Understanding Migration: Curriculum Resources for the Classroom (Revised Edition)
Understanding Migration was conceived in response to numerous requests from educators and curriculum specialists concerning the presentation and discussion of issues related to human migration in the social studies classroom. What are the reasons that large groups of people have found themselves moving from place to place? What effects does this movement have? And most importantly, how can such a fluid and nebulous concept be presented in a classroom in an easy-to-follow manner with clear lesson objectives and outcomes? Regional case studies were chosen to address these, and other, essential questions. Where possible, we have used primary source documents to present the information in each case study.
A standards alignment chart for the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and the National Standards for Geography Education is included in the full version of the unit.
This unit was revised in 2011 to reflect the updated Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills approved by the Texas State Board of Education in 2010. The revised version also includes updated information, assessment activities, and incorporates changes suggested by educators based on classroom use.
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Or download specific sections:
Section 1: An Introduction to Migration
Download a ready-to-use PowerPoint presentation that explains the causes and effects of human migration. Descriptions and full explanations, along with historical examples, can be found in the notes pages.
Section 2: Understanding Migration: Classroom Strategies
Two introductory classroom activites are included in Section 2. These activities are designed for use at middle and high school levels, although some suggestions for use at lower levels are included below.
- Student Activity 1 examines migration trends in students' own community through a series of interviews with people that the student knows. This activity can easily be modified for use at the elementary level, either by interviewing one person as a class activity, or using a story or video to collect data for the spectrum graph activity
Download this activity (381 kb)
- Student Activity 2 examines films that deal with immigrants and migration and asks students to think critically about the film and plot elements relating to migration. Since most films dealing with this topic are for more mature audiences, we suggest using this activity at the high school level. There are some films, such as the animated picture An American Tail, that could be used to do this activity with younger audiences.
Download this activity (250 kb)
Section 3: Using T-Charts and Writing Prompts to Explore Migration
Section 3 contains a series of parallel activities that explore specific real-world examples of migration. Each short unit contains a simple reading, written for a middle-level audience, a T-chart activity, and a writing prompt, which can be done as an individual class assignment, in small groups, as an entire class, or as homework.
- Case Study 1: Rural-Urban Migration in Brazil
Brazil is one of many Latin American countries that has faced a trend of rural-urban migration. People in the countryside are poor, and move to try to find a better life in Brazil's cities. But they often lack the skills to get good jobs, and are forced to live in favelas (shantytowns). This activity asks students to think about why people from rural areas would choose to stay or go to the big cities.
Download this case study. (319 kb)
- Case Study 2: The Partition of India
After colonial rule, the British left India in 1947, under the agreement that it be Partitioned-divided-along religious lines. Areas where a majority of Hindus lived were given to India; areas where mostly Muslims lived became the new country of Pakistan. After Partition millions of people found themselves on the "wrong" side of the border. The city of Calcutta and the surrounding area, whose population was 75% Hindu, were awarded to India. This case study asks students to consider whether Calcutta's Muslim residents should remain or to set out and create new lives in Pakistan.
Download this case study. (311 kb)
- Case Study 3: The Palestinian "Right of Return"
One of the most difficult issues that Israelis and Palestinians must solve in order to work out a peace agreement is the issue of the Palestinian "right of return." When the state of Israel was declared in 1947, a war broke out between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Many of the Arab residents who lived in what became Israel fled their homes. Many more fled during the Arab-Israeli war in 1967. Now, many Palestinians are asking for the right to return to their homes in what is now Israel proper. This is an issue that is very emotional for people on both sides of this conflict. Students will consider the reasons for and against the Palestinian 'right of return.'
Download this case study. (319 kb)
- Case Study 4: Nicaraguan Migration during the Sandinista-Contra Years
In 1979, after over four decades of the brutal Somoza dictatorship, the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front, or the Sandinistas) toppled the government. However, the country was in trouble (the economy was in ruins, food was scarce, education was weak, and medical help almost nonexistent) and the Sandinistas were soon fighting a guerrilla war launched by U.S.-backed Contras, or counterrevolutionaries. The new government faced numerous problems. This case study asks students to consider whether Nicaraguans should leave their country to seek peace and stability in other nations.
Download this case study. (324 kb)
- Case Study 5: Migration from the Former Soviet Republics to Russia
The Soviet Union consisted of fifteen "soviet socialist republics," many of which were originally independent nations that had been conquered by the Russian Empire or over the course of the 1917 revolution that established the Soviet Union. In 1989, the last Soviet census listed 128 separate ethnic groups living in the fifteen republics. At the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, more than twenty-five million ethnic Russians were living in the former-Soviet republics outside of Russia. Because Russians formed the dominant group during the Soviet years and often got the best jobs and housing, after the transition Russians still living in these republics were often treated poorly. Students are asked to consider whether these ethnic Russians should try to remain in the post-Soviet republics, or whether to try to make a new life in Russia.
