The following classroom resource is offered to teachers who would
like to use St. Anthony Messenger in the classroom. This
resource is prepared with high school students in mind, but can
be adapted for other age groups. We will feature one article for
classroom use each month. Back issues, beginning in May 1997, contain
a Teachers Guide. Teachers with access to computer labs should
encourage students to access the article directly online. Students
have our permission to print out a copy of the article for classroom
use. We encourage you and your students to subscribe to the print
edition of St. Anthony Messenger, where you will see all
of the graphics, and more articles that you might find useful on
a variety of topics. Please let us know how we can improve this
service by sending feedback to StAnthony@franciscanmedia.org.
The Famine That Brought
The Irish to America
This months classroom
resource will connect to curriculum in the following areas:
Social Studies - famine in different cultures and periods
Literature - Irish writing and poetry History - American and Irish
timelines for the mid-1840s; patterns and effects of immigration
Religion - cultural/historical influences on faith and devotion;
IDEA ONE - SOCIAL
Famine in History and Today
with your students the impact of dependence on one food for economic
and individual survival. Ask your students to imagine life without
fast-food French fries or potato chips. For us Americans its
only one food, but still one that would be strongly missed. For
the Irish of the 1840s, potatoes were almost their only
food, and economically their only source of income. A potato disease
and the ensuing failed crops cost a million people their lives.
the country to emigrate to America. To get a feeling for what
this is like, your students can research a famine ship (coffin
ship) diary written by a man named Gerald Keegan in February,
1847. See the Web site http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/sadlier/irish/biblio.htm.
repeats itself. A major famine is occurring now in North Korea.
One source (World Vision, Inc.) says that 85% of the children
in North Korea are presently malnourished. Relief efforts often
bog down in state and international politics. Your students can
research this at http://www.worldvision.org.
World Vision is a non-profit Christian relief service dedicated
to eradicating world hunger. Incidentally, the organization was
started in the 1950s to bring relief to children orphaned
in the Korean War.
throughout the world, 34,000 children die of hunger or hunger-related
illness every day, according to World Vision. Can your students
understand what this means? Every day the equivalent of a small
town or a large university population dies from hungerevery
how some students work to combat hunger in todays world,
This is a world-wide effort that engaged a million teens from
21 countries this past February.
on social justice, your students can research several other Web
sites. Relief agencies are working in North Korea, Ethiopia and
other parts of the world to provide justice for those deprived
of basic human rights. These agencies educate caregivers, train
farmers, and provide money for loans and start-up programs for
the economically deprived. See http://www.catholicrelief.org;
B. History in Writing and Poetry:
have long been known for their contributions to literature and
culture. Compare the message of How the Irish Saved Civilization,
by Thomas Cahill, Doubleday, New York, 1995, to what the Irish
experienced when they immigrated to America during the Potato
Famine. Cahill says the Irish kept culture and writing alive during
the Dark Ages in European history. Judy Ball, the author of this
months article, describes how the Irish immigrants who came
to America during the Potato Famine found that their countrymen
who preceded them and other Americans were now more educated and
more well off than they. These Irish were now perceived as ignorant
laborers, a far cry from the situation described in Cahills
Social Influences on Religion:
describes how the immense depths of pain experienced
by the Irish led them to a religious faith influenced by melancholy.
can brainstorm in small groups to identify religious and devotional
practices currently in use in their own communities. Compare these
practices to those described in the article. Do we in present-day
America come to faith and religion from a life of suffering and
pain? If we are materially comfortable, do we express our faith
differently from others who suffer daily?
students find several passages from the Book of Job in the Old
Testament that may express sentiments similar to what the Irish
may have felt. Is there any comparison to Moses and the Jewish
people as they journeyed, often in frustration and anger, looking
for the Promised Land?
classes, a challenging project (perhaps for extra credit) would
involve writing a short story for children based on an historical
event related to the Potato Famine. See Reflecting
A New Confidence: Irish Historical Fiction for Children
by Celia Keenan. ( Note: This site is available only through
a subscription to Project Muse, an online journal service. Many
libraries provide this access to their members free of charge.)
Using guidelines suggested by the author, guide your students
in writing, singly or as a small group, a short story based on
an Irish childs experience during the Potato Famine, or
on the journey to America, or living in a new land.
IDEA TWO - HISTORICAL
provide students with a context or framework in which to place
the Irish Potato Famine, or the Great Hunger, as it is sometimes
called, help them to research and put together several timelines.
A timeline of Irish history:
(Caution: there are other timelines, sometimes irreverent, on
this site.) Also see the Web pages of the Ancient Order of Hibernians,
an Irish society aimed at maintaining Irish culture (http://www.aoh.com).
Besides timelines, this site contains a wealth of perspectives
on Irish culture. It will provide access to modern Irish commentators
and poets writing on the Great Hunger.
of the Penal Codes, years before the American Revolution.
becomes part of Britain.
A timeline of American history:
What Happened When, by Gordon Carruth, Signet, New York,
1989. This paperback offers a year by year chronology of life
and events in America, framing them all by each presidency. Highlights
of 1845 to 1848 include:
admitted to Union; first baseball club formed; Edgar A. Poe
declared with Mexico; Herman Melville publishes first novel,
Typee; Mormons leave Illinois on trek across Plains;
establishment of Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
Mitchell discovers new comet from Nantucket, Massachussetts;
Brigham Young reaches Salt Lake City.
with Mexico; Wisconsin admitted to Union; first medical school
for women established in Boston.
Other historical perspectives:
or your students have access to America Online, you can reach
a number of documents on the Potato Famine. Use keyword REFPERIODICALS,
go to Electric Library, then to Research Zone, then enter Potato
Famine, Ireland. You need to subscribe at $59.95 a year
to gain access online to the articles contents, but for
no cost you can get a list of the pertinent articles from recent
periodicals and find them elsewhere, perhaps in a library. An
example would be the Los Angeles Times article on Coffin
Ships from September 3, 1995.
Studies classes: to help students appreciate the causes and impact
of immigration, guide them in researching immigration history
and patterns. For historical trends in immigration, and for related
legislative history, see http://www.fairus.org/history.htm.
This site demonstrates that immigration today is bigger than ever.
In the 1990s, two immigrants per minute entered the
United States! Half of the current immigrants to the U.S. come
from ten countries, one of which is still Ireland. Other statistics
are found at http://www.fairus.org/html/042us604.htm.
to research and map the major immigration routes used by the Irish
during the Potato Famine. This will include America (through Ellis
Island, New York) and Canada (through Grosse Ile, Quebec).
other major immigrations that have occurred before or since the
Irish movement to America? Research the slave ships bringing Africans
to America; the immigration of Jews from Germany and Austria to
escape Nazism; Asian immigration; the movements from Cuba and
Haiti to Florida; recent movements within African states, in Armenia
and in Bosnia.
emerge? Are there common causes for any of these movements? What
factors influence them?
some of these Internet sources for reference. Be aware, however,
that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained
within the sites archives.
The New York Times
The Los Angeles Times
This site will take you to a number of online publications
The Associated Press
The Chicago Tribune
The Washington Post
The links contained within this resource guide are functional
at the time the page is posted. Over time, however, some of the links
may become ineffective.
These links are provided solely as a convenience to you
and not as an endorsement by St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan
Communications of the contents on such third-party Web sites. St. Anthony
Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications is not responsible for the
content of linked third-party sites and does not make any representations
regarding the content or accuracy of materials on such third-party Web
sites. If you decide to access linked third-party Web sites, you do
so at your own risk.