The blades circling the upper half of the lower tanklike part are related to the blades that formed the bucketlike parts around the edge of the waterwheel.

    4.2) What might be the purpose of the rod sticking out of the top of the turbine?

    Possible Answer:
    The rod is the same as the shaft that was turned by the waterwheel. Here the shaft will be spun by the wheel on its side.

    4.3) Can you tell from this source how large the turbine is?

    Possible Answer:
    No, there's no way to tell from this page, although the text at the bottom says you can look at page 20 to find the turbine's dimensions -- its size. The source must have come from a booklet or catalogue.

    4.4) The turbine seems to turn side to side where a waterwheel turns from high to low. Does this mean the turbine is shown on its side on the page?

    Possible Answer:
    Maybe, but not necessarily. We can't tell from this source how the turbine is used, so we would need to look further to answer that question.

Diagram 4
Click on the Diagram 2 button to open the primary source.
This is a drawing of a waterwheel connected to machinery, specifically a roller mill.

    5.1) Does a waterwheel do the actual grinding of the wheat?

    Possible Answer:
    No, the waterwheel turns the main shaft which turns a series of other gears and shafts that are attached to the grinding devices in the mills.

    5.2) Would it make any difference which way the waterwheel was turning?

    Possible Answer:
    It does not appear to matter in the diagram which way the wheel turns since either direction will cause the runner stone to spin, but the stones were made to grind best in only one direction.

    5.3) What would you expect to be the effect of running too much water over the wheel? What about running too little water over it?

    Possible Answer:
    Too much water would spin the wheel too fast, which would run the milling machinery too fast. A slow wheel might not have enough power to make the mill work properly or at all.

    5.4) What other industries besides flour milling could make use of a waterwheel's power?

    Possible Answer:
    Any machinery that could make use of a spinning motion could use a waterwheel. A spinning saw blade in a lumber mill is one example.

Diagram 5
Click on the Diagram 5 button to open the primary source.
This is a diagram of how water was directed from the river to a turbine in a mill.

    6.1) What do you think the area called "race" is to the left of the diagram?

    Possible Answer: The race is the channel where water was diverted away from the river and toward the mills to be used for waterpower.

    6.2) What might be the use of the control gate at the top of the diagram?

    Possible Answer:
    The control gate was used to regulate how much water could run into the mill flume. More water meant more power from the turbine, or that more turbines could be used.

    6.3) The lower left of the diagram shows details of the control gate and a trash rack. What might the trash rack have been used for?

    Possible Answer:
    The trash rack was used to filter large debris (such as logs) out of the river before it could flow to the turbine and damage it.

    6.4) What do you think the words "tail race" at the lower right of the diagram refer to?

    Possible Answer:
    The race is the path of the water through the mill, so the tail race is the end of the line where the water flowed out to rejoin the river.

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. Historians sometimes use catalogs as sources for their research. The Victor Turbine in this section was taken from a catalog of milling machinery from the time period when the equipment was sold. If you wanted to write a play or report about a certain time period, how might a catalog help you? What details might a catalog provide that you may not be able to get from other sources? Why do you think a catalog might or might not be a reliable source?

  2. This unit uses diagrams and a map to show how hydropower was used for industry in St. Anthony. What other sources might we look for if we wanted to know how hydropower affected the environment or the surrounding communities? Would those same sources be able to give us a more complete picture of the importance of hydropower in St. Anthony during this time? What other documents might speak to the importance of hydropower?

  3. Studying a diagram or a map requires some skill in looking for important details. Even if you weren't studying hydropower, what could you find in these sources that might tell you other information about St. Anthony? How might these sources give you hints about where to look for more information? What hints in these sources might lead you to other sources? What other sources might you study?

  4. Technology changes quickly in industry, and St. Anthony is no exception. The waterwheels and turbines you see here were eventually replaced by electricity. How can these sources show you changes in the technology that St. Anthony used during this time? Why might it be useful to know how technology changed? What can you learn from other sources when you know how technology was changing at that time? How can knowing about the technology of a time help you identify photographs or other sources from that same time?

