Step 1. Ask your students to log on to the Sprocketworks Timemap of US Borders at http://www.sprocketworks.com/ shockwave/load.asp?SprMovie=ustimemapweb. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to move the slider back and forth across the top of the map observe the changes. Tell your students to pay particular attention to the changes between 1800 and 1890.
Step 2. Check for comprehension. What did your students notice about the changes on the map? How did the "frontier" change throughout the nineteenth century?
(Between 1800 and 1890, the United States government gained enormous amounts of land on the North American continent. European colonies on the continent decreased, and Indian populations were removed from their traditional lands. After the United States purchased land, areas were divided into territories, and then into the modern-day states. The "frontier" shifted as different areas of the country were settled.)
Step 3. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to move the slider to the year 1850. What do they notice about the interior, or middle, of the country? How is it different from either coast?
(In 1850, the east and west coasts of the continent had already been divided into the present-day states. The middle of the continent was largely unsettled.)
Step 4. Ask your students to make a prediction. How do they think that the United States government got people to live on the frontier, or the unsettled lands in the middle of the country? Accept all responses, but do not give students any further information.
Step 5. Ask your students to return to the essay Web site (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/frontierhouse/ frontierlife/essay1.html). Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking your students to read the fourth and fifth paragraphs (they begin with "The Homestead Act...") and determine what the Homestead Act was and what it did for American citizens.
Step 6. Check for student comprehension. Ask your students the following:
a. In what year was the Homestead Act passed? (1862)
b. How did the homesteaders have to improve their land? (They had to live on the land for five years, build a dwelling, and plant crops.)
c. How much land became available through the Homestead Act? (270 million acres.)
d. Why did so many homesteaders fail? (They had little or no farming experience, their homesteads were too small for profitable crops, and it was often too dry to raise crops.)
e. How many homesteaders obtained the deeds for their homesteads? (783,000 people.)
Step 7. Ask your students how being a homesteader would be different from, or similar to, going and settling on Planet XR-38. Both the land available during the Homestead Act and the land on XR-38 were advertised as "free." Do your students think the land in either place would truly have been free? Why?