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A Trip through the Panama Canal

Subject Area: Social Studies

Grade Level(s): 6-7

Duration of Activity: Three to four, 50-minute class periods

Description of Activity:

This activity will provide students the opportunity to learn about the Panama Canal. They will study its history, location, reasons for being built, ownership, and so forth. The class will be divided into small groups to research specific activities and learn how ships travel through the Canal by viewing a java animation clip. Students will create presentations using word-processing or presentation software that demonstrates what the students learned through their research activities. Their final products will be displayed in the classroom or hallway.

Objectives:

  • Students will discover through research using the World Wide Web how and why the Panama Canal was built.
  • Students will be able to describe the route of the Panama Canal and the length of time it takes a ship to navigate through the Canal.
  • Students will use Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, or other appropriate software to create presentations involving the information they found through research.

Materials/Equipment:

  • Desktop or laptop computers with Internet access
  • Encyclopedias
  • Reference books about the Panama Canal
  • Handout 1: Activities and Web Sites
  • Handout 2: Panama Project Rubric

Prerequisites (skills or background needed):

  • Basic keyboarding and editing skills
  • Basic skills in using the World Wide Web for research

Procedure

Teacher Component: The teacher will

  1. introduce the lesson by identifying the country of Panama on a world atlas or a globe and discussing the Panama Canal. Describe the history of its conception, the benefits the Canal offers, and how a ship is navigated through the Canal.
  2. Show the Web site How the Panama Canal Works—Java Animation / http://www.ared.com/kora/java/pcc/javaani.html that includes a java animation clip illustrates how a ship moves along through the Canal by a series of rises and falls in water levels, which are controlled by six locks.

    Click on the active link below the java animation to view many pictures that reflect the Panama Canal in various stages of planning, building, and completion and to learn facts such as how mosquitoes were controlled so that the work could continue.

  3. encourage student inquiry by asking the students to imagine the length of time it would take to get goods from one destination to another if the Panama Canal did not connect the oceans. If laptop computers are being used, remind students to lower the laptop screen after each computer activity in order to have the students’ full attention during the class discussion.
  4. if classroom computers are limited, organize students into three groups at this time for the next activity; otherwise wait until Step 9 to separate students into three groups.
  5. allow students to compete to see who can be first to discover the number of miles saved for ships traveling from New York to San Francisco, California, thus revealing the real purpose of the Panama Canal. Clue: Allow students 10 to 20 minutes to search for this data, which can be found at the previously used Web site, How the Panama Canal Works—Java Animation / http://www.ared.com/kora/java/pcc/javaani.html.
  6. briefly explain the geographic and political factors that made Panama a good site for such a waterway. Explain how the United States gained the right to build this waterway and describe what its construction was like.
  7. explain that the Panama Canal is considered one of the great engineering feats of all times. Discuss why the United States transferred ownership of the canal to Panama.
  8. discuss traveling through the Panama Canal, asking students to describe what they imagine this experience might be like.
  9. provide students with Handout 1: Assignments and Web Sites, which lists the bookmarked Web sites students may use in their research as well as specific activities that students will participate in as groups.
  10. organize students into three groups to work to complete the following assignments:

    • Group 1—As journalists, you are assigned to cover the Panama Canal and will write brief news reports about traveling through the Canal in its early years.
    • Group 2—As members of the U. S. Congress, you will write about the decision to return the Canal to Panama.
    • Group 3—As historians, you will report about the United States’ role in conceiving the idea for and building of the Canal.
  11. stimulate enthusiasm for the research involved in these assignments with anticipation of a Panama Style party at the conclusion of the project featuring Panama Canal Cake. This recipe may be found at the Web site, iChef Fine Cooking / http://www.ichef.com. Click on CAKES > P (for Panama) > PANAMA CANAL CAKE.

    The teacher may provide the baked cake for each class and assign various groups to bring the remaining ingredients for their class and be responsible for mixing and adding the toppings to the cake.

  12. inform students that each group will collect and assimilate data needed to complete their assignments and prepare their research to be shared orally with the entire class. Students may use Microsoft Word or Microsoft PowerPoint to create and record their research reports. Students may insert clip art, pictures, and other graphics into their presentations. Each group will then print their presentation, preferably using a color printer if pictures or graphics are in color.
  13. inform students that evaluation of the projects will be based on individual as well as corporate participation in the research and presentation of their project using Handout 2: Panama Project Rubric.
  14. allow students adequate time to conduct the research needed for the assignments.
  15. allow each group of students to present their work to the class. Their printed work will afterward be displayed in the classroom or in the hallway.
  16. celebrate with students the study of the Panama Canal with Panama Canal Cake and computer-generated puzzle activities about the Panama Canal. The Web sites for the cake recipe and the puzzle are as follows:

Student Activities: The student will

  1. learn the location of the country of Panama on a world atlas or a globe and participate in a discussion on the Panama Canal, learning the history of its conception, the benefits the Canal offers, and the way a ship is navigated through the Canal. At the Web site, How the Panama Canal Works—Java Animation / http://www.ared.com/kora/java/pcc/javaani.html, a java animation clip illustrates how a ship moves along through the Canal by a series of rises and falls in water levels, which are controlled by six locks.

