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        4-7, 13+

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        Part of Great States
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        Minnesota | Coming to Minnesota Activity 2: Orphan Migration to Minnesota

        In this visual-based activity, students watch a video about the migration of orphans from New York to work on farms in Minnesota. After discussing the impact of the orphans who came to Minnesota, students write a journal entry from the perspective of one of the newly-arrived orphans.

        Lesson Summary

        In this visual-based activity, students watch a video about the migration of orphans from New York to work on farms in Minnesota. After discussing the impact of the orphans who came to Minnesota, students write a journal entry from the perspective of one of the newly-arrived orphans.

        This lesson is part of "Great States: Minnesota | Coming to Minnesota" where students will examine why people from all over the world come to Minnesota, and they will also evaluate their influence on the state.

        Time Allotment

        15 minutes

        Learning Objectives

        Standards

        6.4.4.20.2: Analyze the causes and impact of migration and immigration on Minnesota society during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

        Supplies

        Directions

        1. Distribute the Orphan Migration to Minnesota handout to your students. Tell students they will be watching a short video about the orphan trains that were used to take orphaned children from the city streets to orphanages to be adopted.

        1. Show students the video, Minnesota Legacy Short | The Orphan Trains [6:33]. Remind students to take notes about significant events or facts in the video.

        1. Have students discuss the impact of these orphans migrating to Minnesota. Here are some talking points:

          1. Orphans were living in the streets: dying from starvation and exposure, getting hit by cars, becoming involved in crime, etc. The resources to address the 30,000 homeless were limited.

          2. A minister had an idea to send children to the Midwest to live with families on farms. Children were told, “Life begins when you are chosen.”

          3. There were two ways people took in children. First, newspaper ads were run in the Midwest telling families to write in with characteristics they wanted in a child. The child would then be found and put on a train for the family. The second way was for the children to line up and families would walk along the line having children do tests that would show their “fitness” for farm work. A contract would be drawn up for the family to take the child to provide food and clothing. Little protection for the child was involved so it was up to the family in how the child would be treated. In some situations, it was like slavery as the contract included “indentured” until the age of 21. It was assumed that labor would be involved.

          4. In histories gathered about these children, it was found that some felt a loss and sorrow about relocating to a different place that wasn’t theirs. Many felt they were treated “a little bit less” than the families’ own children.

        1. Direct students to write a journal entry as if they were one of the orphans who was sent to live on a farm in Minnesota. Ask them to consider the differences between living on the streets of New York versus working on a farm in Minnesota.

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