LESSON

More Than Migrants

Projects that examine various aspects of  migrant life in depth
Grade Level

1. To acquaint students with notable as well as little-known figures from migrant culture, have them research the lives of innovative political, scientific or artistic leaders who were once migrants themselves. Have students write biographies on the role models of their choice, and then ask them to dramatize what they learn about each person's influence on history to share with the class. Students may chose to study such famous figures as César Chávez, Dolores Huerta, Tomás Rivera, Paul Rodriguez, Luis Valdez and Sauveur Pierre, in addition to distinguished individuals from local migrant communities.

2. Many aspects of migrant life involve math. Workers have to calculate miles traveled, wages per bucket of produce picked or number of chickens processed at a poultry plant. To incorporate "migrant math" into your lessons, ask your students to research migrant labor and come up with math problems reflective of the work performed by migrants. Remember that migrant life is not restricted to harvesting fruits and vegetables. Poultry processing, fishing, timber planting and horticulture are all jobs done by migrant laborers.

3. Migrants are often described as being invisible to the majority of society. To bring the migrant experience home to your students, arrange a field trip to a farm that employs migrant workers to see how they work and live. After the visit, ask your students to write a poem or personal essay from the point of view of a migrant, explaining what it means to live a nomadic lifestyle.

4. Statistics from the National Agricultural Worker Survey (NAWS) show that 80 percent of all migrant workers in the United States are of Mexican descent. As an interesting social studies activity, have your students find out the countries from which the other 20 percent of migrant farmworkers originate and develop a demographic profile of the people involved in migrant farmwork. As a follow-up, compare the results with figures from previous years to see how the ethnic makeup of the migrant workforce has changed over time.

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