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Lesson Plans
The "Madness" that Built the Empire State
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Prep for Teachers

Prior to teaching this lesson, bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom, or use a Web site organizer, such as Portaportal (http://www.portaportal.com). Download Flash and Quick Time plug-ins (available at http://www.macromedia.com) onto each computer.
Print and copy the "Before and After" and "Think, Pair, Square, Share" sheets so that each student has both sheets.

Cue the video to the appropriate starting point. You will see a map of the eastern seaboard and hear Ken Jackson say, "When you think of the United States in 1800..."

When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of vido segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements.

Introductory Activities: Setting the Stage

Step 1

Explain to your students that they will be studying The Erie Canal, one of the most famous bodies of water in the United States. Divide the students into pairs and ask one member of each pair to take out a pen and a piece of paper for an "inkshedding" exercise. Write the word "canal" on the board and explain that pairs will take turns writing one thing that comes to mind. After one member of the pair writes something, the paper is turned over to his/her partner, who does the same. The paper is exchanged between the students until the pair can think of nothing else to write. Give your students a minute or two for this exercise, then conduct a debriefing, writing their ideas on the board.

Step 2

Explain to your students that they will be consulting Encyclopedia Britannica on-line for a precise description of the term. Have your students log on to http://www.britannica.com. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to enter the word "canal," read the passage, and identify any new information or interesting fact. Give your students a few minutes for this activity. Then, ask them to share what they have found aloud. (Answers will vary with previous knowledge of students. Ask a student to paraphrase the definition of "lock.")

Step 3

Tell your students that they will visit a Web site that illustrates how a canal lock works. Have your students log on to the Erie Canal site at http://www.eriecanal.org/locks.html. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to examine the moving image and read the explanatory captions. Ask your students how they understood the concept of locks through the visual. (Students should observe that boats were pulled along by horses and mules. When a lock was approached, the tow lines were dropped, the boat would enter the lock through a gate, and water would pour in to raise the boat to water level.)

Step 4

Explain to your students that in order to understand the reasons behind the Canal's construction, they will work on a problem-solving activity called "Think, Pair, Square, Share." Distribute Erie Canal "Before and After" maps and "Think, Pair, Square, Share" sheets to the class. Read the directions together and make sure they understand that this activity has four stages, beginning with individual observation, moving on to paired analysis, and ending with group synthesis. As students are working, circulate to answer questions, check progress, and redirect discussions, if necessary. (Students' observations in the "think" box may vary and include that the Erie Canal flowed from Troy to Buffalo, depositing into Lake Erie, that it came into contact with major cities, for example, Syracuse and Rochester, that it connected to the Finger Lakes and Lake Ontario.) When students complete the activity, ask each group to share a highlight of their conversation. (Students may point out that it was designed to connect eastern and western New York State, that products from cities could be transported down the Hudson to New York City, that larger bodies of water irrigated the canal. They may also see the connection between the Erie Canal and the economic prosperity of New York State, particularly New York City.)


Learning Activities

Step 1

Explain to your students that they will be viewing a video clip that explains the history of the Erie Canal. Insert New York: A Documentary Film, Episode 1: "The Country and the City" into the VCR. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by asking them to identify the obstacles to traveling into the north west region of the country. START the tape when you see a map of the eastern seaboard and hear Ken Jackson say, "When you think of the United States in 1800…" PAUSE the tape when you hear Ken Jackson say, "...figure our a way to get inside the continent." (Since there were no waterways or rivers, travel was only possible on foot through the Appalachian and Allegheny Mountains.)