Download this case study. (319 kb)
Section 4: Case Studies for the Advocate-Decision Making Activity
Section 4 is based around an advocate/decision-making activity, or "controlled debate." Instructions and worksheets are included, along with a series of case studies designed to be used in this activity. Each case study includes two pages of essential reading, along with supplemental materials that can be used, if time allows, or can be assigned as homework. We have made a conscious effort to use as many primary document sources as possible in order to help build critical reading and interpretation skills.
The worksheets for Section 4 are included with each case study.
- Case Study: Should rural residents move to Brazil's megacities when faced with dwindling opportunities in the countryside?
Brazil is one of many Latin American countries that have faced a trend of rural-to-urban migration. People in the countryside are poor, and move to try to find a better life in Brazil's urban centers. In cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, however, these migrants often lack the skills to obtain good jobs, and are forced to live in favelas (shantytowns) at the outskirts of the city, which lack basic services like electricity and sewage. Students will read primary source documents to defend their position in the Advocate/Decision-Making Activity.
Download this case study. (2.9 MB)
- Case Study: Should the Egyptian government facilitate the emigration of its own citizens?
In 2003, the government of Egypt launched a Web site to help its citizens find jobs overseas. Advocates of the Web site say that it will help Egypt's "labor surplus" find employment. Opponents argue that the government should not be encouraging emigration as a solution to high unemployment rates. Students will read primary source documents to defend their position in the Advocate/Decision-Making Activity.
Download this case study. (434 kb)
- Case Study: Should people in India move from rural areas to the city to find work?
Like other parts of South Asia, India is experiencing an explosion of rural-to-urban migration. Pressures on agricultural land and the hope for a better life are motivating the rural poor to seek employment in the country's sprawling cities. Many rural households now have members who have migrated to cities for work and these urban migrants often contribute the majority of the household's income. Students will read primary source documents to defend their position in the Advocate/Decision-Making Activity.
Download this case study. (819 kb)
- Case Study: Should Hindus migrate from Lahore and resettle in India after Partition?
After two centuries of colonial rule, the British withdrew from the Indian subcontinent in 1947, under the condition that the colony be divided into two countries: India and Pakistan. New borders were drawn for these countries based on the demographics of the two largest religious communities. India was to be primarily Hindu, while Pakistan would be mostly Muslim. Other religious communities, such as the Sikhs, were left without a specific country of their own. Within months, millions of people found themselves on the "wrong" side of the border — estimates of the number of people uprooted range from 8-18 million. This case study looks at the decision faced by Hindus who found themselves located in Lahore, in the Punjab region. The city, close to the newly formed border, was also one of the last places to be decided upon when the subcontinent was divided. When Lahore was finally awarded to Pakistan, the city's Hindu residents were forced to decide whether to stay or resettle in India. Although the majority of Hindus left Lahore after Partition, some did stay. Students will read primary source documents to defend their position in the Advocate/Decision-Making Activity.
Download this case study. (520 kb)
- Case Study: Should Palestinian Arabs be allowed the "right of return" to Israel?
One of the most important - and difficult - issues facing the teams negotiating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is the issue of the "right of return" for the Palestinians. During the Arab-Israeli war that followed the creation of Israel in 1947, many Palestinians fled their homes. Another wave left the West Bank following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, most of them to settle in neighboring Jordan. Palestinians claim that they have the right to return to their ancestral homes that are now within the internationally recognized borders of the state of Israel, citing a number of resolutions by the United Nations. The Israelis disagree, arguing that, among other things, Israel simply could not absorb all of the people who could potentially be permitted to return. This issue is emotionally charged and difficult to resolve, but its resolution is essential to finding a lasting solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict. Students will read primary source documents to defend their position in the Advocate/Decision-Making Activity.
Download this case study. (561 kb)
- Case Study: Should Nicaraguans have emigrated to other countries during the turbulent years of the Sandinista-Contra upheaval?
In 1979, after over four decades of the brutal Somoza dictatorship, the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front, or the Sandinistas) took control of Nicaragua, with wide support from people throughout the country. However, the country was in trouble - the economy was in ruins, food was scarce, education was weak, and medical care almost nonexistant - and the Sandinistas were soon fighting a guerilla war launched by the U.S.-backed Contras, or counter-revolutionaries. Many Nicaraguans left their country, seeking peace and stability in other nations. Students will read primary source documents to defend their position in the Advocate/Decision-Making Activity.
Download this case study. (410 kb)
- Case Study: Should Russia continue to allow migration from the post-Soviet "successor states," regardless of the migrants' ethnicities?
The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is a loose confederation of 12 former Soviet countries or "successor states," including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1992, more than 25 million ethnic Russians living in the non-Russian republics suddenly found themselves part of a large diaspora community. Over the following years, both ethnic Russians and non-Russians migrated to Russia, for a variety of reasons, causing various problems in post-Soviet Russia. Students will read primary source documents to defend their position in the Advocate/Decision-Making Activity.
Download this case study. (524 kb)