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In the Classroom > Course Overview > Unit Overview
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Lesson 3: Immigration in the Connecticut River Valley

Lesson Central Question:

In This Lesson:

How was the Connecticut River Valley changed by immigration?

Lesson Length
Key Ideas

Lesson Length

3 class periods (85 minutes)

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Key Content Ideas Taught in this Lesson and Teacher Background

Students will learn about the impact of newly arrived Eastern European immigrants on the economics, social fabric, and culture of the nation and the Connecticut River Valley. They will learn about the national and local response to these "newcomers." They will draw comparisons to current day "newcomer" issues and events.

Teacher Background Essay: Through the City, To these Fields: Eastern European Immigration to Franklin County, Massachusetts

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Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will understand:

  • Immigration reshaped the demographics and culture of Deerfield and the Connecticut River Valley.
  • There were numerous factors that drew immigrants to Deerfield and the Connecticut River Valley.
  • South Deerfield became more influential as population and industry expanded.
  • Social change brought about by industrial development and immigration resulted in the creation of social clubs and the beginning of new reform movements.

Students will be able to:

  • Make inferences from their readings and articulate causality.
  • Hear and transcribe stories of newcomers.

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In Preparation for Teaching

1. Read Teacher Background Essay: Through the City, To these Fields: Eastern European Immigration to Franklin County, Massachusetts

Further background readings:

Gjerde, Jon, ed. Major Problems in American Immigration and Ethnic History. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.

Tanner, Helen Hornbeck, ed. The Settling of North America: The Atlas of the Great Migrations Into North America from the Ice Age to the Present. New York: Macmillian, 1995.

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Primary and Secondary Sources:
Unless otherwise noted, these can be found on the American Centuries website using accession numbers given in parentheses.

  1. web site: History of Migration and Immigration Laws in the United States
  2. essay: The Pole in the Land of the Puritan
  3. web site: United States Historical Census Browser
  4. book: The Parrish on a Hill, by Mary Doyle Curran, published by Houghton Mifflin in Boston in 1948.


  5. web site: Ellis Island
  6. St. Ann's Church (1997.08.01.0090)
  7. St. Stanislaus Church (1996.12.2372)
  8. View of Cheapside (1958.02)
  9. Onion Harvest (1996.14.1322.01-02)
  10. Newspaper Articles: Greenfield Gazette and Courier

  11. "Aliens in New England" (L02.034)
  12. "Are We to be Polonized?" (L02.157)
  13. "Farmers Value Polish help" (L02.158)
  14. "Will Visit Native Land" (L02.151)
  15. "The Poles at Turners Falls (L02.152)
  16. "The Need of an Immigration Test" (L02.153)

  17. Turns of the Century Exhibit (on website). Click on the "Newcomers" picture from the 1880-1920 period.

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Activities Materials in Context

Class Period 1: Newcomers

  1. Look at the census data of the foreign born population in Massachusetts and the United States and see how it changes between 1870-1920.
  2. Look at immigration areas on historical maps in print atlases.
  3. Use maps and atlases to locate centers of high immigration by specific ethnic groups.
    Discuss findings in a group.

  4. Research the Exclusionary Acts.
  5. As a group, discuss the intent and ramifications of such acts and laws. Could similar legislation be passed in today's political and cultural climate?

  6. Immigration in the Connecticut River Valley.
  7. Use the readings and images listed above to learn about immigration settlement patterns, work, culture, and community response.

  8. For the newspaper or scrapbook, write a letter or article that would reflect a specific point of view.
  9. Chose an immigrant, a mill owner, or a long-term resident of the community.
    Reference information that you learned from reading articles and viewing photographs.

Class Period 2: Oral histories

  1. Invite students to think about interviewing two individuals -- one whose family immigrated to the United States during the 20th century and the other someone whose family came to the community earlier.
  2. Find real people who fit the description and set up interviews with them.
  3. Ask those to be interviewed if they would like to bring pictures or items that could be photographed to include in the final life story that will be composed. Those who are being interviewed will be invited to take away their written and illustrated story with them after the interview.
  4. Compose FIVE questions for each person to be interviewed.
  5. As you prepare for your questions and your technique, the following information may be helpful:
  6. Every family and every interview is unique.
    Every interviewer will have his or her own special interests and style of interviewing. Because of this, no single set of questions will successfully reach every candidate. The most useful questions will be those that you develop through knowledge of the subject matter.
    Try to start with a question that you know will elicit a full reply from your subject and not just "yes" or "no." Avoid generalities -- questions such as "tell me about your childhood" may only give you a list of names and dates.
    The following questions may be helpful, but they are meant to be suggestions only. Feel free to change the wording or to formulate entirely different questions.

  7. Sample Questions:
  8. What stories have come down to you about your parents and grandparents?
    How did you parents, grandparents, and other relatives come to meet and marry?
    What historical events have affected your family? For example, how did your family survive the Depression of the 1930s? What effect did World War II have on your family? Do you have relatives in the "old country"
    How are important holidays celebrated in your family? Which ones are the most important?
    When and why did your family settle in the Connecticut River Valley?
    How many members of your family live within hours of your home?
    Does your family own a farm?
    Do you employ workers on your farm?

    - Would you consider hiring recent arrivals to the valley to work for you? Why or why not?
    - Do you imagine your sons/daughters and grandsons/granddaughters continuing to farm here?
    - What do you think will happen to this land in 100 years?

    How often does your extended family gather for the day?
    Does you family have scrapbooks, photo albums, slides, or home-movies?

    - Who created them and takes care of them?
    - Do you show these pictures at family reunions?

  9. Practice interviewing within the class using questions that apply to the student population.
  10. Practice preparing the written biography.
  11. Interview your subjects.
  12. Create a brief biographical sketch of both subjects including: age, ethnic background, gender, and family members.

Class Period 3: Finding and Writing the Story.

  1. Contact seniors within the community and ask if they would come to the classroom to work with students.
  2. Using the questions they developed, students complete a side-by-side interview with each individual.
  3. Each student is paired up with a senior.
  4. They should ask the elder what they know about a topic (i.e. schooling, industry, transportation, home life, etiquette in their day)
    Together they write a story using the computer.
    Scan images to illustrate story.



United States Historical Census Browser

Ellis Island

St. Ann's Church (1997.08.01.0090)

St. Stanislaus Church (1996.12.2372)

View of Cheapside (1958.02)

Onion Harvest (1996.14.1322.01-02)

Newspaper Articles: Greenfield Gazette and Courier

"Aliens in New England" (L02.034)

"Are We to be Polonized?" (L02.157)

"Farmers Value Polish help" (L02.158)

"Will Visit Native Land" (L02.151)

"The Poles at Turners Falls (L02.152)

"The Need of an Immigration Test" (L02.153)

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