Step 2

Explain that they will hear the solution that New York State governor DeWitt Clinton proposed. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to raise their hands when they hear Clinton's solution. In addition, instruct them to listen for more details about how this solution affected New York City. PLAY the tape when you see an aerial view of a moving landscape and hear the narrator say, "For years, N.Y. merchants had been dreaming of the immense wealth..." PAUSE the tape when you see an original sketch of a populated landscape and hear the narrator say, "…an artificial waterway unlike anything undertaken since the days of the ancient Egyptians." (Check for comprehension. In 1811, Clinton proposed building a river to the West-the Erie Canal.) As a follow-up question, ask students how the Erie Canal helped New York City to become the greatest city in the world. (Guide students to understand that the Erie Canal managed to bring more wealth and prosperity to New York City than the Mississippi River brought to New Orleans. New York merchants were now able to trade with inland businesses. In addition, new businesses developed on the banks of the canal, increasing profits even more.) Ask students why they think New York politicians were against Clinton's plan? (The politicians were concerned about the large scope and expense of the plan. The financial backing for the canal was uncertain, as the federal government refused to support its construction.)

Step 3

Explain to your students that they will hear some details about the construction of the Canal. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify the approximate length and cost of the Canal. PLAY the tape when you see a moving aerial view of the Canal and hear the narrator say, "At a time when the longest canal in America was just 27 miles long..." PAUSE the tape when you see a portrait of Clinton and hear the narrator say, "circulating a petition eventually signed by 100,000 New Yorkers. (Check for comprehension. The Erie Canal was approximately 350 miles. You can tell them that the actual length was 363 miles. The cost was 5 million dollars.) Follow up this clip by asking students to compare the position of the federal government and N.Y. State Legislature with the position of the people of New York. (The students should understand that there was a sharp division of opinion between the government and the citizens. Guide them to recall the Jefferson called the project "little short of madness" and Madison feared that the cost would bankrupt the federal government.) Then, ask the students why they think this sharp difference of opinion existed? (Guide students to look at the situation from the perspective of New Yorkers. Answers may include that the project could create immediate jobs, Clintons' persuasive rhetoric convinced residents that the project would catapult New York above all other cities, and new businesses opportunities would open up and established ones would flourish. The government, however, did not want to finance an unprecedented project of such enormous scope and expense. Failure of the project could mean huge federal debt, loss of jobs, and loss of votes in future elections.)

Step 4

Explain to your students that they will hear how Clinton financed the project. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to explain how Clinton raised money for the Canal. PLAY the tape when you see a sketch of men working on the Canal and hear the narrator say, "Clinton himself devised an ingenious scheme." PAUSE the tape when you see a moving panorama of the Canal and hear the narrator say, "...was the most important public works project in American history until the Interstate Highway bill was passed in 1956." (Check for comprehension. Clinton sought out private investors and banks to issue bonds to finance the construction.) Follow up the clip by asking students what philosophical difference between Jefferson and Hamilton the clip points to. (Students' prior knowledge will vary. They should understand that Jefferson was opposed to spending federal money on improvement projects. Hamilton, on the other hand, supported projects that could stimulate business. A more in-depth discussion could address how Jefferson's anti-federalist doctrine opposed government oversight and funding of state projects. However, Hamilton, a staunch federalist, believed in federal funding of the national debt and the assumption of state debts.)

Step 5

Explain to your students that the Erie Canal proved a huge victory for Clinton and New York. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify the ways in which the Erie Canal was a success. PLAY the tape when you see a colorful sketch of the building of the Canal and hear Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan say, "The Canal was dug with Irishmen, mules and...whiskey." STOP the tape when you see a moving panorama of the Canal and hear the narrator say, "all America now met in New York." (Check for comprehension. Answers should include the following: the Canal was finished three years ahead of schedule--on October 26, 1825--with no cost overrun; it was responsible for the development of manufacturing towns that sprang up every fifteen miles; it paid for itself by partially opening before completion; it significantly lowered the cost and travel time of shipping goods.)

Learning Activity 2

Step 1

Explain to your students that they will study the Erie Canal from perspectives of those who experienced it in different ways. Explain that they will be viewing a video clip on a Web site that mentions various groups of people associated with the canal. Ask your students to log onto the E-Podunk site at http://www.epodunk.com/routes/erie-canal/index.html#. When they arrive at the site, they should click on "launch tour." Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to listen for groups associated with and affected by the Canal's development and prosperity. (Students should have listed the following: politicians, namely DeWitt Clinton, immigrant workers, business people, settlers.) Ask your students to elaborate on the effect the Canal had on cities. (Large cities, including Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo boomed through expanding business. Smaller towns along the way also developed and prospered.)

