Web of Interdependence
- Grades: 3–5
- Unit Plan:
- Identify reasons why people left or emigrated from a colonial American town.
- Write a journal entry on how their trade is affected when the blacksmith leaves town.
- Ball of string or yarn for activity
- Cards 4" X 6" or 5" X 8" or 1/2 of a "sentence strip"
- Hole punch
- Laminating machine
- List of Colonial Jobs (PDF)
- Neck yarn or string for cards
- Student journals
Set Up and Prepare
- For each child, write out a profession card with a job number on the back; laminate and punch a hole in the card.
- Put yarn/string through so that children can wear their professions around their necks.
This lesson is 40-50 minutes long and occurs after the students have already discussed the meaning of interdependence. We've set up our classroom as a little town, and they have chosen their future professions.
Step 1: Review why each student (or colonist) emigrated from his/her country of origin to the colonies. Possible reasons: economics, religious freedom, adventure, land, etc.
Step 2: Each child receives a laminated card with his/her profession printed on the card and a corresponding number printed on the back of the card. The children sit in a circle.
Step 3: The teacher has a ball of yarn or string and a sheet of all the List of Colonial Jobs (PDF) in numerical order. Hand the loose end of the yarn to the person holding card #1 (the farmer) and say, "You were probably one of the first people to come to this area, because you are so self-sufficient. You grow or make whatever you need to live."
Keep unrolling the string as you hand it to the next job on the list. Children continue to hold their part of the yarn as the ball moves to the next person. A web is being made.
Step 4: As you unravel the string, explain why the next job would come into the community. (Example, after the blacksmith comes, then the cooper and wheelwright have access to metal and can join the community).
Step 5: Once the last job is attached, you have a big circle of children with a web of string connecting all of them together. Comment on how linked, or interdependent, the community is.
Step 6: Have the children stand. Now, the blacksmith gets a better offer from a community down the road and leaves our town. The blacksmith sits down still holding the string.
Step 7: You ask, "Uh oh, who does that impact? Who doesn't have what they need in order to perform their job?" As students raise their hands (example: Cooper needs metal to bind barrels; tanner needs metal tools; wheelwright needs metal rims; the gunsmith needs metal; and, the sawyer requires metal tools). All those professions sit down.
Step 8: "Now, because of all those people who left our community, who else doesn't have what they need to perform their jobs?" (The tavern keeper doesn't have enough people coming to use services to keep him in business, the cabinetmaker has no wood, and the shopkeeper doesn't have enough business or storage barrels).
Step 9: This really goes fast, because once so many people have moved out of town, then all the "luxury item jobs" (such as the printer, paper and bookseller, silversmith, whitesmith, pewter artisan, glassblower, tailor, milliner, limner, candle maker) don't have customers. Then the service people in the community like the apothecary, doctor, teacher, and barber won't be paid because the others are not making money. All of these children sit down like little dominoes.
Step 10: At the end, the community consists of the two it began with, the self-sufficient farmer and dairymaid. The town is gone.
Step 11: Discuss what the students learned from this. In their journals, have the students write their own personal account of the downfall of their town.
When you have a few extra minutes in class, have students give you a number between 1 and 26. Look on the List of Colonial Jobs sheet and see which job it is. Tell the class the name of the job, and see how many people they think would be affected if this job moved out of town. They will soon learn who is critical to the town and who is not.
- Complete the journal entry if it was not completed in class.
- Write a second journal entry telling what you could do to keep this from happening to their town.
- Did it seem relevant to the students?
- Did they stay focused on the main idea and not get overly involved with the physical activity?
- Could the students write about the experience coherently?
- During the discussion did the students understand the meaning of interdependence in colonial life?
- Did their journal entries reflect an understanding of what would happen in a community if certain key personnel left?
- Did they recognize who were the "key" personnel?
- Did they "personalize" the experience?