The Panama Canal: Path to Global Destiny

Author: Patrick Naughton

School/Organization:

Penn Alexander School

Year: 2015

Seminar: Roots of the American Empire

Grade Level: 8

Keywords: Empire, American History, engineering, Geography, Panama Canal, Roosevelt, Socratic Seminar, yellow fever

School Subject(s): Social Studies

This unit is designed for an 8th grade Social Studies class and will explore the construction of the Panama Canal and its impact on the United States.  Students will achieve the objectives through hands on activities, Socratic Seminar, and the analysis of primary sources.  The final activity will consist of students creating journals documenting the experiences of the individuals that they read about during the unit.

Download Unit: Naughton-Patrick-unit.pdf

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Full Unit Text
Rationale

My reason for creating this curriculum unit focused on the Panama Canal is my belief that modern empire and naval superiority are directly related.  Part of this unit is for the students to attempt to define empire.  This term seems simple enough to define until one actually tries to do this.  What are the elements of empire?  Is it financial?  Is it about control?  These are the questions that we will attempt to answer throughout this unit.

 

For the United States the ability to exert control over the Asian Continent, which Roosevelt wanted to do, a strong navy was needed.  Naval superiority is defined as a countries ability to dominate the seas with military power.  During the early 20th century, the United States replaced Great Britain as the premier naval power.  In order for the United States to achieve and maintain naval superiority they needed a quicker way to move their navy between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. This is why a Central American passage became necessary.  It is important for my students to make the connection between the United States role in the world today with that of President Roosevelt and his vision of expansion.

 

This curriculum unit will be designed for my 8th grade Social Studies classes.  In the eighth grade year I start with early colonial America and go as far as I can.  My classes are very diverse.  My students range in abilities from students with learning disabilities to those who are mentally gifted.  My students also come from very diverse backgrounds, giving them a variety of prior knowledge.  About 20% participate in the ESL program at school.  To reach all students, this curriculum unit will contain a variety of activities designed to help all students meet the desired outcomes.

 

The reason for using both primary and secondary sources is it gives students a variety of text in which to work with.  This also aligns with the common core’s use of informational text and using evidence to support a response.  Secondary sources allow students to get a precise overview of the events at hand, while a primary source allows students to access the feelings and thoughts of the time period.  The PBS film about the Panama Canal is very well done and will give visual learners a chance to gather information in their ideal setting.

 

Students will start off the unit by using a map to identify the distance that was traveled by the U.S.S. Oregon.  This will allow students to grasp the immensity of the distance that was being cut out of a trip by using the Panama Canal.  Using maps are a very important piece to a social studies lesson because geography is not a topic that is consistently taught in school.

 

The students culminating assessment will be a journal writing activity that will demonstrate their understanding of the struggles that the workers encountered during the massive construction project.  It is important for my students to see the struggles that the workers faced throughout construction.  I decided not to have them construct a canal because of the amount of time that it would require and concern over the process.  The engineering aspect of the canal will be discussed in a lesson using a cartoon that is available on the PBS website.

Objectives

This unit is intended for my eighth grade classes that consist of 24 students and meet on Mondays for 45 minutes and two other days of the week for 90 minutes.  In my classroom I have access to a Promethean Board.  This allows me to bring up maps and other materials and highlight what I want the students to be concentrating on.  The students can also be called up to the board and interact with different texts or programs.  The board also acts as a movie screen when needed.

 

The objectives of this unite include the following:

  • Students will be able to identify the reasons for the Panama Canal in order to analyze primary and secondary sources.
  • Students will be able to analyze the political maneuvering of Theodore Roosevelt in order to analyze primary and secondary sources.
  • Students will be able identify the struggles of the workers in order to write a first person narrative.
  • Students will be able to identify the methods used to eradicate yellow fever in order to analyze cause and effect.
  • Students will be able to analyze the problems encountered during construction and how they were solved.
  • Students will be able to define empire and assess how the Panama Canal contributed to America’s empire.

Strategies

My students have been taught how to read and annotate primary and secondary materials.  They focus on new vocabulary, main ideas, and questions that they have while reading. This strategy will continue throughout the curriculum unit.  I usually assign the annotations to be done for homework.  When the students return, I check their annotations and then have a graded class discussion.  We generally use Socratic Seminar for our class discussions.

 

Socratic Seminar is a class discussion that allows students to engage in an intellectual dialogue about a text.  It gives students an open forum to share different points of view and answer open-ended questions in the hope of finding the deep meaning of a text.  There are many different ways to assess a Socratic Seminar.  The Internet has countless rubrics that should be examined to fit your population of students.