Step 2

Tell your students that they will be studying a primary source document from a traveler on the Erie Canal. Explain that the document is from the journal of Thomas S. Woodcock, an engraver traveling on the Canal in 1836. Ask your students log on to the Houghton Mifflin site at http://www.proteacher.com/cgi-bin/outsidesite.cgi?external=
http://www.eduplace.com/ss/hmss/8/unit/act4.1.html&original=
http://www.proteacher.com/090134.shtml&title=The%20Erie%20Canal
and click on "An Excerpt from the Journal of Thomas S. Woodcock." Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to read the journal entry and jot down a conclusion they came to about the social status of Woodcock. Elicit responses from students. (Students should draw the conclusion that Woodcock was a well-off, mannered craftsman and could afford to travel on boats that were faster, carried no freight, had "Genteel Men" as captains. Those who could not afford these vessels traveled on line boats, which, on the other hand, were slower, had "not so select a company," and were cheaper.) Ask your students what the cry "Bridge," "very low Bridge," "the lowest in the Canal," meant. (Students should understand that this was a warning for passengers to duck their heads.) Ask your students how the cry "All Jackson men bow down" and Woodcock's comment "After such commands we find few aristocrats" is meant tongue-in-cheek. (Student might know that Jackson, who was president at the time, advocated democratizing federal office-holding and favored a system based on merit. So, the crux of the joke lies in the fact that supporters of Jackson will bow down in reverence, therefore escape the low bridge, and Jackson's opponents-aristocrats-would meet an unfortunate end.)

Step 3

Ask your students to think about the pros and cons to a family-run business and list some responses on the board. (Responses on the "pro" side may include family unity, guaranteed employment, loyalty to business, opportunity for growth and expansion. Responses on the "con" side might include lack of choice of profession, at mercy of changing economy, lack of privacy and individuality.) Explain to your students that the Erie Canal spawned a new kind of family business. Canal boat families began to develop and flourish in the early days of the Canal. Ask your students to log on to the La Guardia site at http://www.laguardiawagnerarchive.lagcc.cuny.edu/eriecanal/images/19.jpg. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACATION, asking them to read the passage and identify the jobs of various family members aboard the canal boats. Check comprehension. (Students should mention the father and sons were the canal boat captain and the hoggees, respectively. Make sure they understand that the hoggee drove the mules along the tow path. Students can revisit the Erie Canal site at http://www.eriecanal.org/locks.html for a visual clue as to the work of the hoggees.--The female members took care of domestic chores, while the children helped with more menial tasks.) To follow-up, ask your students to speculate on what life might have been like for a teenager living on a canal boat.

Step 4

Ask your students if they can think of any songs that workers have sung to make the time go by faster. (Students may recall "I've been Workin' on the Railroad," mention slave songs, and songs heard on chain gangs.) Tell them that the Erie Canal song, written by Thomas S. Allen in 1905, became quite popular. The song describes the Canal experience from the point of view of a canal boat operator. Ask your students to log on to the Houghton Mifflin site at http://www.proteacher.com/cgi-bin/outsidesite.cgi?external=
http://www.eduplace.com/ss/hmss/8/unit/act4.1.html&original=
http://www.proteacher.com/090134.shtml&title=The%20Erie%20Canal
and click on "Low Bridge, Everybody Down (The Erie Canal)" lyrics. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to read the song lyrics and jot down what the day-to-day experience of these boat operators was like. (Students may point out that the job was monotonous, as the lines "and we know every inch of the way From Albany to Buffalo" and "and you'll always know your neighbor/You'll always know your pal, if you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal" suggest. They may also mention the mutually dependent-and rather affectionate-relationship that existed between the operator and his mule, as illustrated in the line "We'd better look around for a job, ol' gal, Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal!/ 'Cause you bet your life I'd never part with Sal".)

