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The Forgotten Americans

Classroom Resources


Focus: Las Colonias
Filmmaker's Journal
An Inside Look
A Colonia Experience
Build A Community  
Classroom Resources
Press Room


Grade Levels: 7-12

Estimated Time:
One week for gathering information and writing an essay.

Overview: Students will better understand fundamental needs and how important modern conveniences are in their lives. They will also examine what it is like to live in a colonia and some of the positive aspects of a more simple life.

Enlist support from parents for this project. Send a letter home with your students explaining the project and its goals to parents. If necessary, develop a separate essay question that can be answered for those students who choose not to participate.


The students will:

  • Learn about fundamental needs.
  • Gain a better understanding about how others live.
  • Record the experience.

Related National Standards:

  • Social Studies
  • Economics
  • Health
  • Education
  • Technology

English/Language Arts

  • Prepare a letter explaining this assignment and your goals to parents.
  • Have your students attempt to recreate colonia conditions.
  • Ask them to give up television, computers and video games for a week.
  • Ask them to bathe only with cold water for a week. If they want hot water, they must boil it.
  • Ask them not to wash their hair for a couple of days.
  • Ask them to wear the same clothes twice a week.
  • Ask them to have their family sleep in one room for a few nights.
  • Have them only eat beans, rice and potatoes for a week.


  • Have the students write a report on their experiences.
  • Include a paragraph on whether they were able to concentrate on their homework.
  • Include a section on any of the positive things they learned, such as feeling closer to a family member or being able to spend more time with a friend.
  • Ask your students what strengths colonia children might have despite the conditions in which they live.

Assessment Recommendations:

  • Teachers should set standards for the project before it is assigned based on the amount of time spent on the lesson as well as the amount of research. For example, seek student input on what will make a successful report and how much research is expected. Ask your students to set a criteria for what level of necessities must be given up for the week and what level of detail is expected from the report. For older students emphasize self-reflection and conclusions about other communities and cultures.

Extension and/or Adaptation Ideas:

  • Ask your students to keep a journal of their experiences and answer specific questions that the class develops.
  • Ask your students to develop a photo essay of the experience.

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