 

Another strategy that I like to use in the classroom is Think-Pair-Share.  I like to use this in the beginning of class, usually on a opinion type question.  This gets the students minds working and allows them to interact with their classmates.  Think-Pair-Share starts by the student answering the question on their own, you may have them write it down if you wish.  After a certain time period, this will vary based on complexity of the question, you ask the students to share their response with their neighbor.  After students have shared their response with a neighbor they are then asked to share with the whole class.  I usually have them share their partners answer, not their own, to make sure they were listening to what their partner said.

 

When using small group instruction I use a variety of methods in setting up my groups. My groups are set up randomly, assigned, or I allow the students to pick.  It really depends on the activity.  When I assign groups I take into consideration ability level and behavior.  Ability level can differ based on the assignment.  For example, if it is an assignment where public speaking is required a student who is academically strong, and not a strong speaker will need to be grouped with someone who is a strong speaker.

Classroom Activities

Lesson 1: Introduction

Overview:  This lesson is designed to give a worldview of the late 19th century, discuss the idea of empire, and begin to examine the forces that pushed for the Panama Canal.  When the U.S.S Maine exploded in Havana Harbor in 1898, killing 260 American sailors, the citizens of the United States had to wait two months for a response.  This delay was due to the 12,000 mile journey that the U.S.S. Oregon had to make in order to reach Havana.  The need for a short cut had never been clearer.  If the Panama Canal had existed in 1898, that 12,000 mile journey would have been cut down to 4,000 miles.

 

Objective: Students will be able to identify the reasons for the Panama Canal in order to analyze primary and secondary sources.

 

Warm Up:  A car is traveling from Philadelphia to Washington D.C.  The distance between the two cities is 140 miles.  The car is traveling at an average speed of 62 mph.  How long will the trip take?

 

Direct Instruction:  Students will be provided with definition such as manifest destiny and the Monroe Doctrine.  Students will be required to take notes based on the discussion of the worldview of the 19th century.  This discussion will focus on the United States’ activities in the Pacific as well as imperialism.

 

Guided Practice:  Students will be asked to create their own definition for empire and participate in a think-pair-share activity.  The class will then review the Do Now.

 

Paired Instruction:  Working in pairs, students will plot the course that the U.S.S Oregon followed to reach Cuba after the explosion to the U.S.S Maine on a map.  They will determine the mileage and then use their math skills to determine how long the journey would take.  The class will then discuss the problems with the length of time that required for the U.S.S. Oregon to reach its destination.

 

Independent Practice:  Using what they learned from the map activity, students will write a paragraph describing the advantages that the Panama Canal would afford the United States.

 

Homework:  Students will read and annotate pg. 249-250 of The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough and be prepared to discuss in class tomorrow.

 

Lesson 2:

 

Overview:  Panama during this time was a providence of Columbia.  So Roosevelt had to negotiate with the Columbian government.  This did not prove easy.  The Columbian Parliament voted unanimously against the United States proposal.  After the Columbians denied Roosevelt he considered invading Columbia, even sending spies to gather information about the possibility.  Roosevelt was also aware of a group of Panamanians who were ready to rebel against the Columbian government and seek independence.  Roosevelt’s administration believed this was the best idea.  So they financially supported a revolt and recognized Panama as a sovereign nation.  Roosevelt would have his land, a ten-mile wide tract across the Isthmus of Panama.

 

Objective:  Students will be able to identify the reasons for the Panama Canal in order to analyze primary and secondary sources.

 

Warm Up:  Roosevelt once said, “I wish to see the United States the dominant power on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.”  What do you think he meant by this?  Do you think the United States is currently the “dominant power on the shores of the Pacific Ocean”?  Why or why not?

 

Direct Instruction:  Students will participate in a class discussion to review the reading that was annotated for homework.

 

Possible Discussion Questions

  1. Who was Ferdinand de Lesseps?
  2. What similarities did he have with Theodore Roosevelt?
  3. Why were they despised? What does it mean to be despised?  What do these characteristics mean?  Craftiness, self-glorification.
  4. How did Roosevelt’s vision for the Panama Canal differ from others?
  5. Who was Alfred Thayer Mahan?

 

Independent Practice:  Students will read pg. 255 from The Path Between the Seas and write a paragraph answering the following prompt, according to Roosevelt, what is the difference between expansionism and imperialism?  Use evidence from the text to support your response.

 

Guided Practice:  Students will answer questions while watching American Experience:  The Panama Canal.  Start at 12:12 and stop at 16:15.

  1. Why did the Columbians reject the offer from the United States?
  2. What were Roosevelt’s options after the Columbians rejected their offer?
  3. How did the Panamanians achieve independence? What role did the United States play?
  4. Do you consider Roosevelt and the United States actions to be arrogant? Why or why not?

 

Homework:  Read and annotate pages 1-3 of Make the Dirt Fly! by Rose van Hardeveld and be prepared to discuss in class.