Step 5

Explain to your students that they will visit another Web site where they can hear the song and learn more about the people whose lives were integrally connected to the Canal. Ask your student to log on to the E-podunk Web site at http://www.epodunk.com/routes/erie-canal/index.html#. Once they are there, they should click on "launch tour" and click on "skip intro" on the bottom left of the pop-up screen. A blue window will appear, and they will click "canal songs." They will then see a window called "Erie Canal Songs," and they should click on "Erie Canal Song: Low Bridge, Everybody Down." Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to listen to the song and imagine a scene depicting the boats floating down the Canal. Ask students to take a few moments to jot down the kind of scene they imagined. Ask them to be specific in their descriptions through questions such as, "How old is the canal boat operator you've envisioned?" "What does he look like, facially and physically?" "What is he wearing?" Another way to access their imaginations is to have groups of students create tableaus, or freeze-frames, where the rest of the class guesses the role of the individuals on the boat.


Culminating Activity

Step 1

Explain to your students that they will be utilizing all the knowledge they have gained about the Erie Canal--history, geography, construction, individuals whose lives were affected, etc.-to create a song that captures all these aspects. Students can substitute or add more to the list. Explain to the class that each group is free to choose a tune they know collectively as a basis and create new words for it. They are also free to choose the style of music (hip hop, reggae, rock and roll, etc.) and create their own rhythm, tempo, and sound effects. Divide them into groups of four of five, and give them a few minutes to decide on the tune or style of music they will use. They should discuss the characteristics of the music so that a common group understanding emerges.

Step 2

Explain that each member of the group is responsible for creating a verse having to do with one of the above-mentioned aspects. Tell them that the whole group should collaborate on the chorus. Allow them a few moments to decide among themselves the aspect each student will be responsible for. Then give students a few minutes to brainstorm what they have learned about their particular piece. Suggest they use lists, cluster diagrams, semantic maps, charts, or any organizational strategy that will help them recall facts and martial their thoughts. Then allow them time to individually write their verses.

Step 3

When each member has finished, ask the group to reconvene to share the verses with one another. Encourage students to give one another supportive feedback on the verses and correct any inaccuracies. After each member shares, the group can decide to unify the verses for rhyme and structure. At this point, the groups should write a chorus collectively.

Step 4

Give students time to practice their song together. If students are reluctant to sing, tell them they can each read the verse he/she has written, and read the chorus as a whole. Ask each group to perform the song for the rest of the class, in a musical or spoken fashion.


Cross-Curricilar Extensions

MATHEMATICS
Visit the Rochester site at http://www.history.rochester.edu/canal/map/1899boat.jpg. Study the development of canal boats from 1817 to 1899. Calculate the difference in size, weight, and cargo capacity with each improvement of the vessel. Speculate about why these changes to the boats were made.

MATHEMATICS/LANUAGE ARTS
Since the Erie Canal is no longer used for industrial purposes, much of the boat travel is recreational. Visit the Boating on the Erie Canal site at http://www.canals.com/northam/gearing.htm. Choose three or four excursions to research and compare in terms of cost and features for a week-long trip. Write your conclusions and recommendations in the form of an article that might be published in a travel magazine.

SCIENCE
Conduct more in-depth research into how locks work. Then, visit the Terrax site at http://www.terrax.org/sailing/locks/locksjs.aspx. Play the interactive canal lock game to see whether you have understood the concept of navigating a ship through a lock system. Make a record of your attempts and mistakes as you go along. Discuss the procedure you used with a partner and compare strategies.



Community Connections

Invite a civil engineer into class to make a presentation on what his/her job entails and the projects that are vital to particular communities based on need and geography.

Take a class trip to a one of the 20 museums along the canal to learn more about canal history. Take a canal cruise if possible.