    Click on the active link below the java animation to view many pictures that reflect the Panama Canal in various stages of planning, building, and completion and to learn facts such as how mosquitoes were controlled so that the work on the canal could continue.

  2. imagine the length of time it would take to get goods from one destination to another if the Panama Canal did not connect the oceans.
  3. if classroom computers are limited, be organized into three groups at this time for the next activity; otherwise wait until Step 9 to separate into groups.
  4. compete to see who can be first to discover the number of miles saved to ships traveling from New York to San Francisco, California, thus revealing the real purpose of the Panama Canal. Clue: Students are allowed 10 to 20 minutes to search for this data, which can be found at the previously used Web site, How the Panama Canal Works—Java Animation / http://www.ared.com/kora/java/pcc/javaani.html.
  5. learn as the teacher discusses geographic and political factors that made Panama a good site for such a waterways; the reasons United States gained the right to build this waterway, and what its construction was like.
  6. learn why the Panama Canal is considered one of the great engineering feats of all times and why the United States transferred ownership to the country of Panama.
  7. pretend that you are traveling through the Panama Canal and describe what you imagine this experience might be like.
  8. be provided with Handout 1: Activities and Web Sites, which lists the bookmarked Web sites that may used in the research as well as specific activities in which students will participate as groups.
  9. separate into three groups to work to complete the following assignments:

    • Group 1—As journalists, you are assigned to cover the Panama Canal and will write brief news reports about traveling through the Canal.
    • Group 2—As members of the U. S. Congress, you will write about the decision to return the Canal to Panama.
    • Group 3—As historians, you will report about the United States’ role in the Canal.
  10. be motivated to accomplish all assignments and complete the project with the anticipation of a Panama-style party at the conclusion of the project featuring Panama Canal Cake.

    The recipe for this cake can be found at the Web site, iChef Fine Cooking / http://www.ichef.com. Click on CAKES > P (for Panama) > PANAMA CANAL CAKE.

    The teacher may provide the baked cake for each class and assign various groups to bring the remaining ingredients for their class and be responsible for mixing and adding the toppings to the cake.

  11. work as a group to collect and assimilate data needed to complete the group assignment and prepare the research to be shared orally with the entire class. Use Microsoft Word or Microsoft PowerPoint to create and record the information found through research. Clip art, pictures, and other graphics may be inserted into the presentations. Each group will then print their presentation, preferably using a color printer if pictures or graphics are in color.
  12. be informed that evaluation will be based on individual as well as corporate participation in the research and presentation of the project using Handout 2: Panama Project Rubric.
  13. be allowed adequate time and assistance to conduct the research needed for the assignments.
  14. present the group’s work to the class. The printed work will afterward be displayed in the classroom or in the hallway. Project evaluation for each group of students will be based on Handout 2: Panama Project Rubric.
  15. celebrate the study of the Panama Canal with Panama Canal Cake and computer-generated puzzle activities about the Panama Canal. The Web sites for the cake recipe and the puzzle are as follows:

Accommodations:

  • Students with fewer keyboarding skills and/or fewer skills using the World Wide Web for research or those with special needs may be placed selectively in groups.

Extension Activities:

  • Students may be allowed to discuss disposition of the Panama Canal as a case in a courtroom setting. The teacher will act as judge or appoint one student to be the judge and divide the remaining students into two groups. Each group will appoint one student to represent them. In presenting this case, the judge will be called upon to decide who will get the Panama Canal, the United States or Panama. The decision should be made based on which group presents the strongest case.
  • The students could build a model of Panama Canal as an extended class project using modeling clay or another modeling component.

Integration:

  • Social Studies
  • Technology
  • Math
  • Language Arts

Assessments:

  1. Handout 2: Panama Project Rubric

URLs:

Curriculum Frameworks

Mississippi:

Sixth Grade

  1. Apply spatial and ecological perspectives to people, places, and environment using social studies tools (e.g., timelines, maps, globes, resources, graphs, a compass, technology, etc.). (C, H, E)

Seventh Grade

  1. Apply spatial and ecological perspectives to people, places, and environment using social studies tools (e.g., timelines, maps, globes, primary and secondary resources, political cartoons, charts, graphs, a compass, technology, etc.). (H, G, E)

National Educational Technology Standards (NETS):

  1. Apply productivity/multimedia tools and peripherals to support personal productivity, group collaboration, and learning throughout the curriculum. (3,6)
  2. Select and use appropriate tools and technology resources to accomplish a variety of tasks and solve problems. (5, 6)

TerraNova:

26 Geographic Perspectives (Level 11-21/22)
Demonstrate an understanding of concepts and process skills related to the study of the world’s people, places, and environments, and their interactions over time.

Construct answers, use geographic tools, and create solutions or products using inquiry skills and knowledge related to geographic perspectives.

Link and Feedback to Author(s):

Yaminoh Childress, South Delta Middle School, Anguilla, MS
ms_yaminoh@hotmail.com

Handout 1 Activities and Web Sites Word Acrobat
Handout 2: Rubric for Panama Canal Project Word Acrobat
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