Extending the Lesson: Historical Themes in Hydropower
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 hydropower. Below are possible discussion starters and activities to extend student application of the content material provided in the sources. The information provided in the sources about hydropower does not provide 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.

Back to Lesson Menu

Lesson Plan: Hydropower

Possible Themes:
1. Geography and Community
2. Changing Technology

Theme One:
Geography and Community

The student will be able to :

  1. identify the role of a natural power source in the formation of a city or community
  2. examine and evaluate the role of geography in their own community
  3. develop a plan to use their own power and space efficiently
Class Discussion:
Get the class thinking these issues by dividing them into groups for discussion. Place these questions on the board or on a handout for student reference and discuss them as a class when finished.

  • Describe the geography of your community. What kind of land is there? How is the land used? What is your climate like? What geographic or climatic challenges does your community face? What are its strengths?

  • How has your community used its geography for its benefit? In what ways has your community accommodated its geography? What resources does your community get from its geography? Minneapolis might not have become a big city if it weren't for St. Anthony Falls, what would be different about your town if its resources or geography were different?

  • How can your community better use the resources it has been given? What steps are being taken now to use the land and resources of your community more wisely? What can you as a citizen of your community do to help?
Optional Activities:
  • Have students create and test their own waterwheels to determine which ones work best and what materials are most effective. Use pictures of waterwheels from dictionaries or encyclopedias to help.

  • Ask students to design their own community or town. Have them draw a detailed map or diagram of the resources available in their town and the industries or companies that will be needed to use those resources. Ask students to name their town and describe what life would be like in their town to the class. You may also wish to give students a real map with the city names and compass removed. Ask them where they would put cities on this map and why. What might those cities be like? Compare their locations with the locations on the real map.

  • Have students research a town that did not succeed. Why did the town die out? What might have prevented it from dying out? What industries or technologies made a difference in whether that town survived or disappeared?

  • Ask students to research a large city in the United States or somewhere else in the world. What geographic factors have made that city a success? How have the governments and people in that city adapted to their environment? Ask students to create a poster or display describing how geography has affected the city they studied.

Theme Two:
Changing Technology

The student will be able to:

  1. describe and discuss the impact of technological improvements on their community
  2. describe the role that technology plays in changing our lives
Class Discussion:
Give students the opportunity to discuss the issues in small groups using these questions:
  • What do you think of nowadays when you think of the word technology? How is that different from the technology your parents or grandparents grew up with?

  • Describe three ways in which your life is impacted by technology every day.

  • What improvements (in your lifetime) have been made in your community or school because of changing technology?

  • What might be some of the disadvantages of changing technology in your community?

Optional Activities:

  • Have students look through old catalogs and note the items and prices of things that they might use in their everyday life. Ask students to create their own illustrated catalog of items they use at home or school. (You may want to limit students to five to ten items for this project.) Then ask students to re-create their catalog as if it were 200 years in the future. How would those same items have changed? What would the prices be now? Which items would be obsolete and what would they have been replaced by?

  • Have students develop a small machine that will run on water. You will want them to do this in teams. They should create a small invention that is water-powered and demonstrate it to the class. Have them take notes on what did and didn't work when they were testing different inventions. How could their invention be improved? You may want the class to choose one invention and brainstorm improvements and uses for it.

  • Choose a common activity for students in your school, such as writing, using a computer, eating lunch, etc. Have students brainstorm how that activity might be different in 50 or 100 years. You may want them to make a poster describing what that activity will be like or what technology may be invented for that activity. Discuss the role of technological progress in their everyday life.

  • Have students choose one industry (manufacturing, food production, etc.) that has been greatly improved by more efficient technology. Ask students to describe what it would take to produce the same amount of a product without the technology we have today (for example, harvesting fields by hand, building a house, manufacturing an item). Discuss the role this technology plays in how expensive a product is and how easy or difficult it may be for us to buy.

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