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The First Measured Century Lesson Plans

The following individual lessons are available over the web. See the Download section to obtain the full Teacher's Guide and Lesson Plans in Adobe Acrobat format.

Lesson 1: The Demise of the Great American Frontier: Westward Spread of American population from 1790 to 1900

In this lesson students are introduced to Frederick Jackson Turner and how early Census data, when combined visually with maps, effectively demonstrated the end of the frontier. By reading Turnerís essay and discussing this phenomenon, students learn why this was a significant turning point for America. Students also learn how to display data visually by developing a series of shaded maps using Census data to show the moving frontier.

Lesson 2: Writing a Play about Immigrant Life in America around 1910

Students view program segments involving immigration to the U.S. (Boas and Lathrop segments). Students discuss why immigrants came to America, what happened to immigrants in America, the settlement house movement, Hull House Maps and Papers, and also the Israel Zangwill hit play, The Melting Pot. Groups of students write short one-act plays that incorporate Zangwillís famous speech shown in the film about ďAmerica is Godís CrucibleóGod is making the American.Ē Each student has a role in the play. Research for the play must include some facts from the period which are integrated into the play, such as the origin of the immigrants and the challenges that immigrants faced. The play must surround the Zangwill speech with a context that makes sense.

Lesson 3: Debating scientific racism

Students will watch the second segment of the first tape on scientific racism. They should collect data on the two views (eugenics and its opponents). The class will be divided into three groups for a re-enactment of the debate on the floor of the U.S. Senate in 1924 about restricting immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, believed by some at the time to be the home of inferior races.

Lesson 4: The History and Use of Sampling Methods

Students learn about sampling by tracing improvements in sampling procedures over the twentieth century. Scientific inquiries involving flawed sampling are illustrated and discussed using the Literary Digest poll in 1936 and the Gallup presidential poll of 1948. Scientific inquiries involving improved sampling methods are illustrated and discussed using Gallupís quota sample in 1936 and the random probability samples used today to illustrate the power of good sampling. Students will apply concepts through sampling exercises.

Lesson 5: The Introduction and Diffusion of Household Technology

Students research and develop a matrix describing the introduction and spread of common household items, such as electricity, refrigeration and cell phones, from 1900 to 2000 in the U.S. Each section of the matrix will represent a 10-year period. Where available, statistics for the items will be included. The matrix will be used by students to construct a timeline of household technologies.

Lesson 6: The Great Depression: What would it be like today?

In this lesson students calculate the percentage decline in factors affecting the quality of life such as wages and unemployment, from before the Depression to the beginning of the New Deal. Students then calculate what the same percentage decline for these factors would mean for their lives if it happened today.

Lesson 7: Using Data Collection to Create a Portrait of Your Town

Students are provided an outline of the Lyndsí topics and methods used in the best-selling Middletown. Students then research and collect data on their own city or region to develop a portrait of their location over the last century using methods similar to those of the Lynds. Different assignments are given to each student for information and data collection, interviewing, and collecting images and major events. Data collected will include information under each of the Lyndsí six major themes: getting a living, making a home, raising the young, using leisure time, practicing religion, and community life. Students then work together in small groups to develop their work for a joint publication in which they will have an editor, a publisher, and contributing authors for each chapter. Students will copy and bind their collective work for the publication.

Lesson 8: How Typical or Atypical Is Your Community?

When the Lynds went to Muncie, Indiana in 1924 they were looking for a typical American community. They were looking for an average, ordinary community. The fact that Middletown was ordinary, made it extremely valuable as a scientific research site. Middletown was (and is) representative of the United States. For many measurements, Middletown was (and is) near the national average. 

How typical is your community? Do people in your community have more or less education than the national average? What about incomes? Family size? House prices? In this lesson, students will research and use available data to find out the answers to these questions.


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