Outline of Lessons
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Unit 1: Introduction of the Topic

This unit is an examination of Famine Irish migration to Iowa as seen through the lives of Irish immigrants to Southwestern Iowa and Davenport , their experiences and their lives as Iowans.

Why study immigration history? By examining their immigrant roots, students could became enthusiastic learners, as this type of history is about them.

Why study Famine Irish immigration? Focusing specifically on the Irish allows you to narrow the scope of an investigation of the impact of immigration on our society within a manageable unit. And, there is a wealth of information on Irish immigration to America .

Teaching points:

1.         Causes of migration (the four Cs):
            a.         Circular migrationa pull factor involving migration to a destination and return to the native land
            b.         Chain migrationa pull factor involving following previous migration streams
            c.         Coerced migrationpush factor causing involuntary relocation (famine, slave trade.) The question is not whether to go but where to go.
            d.         Career migrationa pull factor as a choice for a better life

2.         Irish history prior to the famine:
            a.         Early Irish history
            b.         Anglo/Norman invasion; the Pale
c.         Irish circular migration
England and the European Continent
America (post 1815)

Associated projects:  Map exercise on major migration routes; BKI: self-assessment; discussion of individual project

Readings:  Reading #1; Immigrants. The Goldfinch. (This below level reading is available as needed.)

Unit 2: Dennis Mullin and a Story of Family Migration to Southwest Iowa

In 1845, famine hit south-eastern Ireland , spreading throughout the country in subsequent waves in 1846 and 1848, and 1.5 million Irish died from a combination of famine and disease including many members of the Mullin-Reagan Family.

Teaching points:

1.         Poor records:
            a.         The Church was proscribed from compiling records prior to passage of the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829
            b.         Civil records were not kept in Ireland until 1864
2.         Causes of the Great Famine (1845-1849):
            a.         Increased population
            b.         Dependence of potatoes as the dietary staple
            c.         Accidental introduction of the blight (1845)
Britain 's cavalier response
                        1.         Failure to address the problem initially
                        2.         Poor laws
            e.         Recurrences of famine (1846 & 1848)
3.         Results:
            a.         1.5 million died from starvation or disease
            b.         Evictions led survivors to ports of embarkation
            c.         1.5 million migrated mostly to

4.         Family migration: most families migrated as family units
            a.         Migration in stages
                        1.         The vast majority of Famine Irish settled in the vicinity of their port of debarkation
                        2.         Transportation networks
            b.         What they found in
                        1.         The land
                        2.         Lonesome vs. lonely; nontraditional networks

Associated projects:  Discussion of culpability; graphic organizer; word matching

ReadingsReading #2

Unit 3: Topic Discussion

Teaching points:

Student led discussion on other migrant experiences

Associated projects:  DR-TA: "The Proposal"; vocabulary exercise

Readings:  In-class production of "The Proposal" (a play)

Unit 4: Famine Ships and Escape from Ireland

Teaching points:

1.         Individual migration

2.         The famine ships:
            a.         coffin ships
b.         love boats
3.         Networks:
            a.         Previous Irish immigrants
            b.         The Catholic Church
            c.         Social organizations

Associated projects:  Historical journals (modified version of project from Fortman, N. in bibliography), Study guide

Readings:  Reading #3; The Lament of the Irish Emigrant (poem)

Unit 5: The Irish and Building the West

Teaching points:

1.         Iowa in 1860 and building the West:
a.         Railroads change the mental geography
b.         Land and the Promise of the American Dream

2.         Adaptation:
a.         Irish as a gregarious people
b.         Ill-prepared and ill-furnished for success as farmers in

3.         Farming:
a.         Subject to acts of nature
b.         Prices for commodities
c.         Credit, loans, and debt

Associated projects:  QARS: Reading #4

Readings: Reading #4


Unit 6: Topic Discussion

Teaching points: 

Student led discussion of The American Dream

Associated projects:  Reflective Discussion: the American Dream; vocabulary exercise

Readings:  "Historical Jottings" (essay)

Unit 7: Irish Immigrant Urbanization

Teaching points:

1.         Famine Irish are the precursors of urban America
a.         established precedents
b.         established patterns

2.         River City USA :
a.         Networks:
            1.         The Catholic Church
            2.         Work
            3.         Family
            4.         Social Organizations; the Ancient Order of Hibernians

3.         Upward mobility:
a.         Geographic; homes
b.         Social; political involvement in the Democratic Party
c.         Economic; jobs
            1.         Bridget the domestic
            2.         Patrick the civil servant

Associated projects: Reciprocal teaching through individual presentations

Readings: Reading #5

Unit 8: The American Melting Pot

Teaching points:

1.         Americanization:

2.         Nativism:
a.         Anti-catholic
b.         Anti-immigrant

Associated projects: KWL: Melting Pot; discussion of Nativism; continuation of individual projects

Readings: Reading #6

Unit 9: Conclusion

Teaching points:

1.         Why study immigration history? By examining their immigrant roots, students could become enthusiastic learners, as this type of history is about them.

2.         What would I want history students to learn from this teaching unit? If nothing else, I would want the student to understand that this nation was built by the sweat and toil of untold millions of immigrants from most nations of the world; the Irish are merely one single example. And, the contributions of immigrants continue to add to, not take away from, the greatness of this nation.

3.         What do you think? Students will apply critical thinking to develop their own opinion about the Famine Irish immigration experience, expressing their opinion through a written essay.

Associated Projects: Essay; discussion on what they have learned; vocabulary exercise; exit assessment

My Response:

What I have learned from this project is the Mullin-Reagan family were survivors. Faced with famine and loss of family, they managed to find a way to a port of embarkation, survive the passage to America , and reestablish their Irish identity in America . Despite being ill-prepared and ill-furnished for life in the American West, Famine Irish pursued the American Dream. Moving beyond their port of debarkation, some Famine Irish continued their migration, establishing themselves in Iowa . Their history is our history.

The ultimate goal of this unit is to challenge students to identify and appreciate the contributions immigrants have made and how these contributions have affected the student's lives.