 

Lesson 3:

 

Overview: The work force in Panama was about one-fifth American, and the rest West Indian.  The workers faced horrendous conditions both on the job and in their quarters.  This was before there were any safety regulations.  Worker fatalities became so common that a railroad line was built directly into a cemetery to save time.  Besides the dangers of working with heavy equipment, rocks, and explosions, workers also faced outbreaks of yellow fever and malaria.

 

Objective:  Students will be able to use a poetry template in order to identify setting, theme, and tone of Poems written about the workers of the Panama Canal.

 

Warm Up:  What are some of the dangers associated with working construction?  What methods are used to make construction safer?

 

Direct Instruction:  Students will participate in a Socratic Seminar to review the reading that was annotated for homework.

 

Possible Discussion Questions:

  1. The text starts with the quote, “In America, anything is possible.” Why did Jan van Hardeveld would feel this way about the United States in 1906?  Do you think this quote is valid today?
  2. Using evidence from the text, describe the conditions of the camp.
  3. Why was the dirt not flying according to the author?
  4. What were the stores like in their town?
  5. What made Jan wonder how his family would look in the near future?

 

Guided Practice: Students and teacher will read a poem titled, The “Rough-Neck” Breed by John Hall.  The teacher will define any vocabulary that the students may no know.  After reading the poem, the teacher will lead as the students fill out a poetry template that is included in the student resource section of the plan.  The template asks for theme, setting, tone, and other elements of poetry.

 

Small Group Instruction:  Students will work in small groups.  They will be given another poem.  Each group will receive a different poem.  They will read and annotate the poem as well as fill out a poetry template, one per group.  They will then turn the template into a PowerPoint Presentation to present their poem to the class.  The poems that will be used for this assignment are Price of Empire, We’re Diggin th’ Ditch Together, To the “Big Ditch”, and When the Ditch is Dug.

 

Homework:  Students will read and annotate pgs. 62-69 of The Canal Builders by Julie Greene.

 

Lesson 4:

 

Overview: How the workers struggled throughout construction of the canal is a main focus of this unit.  This activity is the culminating assessment for the previous lessons regarding the struggles of the workers.  I expect students to use all sources as material to create their own first person journal/diary entries.

 

Objective: Students will be able identify the struggles of the workers in order to write a first person narrative.

 

Warm Up:  Write a paragraph comparing and contrasting the gold and silver system of the Panama Canal and the system of segregation in the south.

 

Direct Instruction:  Students will participate in a Socratic Seminar to review the reading that was annotated for homework.

 

Possible Discussion Questions:

  1. Why did a system of segregation develop in the Panama Canal Zone?
  2. According to the text, what inequalities existed in the Panama Canal Zone?
  3. Who determined what group a person was placed?
  4. Why did the engineers start to change the hiring practices for the Panama Canal Zone?

 

After the discussion about their reading, transition the discussion to yellow fever.  Students will take notes on the symptoms of yellow fever and other outbreaks that have occurred.

 

Students will then watch PBS American Experience: The Panama Canal from 41:00-49:15 and discuss the impact of yellow fever of the Panama Canal Zone and how Dr. Gorgas extinguished the epidemic from the area.

 

Individual Assessment:  Students will write a series of journals using information from John Hall’s ballads and poems, the accounts of the yellow fever epidemic, Rose van Hardelveld’s account of life in the Panama Canal Zone, and the reading of the inequalities of the gold and silver system.  Students will continue to work on the journals throughout the conclusion of the Unit.  I did not include a rubric because I think rubrics should be designed with your specific class in mind.

 

Lesson 5:

 

Overview:  The purpose of this lesson is to examine the engineering and construction techniques that made the Panama Canal possible.  Students will look at the newly developed lock system that allowed the Canal builders to use elevated areas rather than blast through the mountains.  Students will also examine the methods that were used to clear away the tons of dirt that needed to be removed during construction.

 

Objective: Students will be able to analyze the problems encountered during construction and how they were solved.  Students will be able to define empire and assess how the Panama Canal contributed to America’s empire.

 

Warm Up:  What has been the most important invention during your lifetime?  Why do you think this?

 

Direct Instruction:  Students will create a list of potential problems that the canal project may encounter during construction.  While the students brainstorming, project a map of the area, this may help them.  While they are creating a list, ask questions that will help spark a response.  For example, “What types of problems can a local construction project face?  The list should ultimately include: strikes, equipment breakdown, removal of dirt, changes in elevation.

 

After the students create a list, the teacher should go through the list and explain each problem specifically to the canal and how it was solved.

 

Students will then watch the animation demonstration of the lock system used on the Panama Canal.  This can be found at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/panama/ .

