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Teachers' Guide: Newcomers
 Rebels & Revolutionaries | Newcomers | Gamblers | Innovation 

Use these activities with the hour of the series titled "Newcomers." The hour profiles three innovators: Ida Rosenthal (the bra), Samuel Insull (distribution of electricity), and A. P. Giannini (banking for the people). Each segment is approximately 20 minutes long. These activities also draw upon They Made America's Web site resources.

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

Economics | Geography | Civics | History

  1. Have your students draw a graph illustrating the law of supply and demand. Part of this law holds that increased demand will raise the price of a product, as is often the case with gasoline. Then ask students to consider Samuel Insull and his Chicago power station. As demand increased for Insull's electricity, its price actually dropped. Ask students to explain how this is possible.

  2. Before the creation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in 1933, banks and their consumers were often at the mercy of financial panics. Screen the film to see the event that almost destroyed Amadeo Giannini's fledgling Bank of Italy. Discuss as a class how Giannini weathered this crisis. What do students think they would have done in the same situation? How was Giannini's response emblematic of his larger, innovative approach to banking?

Economics | Geography | Civics | History

  1. It has often been said that America is a nation of immigrants. Ask each student in the class to review the list of 64 innovators in Who Made America? on this site, or the list of inventors at MIT's Invention Dimension Web site, and pick an innovator who came from the same country or world region as their own family, then research why that innovator came to the U.S. What were the innovator's (or their family's) motivations in coming to America? What special challenges did they, as newcomers, face? How does the innovator's story compare with that of the student's own family?

    Now ask each student to create a label to place on a map of the world. The label should include the names of their family and the innovator's family, the years both immigrated, and a brief description of the motives for coming to America. Once all the labels are in place, ask the students to consider why it is that so many immigrants became innovators? Did most of these immigrants have an entrepreneurial background, or is there something particular about America that encourages innovation?

Economics | Geography | Civics | History

  1. As Samuel Insull's story shows, corporate scandals are nothing new in American history. Divide the class into four groups, and assign each one of the following contemporary scandals: Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, and Martha Stewart. Each group should create a chart comparing Insull's scandal with that of the present-day scandal. What created the scandal in each case? What were company executives charged with? How did they defend their conduct? What was the result?

  2. Despite the many contributions immigrants have made to American society, their arrival has often caused controversy. First have the class research and create a timeline of American immigration that shows both the waves of immigration to this country (labeled with the dominant countries of origin) and the negative responses to each wave. You may want to assign a brief article on Immigration and Deportation at Ellis Island.

    Now divide the class into two groups. The first will assume the role of a Saudi Arabian scientist seeking to come to America for graduate studies in chemical engineering. Suppose that as part of the requirements for securing a student visa, the applicant must write a letter explaining how granting his visa could benefit the United States, with particular attention to any potential benefits for American innovation. Draft this letter, taking into account the way that attitudes towards the applicant's home country may have shifted as a result of the events of September 11th, 2001.

    The second group will assume the role of a member of Congress running for re-election in a district whose constituents are concerned about rising unemployment. Draft a speech for delivery to the local chamber of commerce arguing for greater restrictions on immigration to America, with particular attention paid to the way that current immigration may harm American entrepreneurship.

Economics | Geography | Civics | History

  1. Consider the cases of Jean Nidetch, Estee Lauder, and Ida Rosenthal. All three spurred innovations of benefit to women, but each had different motivations for their entrepreneurship. Research and compare these different motivations, then as a class think of as many more motivations to innovate as you can, supported by references to specific innovators. Now debate the importance of an innovator's motivation. Does it matter whether innovators are driven by a desire to better the world, or simply to better themselves? Does it change your answer when you consider how many innovators turned to philanthropic pursuits later in life?

 Rebels & Revolutionaries | Newcomers | Gamblers | Innovation 
page created on 6.30.2004
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