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Chicago: City of the Century
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Teacher's Guide: Suggestions for Active Learning

%Chicago: City of the Century offers insights into topics in American history including the settling of the prairies; contact between fur traders, speculators, and Native Americans; infrastructure topics like the building of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, water management projects including sewers and drinking supply, the growth of the railroads, and the creation of the vertical skyscraper city and mass transit; the mechanization of American businesses including farming and animal butchery; the immigrant experience and the diversity of urban populations; the birth of modern commercial methods; the Chicago Fire and urban responses to natural disasters; conflicts between capital and labor including strikes for improved working conditions, Pullman's industrial utopia, anarchy, and the Haymarket Affair; ward politics and corruption; urban squalor, vice and the crusades for reform; social services for the working class; Jane Addams and the settlement house movement; and the rise of cultural institutions in late 19th century America.

Use part or all of the film, or delve into the rich resources available on this Web site to learn more, either in a classroom or on your own.

The following activities are grouped into 4 categories: history, economics, geography, and culture. You can also read a few helpful hints for completing the activities.

Economics | Civics | History | Geography

1a. Read about Cyrus McCormick and Potter Palmer. What features of modern retailing did these two men practice successfully?

1b. Why, do you think, weren't these features already in common use at the time?

1c. Think of a retailing or advertising technique practiced by some company today that has helped make you a loyal customer. What is it? Why does it appeal to you? Why, do you think, don't all the company's competitors adopt it?

2. The "disassembly line" Philip Armour used to turn live hogs into packaged pork products was so efficient that Henry Ford said it helped inspire him to create an assembly line for automobiles. To understand the costs and benefits of the assembly line process, set one up as a class. (A possible product to make is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches: one person would remove the bread from the package, another person would spread peanut butter on one slice, another person would spread jelly on the second slice, another person would put the two slices together, another person would cut the sandwich, and another person would place it on a plate.) After everyone in the class has worked on the assembly line for a while, they should try making a couple of products by themselves, performing all of the assembly steps. Which process was more efficient? Which was more enjoyable? What does this tell you about the reasons why assembly lines were widely adopted? What does it suggest about the effects of this trend on workers?

3. As the film notes, one issue that divided labor and management in the late 1800s was workers' demand for an eight-hour work day. Workers eventually gained that demand, as well as a number of other benefits and protections that some workers today may take for granted, such as a five-day work week, paid vacation and holidays, and federal laws guaranteeing a safe work place, forbidding child labor, imposing a minimum wage, and protecting workers' right to form unions. Working with a partner, select one of these benefits or protections and find out when and how workers obtained it. Present the results of your research in a poster entitled "Then and Now" that shows how the change improved conditions for workers. (You also should note any limitations on the change. For example, the minimum wage does not apply to all workers.)

Economics | Civics | History | Geography

1a. Read about Haymarket Square and the anarchists and browse related primary sources to learn about the Haymarket Square violence in 1886 and the subsequent trial of anarchists accused of causing it. In the former reading, note the statement by Illinois governor Altgeld several years later that "no greater damage could possibly threaten our institutions than to have the courts of justice run wild or to give way to popular clamor." Altgeld is referring to the challenge that a democratic society faces in fighting organized violence without weakening the institutions and values on which democracy is based. In your view, based on the film and the readings, did the State of Illinois meet that challenge successfully in the Haymarket case? Explain your answer.

1b. Has the U.S. government met that challenge successfully in fighting terrorism since September 11, 2001? Support your answer with specific examples. (To answer this part of the activity, you will need to research recent federal legislation, such as the USA Patriot Act, as well as new initiatives by the Executive Branch on such issues as detaining or deporting non-citizens.)

2. Form groups of three students each. Each group should prepare a guide that would be given to immigrants as they arrive in Chicago in the late 1800s. One member of each group should write a short (roughly 750 words) summary of United States history. A second person should write a short summary of the American system of government and the role of the individual in it, such as voting. The third person should list some practical tips for new immigrants on how best to deal with everyday issues -- places to turn for help, for example, or potential sources of conflict with neighbors or employers. Assemble the guide in pamphlet format, and include any other pieces of information you think might be useful to newly arriving immigrants, such as a list of American holidays and their meaning.

