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The Forgotten Americans


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Unit 1: Life in a Colonia

This unit is designed for grades 7—12. Before showing the video of The Forgotten Americans, brainstorm with students about the conditions necessary for life and what things students consider "extras." For example, ask if owning a car is a necessity or an "extra."

Use the video and discussion questions to explore this idea further, specifically in reference to colonias. The first 10 minutes of the film describe colonia demographics, how these communities emerged and what problems residents of these communities must face. Engage your students in a discussion about colonias, but you do not have to limit the discussion to these specific communities. Consider expanding the discussion to talk about Appalachian communities, Native American reservations or poor communities in your area.

Consider using this video to begin a discussion about the history and economics of the colonias. Here are some questions to ask your students after they view the video:

Use the glossary of terms and the discussion questions to further shape your discussion and your students’ understanding of colonias. Then once you feel familiar with the issues and history of colonias try the experiment listed at the end of the unit.

We encourage you to share your experiences with this discussion guide, the results of your experiments, and your essays. Please send your feedback on how you used these teaching guides and what results you found.

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