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The Amana Colonies

Lesson Plan Item

General Information
Grade 12th Grade Class Government Length of Lesson 50 minutes
Lesson Title The Amana Colonies
Unit Title
Unit Compelling Question
Historical Context:

The members of Amana Colonies believed strongly in the pacifist point of view.  They stayed out of European affairs before immigrating to the United States and continued after settling in New York and Iowa. Amana men were excused from fighting during the Spanish American and Civil War by paying commutation fees to support Iowan soldiers in their place.

The pacifist belief was was viewed negatively by Iowa County residents as Amana men were sent home from Marengo, Iowa, in July of 1917 after being originally chosen for the draft in WWI. In January of 1918, the classification status of Amana residents was changed from 1 to 4, which meant that they were deferred from fighting. Their place would be taken by other Iowa County men. Believing this was an act of disloyalty, angry Marengo residents marched to South Amana in protest, however the mob was stopped one mile outside of South Amana.

After WWI, the exemption of Amana residents from being drafted was rescinded. Despite their pacifist beliefs, the colonies supported the troops by  donating to the Red Cross, using Liberty Bonds and War Savings Stamps. The Amana Woolen Mill also produced 35,000 blankets for troops. In total, Amana gave approximately $2,000 per resident to the war effort.

The military hat, in the collection of the Amana Heritage Society, belonged to Albert Setzer, a member of the Amana Society in Iowa County who served during World War I. Due to his pacifist beliefs, Albert Setzer served in non-combat roles for the United States military.

~ Teaching Iowa History Team
Lesson Supporting Question Why did the people of the Amana Colonies form their own government system?
Lesson Overview

Lecture & Discussion Based

-The history of the Amana Colonies and their government.


Where the artifact fits in

-Exempt from military service

-Government class


Primary Sources Used
Resources Needed
PDF icon amana_colonies_power_point.pdf, PDF icon unit_plan_-_amana_colonies.pdf, PDF icon lesson_plan_presentation.pdf
Lesson Target
  • Students will know what "Utopia" means.
  • Students will know why the Amana Colonies were settled in Iowa.
  • Students will know why the Amana Colonies were successful for as long as they were.
  • Students will know why the Amana Colonies fell.
  • Students will know how the Amana Colonies were different than the state government.
Lesson Themes Forms of Government, Political System
Lesson Procedure
Step Procedure Time Differentiation plan / Additional Information
1 Start with opening activity - The word “Utopia” will be written on the board when students arrive. Once class starts the teacher will ask students to write 1-2 sentences of what they think the word means. The students will be asked to keep this word in their mind as they will soon find out the actual meaning.
2 Start the lesson with a lecture. Students should be asked to take notes as the PowerPoint presentation is shown. It should cover the following topics
-German Colony - 1840s
-Inspirationsists - Christian Metz
-Why they settled in Iowa
-Everyday Life - adult and children
-Government - Military
-The fall
After lecture, break students up to small groups and have them discuss the following questions:
-What were the main strengths and weaknesses to the Amana Colonies?
-What would have had to been different for it to last?
-Would you want to live in a community like this?
4 The groups will then come back together to share the ideas they came up with in a large group discussion.    
Students will then be assigned a 1-2 page written reflection that answers the following questions:
-What does “Utopia” means to you.
-What would your “Utopia” look like?
Formative Assessment
(How will you use the formative assessments to monitor and inform instruction?)
  • Students will complete a written response to illustrate what they would want their "Utopia" to look like. This will be turned in for points and information provided in the lecture will be included on a later exam.
  • Students will listen to others' ideas during small group and class discussions to expand their thinking. They will then put that thinking to work when asked to complete the assessment. They will also be asked to take notes during lecture to reflect back on materials.
Summative Assessment
(How does the lesson connect to planned summative assessment(s)?)
  • Students will be able to understand what the Amana Colonies were, their strengths and weaknesses, and how their government system worked. The students' job is to participate in class discussions and to share their opinions on the idea of the Amana Colonies and the idea of “Utopia”. The target audience is any other student who has not yet learned about the Amana Colonies. This challenges students to expand their thinking about an ideal society and think critically about why the Amana Colonies fell. Students will get creative with how they would want their “Utopia” to be ran.
Author Information
Author Caylee Bartz Reviewer Dr. Lisa Millsaps, University of Northern Iowa Created 03/27/2019 Last Edited 08/22/2019
Lesson Plan Development Notes: Teaching Methods, University of Northern Iowa, Fall 2018

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