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Ths lesson is part of a larger unit that includes American expansion into the Pacific Ocean, and the Spanish American War, along with the purchases and annexing territory by America.

The 10th and 11th grade Social Studies Class are learning about the Panama Canal.
The students are learning about American Imperialism of the 19th, and early 20th century.
Assignment #1 students made a timeline of events.
Assignment #2 students took down notes from the board and made a graphic organizer.
Assignment #3 students  read a selection from the book about the Panama Canal, and took down notes from each paragraph, on a graphic organizer.
Assignment #4 students will watch an episode of Modern Marvel about the Panama Canal, and complete a accountiblity assignment.  
Assignment#5  students made history bingo cards that incorporated Imperialism facts to include: Annexing of Hawaii, Spanish-American War, Purchase of AK.
Test-  Teacher written multiple choice test.

Around the year 1900 the country shown here as Panama was just a province of the larger country shown here as Columbia.  The United States had offered several times to buy Panama from the Columbians, but had been refused.  President Teddy Roossevelt became famous around this time period for saying "speak softly and carry and big stick."  A Panamian revolution occured and the United States immediately recognized Panama as a free and independent country.  U.S. military forces just happened to be on the scene to prevent any response from Columbia to sieze Panama back.


Teddy Roosevelt is seen here.  

The United States quickly began construction of the Panama Canal.   The  idea of building a canal was over 300 years old, and thought of as soon people realized the area of Panama was only 51 miles wide.  The cartoon above is a some what accurate representation of the situation as the canal would have to go through the mountains, which no canal had ever done before.   In fact, a French company had tried to dig the canal previously, but failed and went broke in the process.  Many people thought it would be impossible to build the Panama Canal.  Construction of the Panama Canal began in 1904, and took 10 years to finish; it was was finished in 1914.  It cost 375 million dollars to build.   

Look at the cartoon.  What is the cartoon saying?

Cartoons have a tremendous amount of symbolism in them.  They tend to build on the truth, and then use symbolism, as is to make some point.

The reasons for building the canal were very simple.  Building the canal saved ships both the time and the fuel required to sail the 8000 miles around South America.  See the map below.  Before the Panama Canal ships from the Pacific Ocean had to sail around South America to reach Europe, and vice versa.  

This period time when the Panamian revolution occured and the building of the Panama Canal is an example of American Imperialism. America had tried to buy the whole area known as Panama from the nation of Columbia.  When Columbia did not want to make the sale the United States either made the revolution happen or was extremely opportunistic and took advantage of the situation to build the canal.  


The design appears simple, but it was revolutionary for its time.   Each side of the canal has 3 locks.  The locks are chambers that open and close, allowing ships to pass into them.  Once the ships are in, the lock's doors close and water is either added or released, to either raise or lower the ship to the next level of the canal.  Notice two lakes are part of the Panama Canal: Gatun Lake and Miraflores Lake.   Are the ships being raised or lowered the mountains in Panama? Which lock is the longest?  Which lake is the largest?  Which two oceans are connected through the Panama Canal?

The ships enter the canal by way of the locks.  Notice the photo on the right,  why would they have two lanes of locks?  This is because the canal acts just like a road, with ships going in both directions. Also, notice the small tug boat on the right hand photo; what is it doing?


Here are photos of ships passing through the two lakes.
New Jersey Panama Canal.jpgpanamacanalship.jpg

In the photos above, we have ships moving through the lake portions of the Panama Canal.  Notice the photo on the right,  why  are the hills stair stepped back from the lake? This is because the Panama Canal actually cuts through mountains.  

In the photos you can see the types of ships that use the Panama Canal.  

Panama canal 022sp.jpg

In closing, the Panama Canal is primarily for used to transport the trade between nations.  A little known fact about the canal is that is being updated with new technology and enlarged, just as the 100 year aniversary of its opening approaches.

This concludes this portion of the webspage.  Thanks for looking.

Last Modified: Apr 20, 2010

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