3. Read a profile of Philip Armour. Then read the following excerpt from Upton Sinclair's famous muckracking novel, The Jungle, which exposed the unsafe practices of meatpackers:

There was never the least attention paid to what was cut up for sausage; there would come all the way back from Europe old sausage that had been rejected, and that was moldy and white -- it would be dosed with borax and glycerine, and dumped into the hoppers, and made over again for home consumption. There would be meat that had tumbled out on the floor, in the dirt and sawdust, where the workers had tramped and spit uncounted billions of consumption germs. There would be meat stored in great piles in rooms; and the water from leaky roofs would drip over it, and thousands of rats would race about on it. It was too dark in these storage places to see well, but a man could run his hand over these piles of meat and sweep off handfuls of the dried dung of rats. These rats were nuisances, and the packers would put poisoned bread out for them; they would die, and then rats, bread, and meat would go into the hoppers together. This is no fairy story and no joke; the meat would be shoveled into carts, and the man who did the shoveling would not trouble to lift out a rat even when he saw one -- there were things that went into the sausage in comparison with which a poisoned rat was a tidbit.

Divide the class into four groups. Each group should research one of the following topics and present a brief report on it to the class: the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, the Meat Inspection Act of 1906, the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the non-profit organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. How does each of these reflect, directly or indirectly, the influence of The Jungle?

Economics | Civics | History | Geography

1. Read a profile of Jane Addams to learn about her establishment of the Chicago settlement house known as Hull-House. The article describes Addams' efforts to bring to Chicago's poorest residents some of the finest examples of Western culture, including Shakespeare and classical music, as well as her later efforts to improve the physical conditions of the neighborhood and the introduction of classes on practical subjects such as sewing. Do you believe that programs to assist poor families should focus entirely on improving living conditions and practical education, or should these families also be exposed to "upper-class culture"? Write a letter to the editor stating and defending your view.

2. Choose one of the Chicagoans profiled in the People and Events section of this Web site. Image that you are this person, and are now lying on your deathbed. What would you say to those gathered around you to sum up your contribution to the city's development? Write out a statement and read it to the class. (Remember that the statement must represent the views of the individual you are profiling, not your own views.)

3. Read about the Court of Honor and the Midway at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. As these readings explain, while the Court of Honor featured works by highly respected artists, the sites in the Midway were more down-to-earth -- and more popular among Fair visitors. What inventions and artists might be featured in a World Expo held this year? On one half of the blackboard, create a two-column chart, with columns labeled "Court of Honor 1893" and "Court of Honor Today." In the first column, list the artists, architects, and inventions featured in the 1893 Exposition's Court of Honor. In the second column, list the artists, architects, and inventions you think should be featured in the Court of Honor of a new World Expo if one were held today. Create a similar two-column chart on the other half of the blackboard to show the contents of the Midway in 1893 and today.

Economics | Civics | History | Geography

1. Create a map of the continental United States that demonstrates why Chicago's location made it a center of transportation and trade. Include some of the major railroad lines that connected to Chicago, as well as the main water route that passed through Chicago to connect New Orleans with New York. Illustrate your map with drawings or photographs of products (and people) that passed through Chicago on their westbound or eastbound journey.

2. One way in which Chicago's strong neighborhood bonds can be seen is in the cross-town rivalry between the city's two baseball teams: the Cubs (who play in Wrigley Field, on the city's north side) and the White Sox (whose Comiskey Park is located on the city's south side). Visit the websites of the Cubs and White Sox to learn about the history of each team and its ballpark. Using this information, plus other information you gather from the Web or other sources, work with a partner to write the script of a friendly but spirited conversation that a Cubs fan and a White Sox fan might have in a bar regarding which is the better team. Be sure to mention specific events in the two teams' histories. Then act out the conversation for the class.

3. Form two-person teams to compare and contrast the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, two traumatic events that shaped the histories of Chicago and New York City, respectively. One member of each team should examine the interactive map, Chicago On Fire!, read a description of the fire, and use that information to draw a map of present-day Chicago, outlining the area of the city destroyed by the fire. Below the map, list the extent of the death and destruction the fire caused. The other member of each team should draw a map of New York City and outline the area of the city destroyed by the terrorist attacks of September 11. Below this map, list the extent of the death and destruction. When both maps are complete, team members should compare them. In which city was destruction more widespread? In which city were more lives lost? What might explain these facts?



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