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Nords in the Midwest

Lesson Plan Item

General Information
Grade 9th Grade Class N/A Length of Lesson 1-2 class periods
Lesson Title Nords in the Midwest
Unit Title
Unit Compelling Question How did Norwegian immigration affect Iowa's policy issues?
Historical Context:

Large numbers of Norwegians immigrated to the United States between 1850-1930 seeking opportunity and employment.  Agricultural disasters had resulted in crop failure, famine, and loss of farm work  between 1840 and 1870.  In the United States, Norwegians could seek employment in industry, as well as seek farm land.  Early groups of Norwegians settled in Illinois and then spread to Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas, where the Homestead Act gave them access to land.

The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed anyone who was the head of a family or at least 21 years old, including new immigrants, single women, and freed slaves, to claim 160 free acres of federal land providing they met some basic requirements.  Homesteaders were required to pay a small filing fee and agree to work the land and improve it over five years, including building a home on it.

Large numbers of Norwegians settled in northeast Iowa, near the town of Decorah and in nearby counties.  The majority of these settlers were farmers who felt at home in the hills and forests of northeast Iowa, which reminded them of Norway.

In the 1860s, a handful of Norwegian immigrants to Iowa who were followers of the State Church in Norway, or the Norwegian Synod, tried to develop a system of parochial schools where they could teach all of the subjects, including religion and the Norwegian language, as a way of maintaining Norwegian identity. The idea, however, was not popular with the people in the Norwegian Synod's church congregations because they preferred to send their children to the "common schools" or public schools to learn English and American ways. This school building, the Rovang School, was one of three Norwegian parochial schools built to provide part-time religious education in the Norwegian language. The school was built in 1880 and served as a parochial school in rural Decorah for about four decades.

The Rovang School was used primarily for religious education and students spent two week sessions in the schoolhouse, taking time off from public school during that period. The content was taught in Norwegian and included devotions, history of Lutherans, history of the Bible and hymns. Johan Hagen was the teacher and taught from 1888-1918.

The creation of the Norwegian schools caused controversy among the church and among the public schools intially. In the mid to late 1800s. a high increase of immigrants was seen entering the United States from various countries. As they struggled to settle down in the country and find work, they were generally not accepted or welcomed by Americans. The term "cultural assimilation" began in schools where immigrant students were taught "American" customs and to leave behind their country's traditions and way of doing things. This included what they ate, wore, how they spoke and what they learned.  The method was used in hopes of assimilating immigrants into American culture. When news of creating a separate Norwegian school broke, many were worried that the school would separate them again and resort them back to the "immigrant outcast," making it hard to find work and survive in American society. The public school and the church came to a compromise that students would only attend the religious school part-time to ensure that they would not miss out on learning English and American customs.

~ Teaching Iowa History Team
Lesson Supporting Question How does understanding the Norwegian immigrant life explain Iowa policies and issues?
Lesson Overview

This lesson plan will analyze Norwegian immigration and the effect this had on Iowa policy and issues.

Primary Sources Used
Resources Needed

Documents at the end of uploaded original lesson plan

Lesson Target
Lesson Themes Cultural Events, Immigrants
Lesson Procedure
Step Procedure Time Differentiation plan / Additional Information
1 I will introduce the unit with a hook which is when the students walk in, have the class move to one half of the room and have them get into groups of 4-5 and give them a family name with roles such as 'son', 'daughter', 'father', 'mother', 'grandparent'.    
2 I will set up a scenario that Norway is running out of farmable land and jobs are low, but there is an ad going around insisting that there are jobs and land in the New World, but for a very expensive fare with no promise of a job. They have to make the decision as to if they spend the money and send someone or not.    
3 If it all works out, some 'families' send someone over to the New World (the other side of the classroom)    
4 We will then come together as a class and have the students write in their notes a reflection of the experiment to explain why they did or didn't send someone over to the New World. This will be referred to throughout the unit so students can observe their learning.    
5 I will pass out a KWL sheet to the class as a formative assessment and we will begin it by writing down what they already know about immigration/Norwegian immigration.    
6 Then we move on to a presentation to demonstrate limited spaces and resources to immigrants. School will also bring history to the present and show that it is still relevant.    
7 Will ask students, "What do you notice about this school? What is it made of? Do the desks remind you of pews? If we had to all fit in this room with students of all ages between 5-17, how successful would it be?"    
8 I will outline reasons why individuals will immigrate on slides and explain what some problems were when in Iowa.    
9 After presenting information, I will then introduce the research project to the class and will allow the rest of class time to discuss their projects.     
Formative Assessment
(How will you use the formative assessments to monitor and inform instruction?)
  • KWL Chart
Summative Assessment
(How does the lesson connect to planned summative assessment(s)?)
  • Journal reflections throughout unit
Author Information
Author Kylie Kozelka Reviewer Dr. Lisa Millsaps, University of Northern Iowa Created 04/15/2019 Last Edited 08/22/2019
Lesson Plan Development Notes: Teaching Methods, University of Northern Iowa, Fall 2018

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