 

Students will then engage in a Think-Pair-Share and contemplate the questions, Is the United States an empire?  Why or why not? What is the United States role in the world today?

 

Independent Practice: Students will write a paragraph explaining the lock system of the Panama Canal based on what they saw in the animation.

 

Homework:  Write a paragraph giving your definition of empire and explain how the Panama Canal impacted America.

Annotated Bibliography

  1. “American Experience: TV’s Most-watched History Series.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.

 

This documentary gives a great overview of the political background, the struggles, and the engineering feats of the Panama Canal project.  It also contains interviews from workers on the project, which give insight to the dangers that they faced.  This documentary can be used as a supplemental or it can be integrated into the lesson.

 

  1. Bradley, James. The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.

 

Bradley’s book provides information on the expansionist view of Theodore Roosevelt.  The book outlines Roosevelt’s plan to expand the United States sphere on influence into all regions of the Asia.  This way of thinking provides more insight on why the Panama Canal was considered so important in the eyes of the President.

 

  1. Greene, Julie. The Canal Builders: Making America’s Empire at the Panama Canal. New York: Penguin, 2009. Print.

 

Green’s book provides excellent insight into the lives of the workers.  The information on the gold and silver classes is excellent and will be read by the students.

 

  1. Hall, John. Panama Roughneck Ballads. Panama and Canal Zone: A. Lindo, Panama Railroad News Agency, 1912. Print.

 

John Hall’s ballads and poems give a first hand account of the roughnecks thoughts and hardships during the construction of the Panama Canal.

 

  1. Mahr, Van Hardeveld Rose. Make the Dirt Fly! Hollywood, CA: Pan, 1956. Print.

This memoir gives a first hand account of what life was like in the Canal Zone.  Rose is the wife of a worker on the Canal.

 

  1. McCullough, David G. The Path between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1977. Print.

 

This source provides background on the U.S.S. Maine and the Military opinions on its impact.  The text relates these opinions to Roosevelt’s opinion on the Panama Canal.

 

  1. Parker, Matthew. Panama Fever: The Epic Story of One of the Greatest Human Achievements of All Time–the Building of the Panama Canal. New York: Doubleday, 2007. Print.

 

Parker’s book shows the engineering aspect of the canal.  This information will allow the teacher to provide exact information to their students on the engineering feats of the canal.

 

Teacher Resources

 

“American Experience: TV’s Most-watched History Series.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.

 

Bradley, James. The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.

 

Greene, Julie. The Canal Builders: Making America’s Empire at the Panama Canal. New York: Penguin, 2009. Print.

 

Hall, John.  Panama Roughneck Ballads. Panama and Canal Zone: A. Lindo, Panama Railroad News Agency, 1912. Print.

 

Mahr, van Hardeveld Rose. Make the Dirt Fly! Hollywood, CA: Pan, 1956. Print.

 

McCullough, David G. The Path between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1977. Print.

 

Parker, Matthew. Panama Fever: The Epic Story of One of the Greatest Human Achievements of All Time–the Building of the Panama Canal. New York: Doubleday, 2007. Print.

 

“Smithsonian Institution Libraries: Make the Dirt Fly!” Smithsonian Institution Libraries: Make the Dirt Fly! N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2015.

Appendix

Student Resources

 

Poetry Analysis Format

 

Use the following pattern in your analysis of your own poem.

 

Categories Example
Title: What is the significance of the title?
Summary: Write a paragraph or so summarizing the events/emotions discussed in the poem.
Setting: What is the setting of the poem?
Speaker: Who is the person “telling” the poem? What attitude does the speaker have? What are they like? Use examples to support your claim.

** Please remember that if the voice of the poem says “I”, that doesn’t mean it is the author who is speaking!

Audience: Who is the speaker speaking to? How do you know?

 

Tone: What is the overall mood of the poem? What examples from the text support your claim? Where do you see the tone shift?

 

 

Theme: What do you think is the author’s message of the poem? What does he/she want the reader to believe or understand after reading?

 

 

Panama Canal Journal/Letter Writing Project

 

Directions: For this project you will take on the role of a Rough-neck, who is working on the Panama Canal project.  You will write three journal entries, one page in length, the journal entries will give a description of what life was like for a worker on the Panama Canal.  Some possible topics to explore are yellow fever, gold and silver system, living conditions, death, weather, and working conditions.

Standards

Social Studies Standards

 

CC.8.5.6-8.A: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

 

CC.8.5.6-8.D: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
CC.8.5.6-8.G: Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

 

CC.8.5.6-8.F: Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).

 

CC.8.6.6-8.B: Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.

 

CC.8.6.6-8.G: Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

 

Literacy Standards

 

CC.1.3.8.A: Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.

 

CC.1.3.8.B Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly, as well as inferences, conclusions, and/or generalizations drawn from the text.