Teaching Students About Building The Panama Canal
Building the Panama Canal was a monumental engineering feat that took more than a decade to complete. Today, it is considered one of the world’s most significant engineering achievements, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. As a teacher, you can help your students learn about the history of the Panama Canal and its significance to the world’s trade and transportation.
Begin your lesson by introducing students to the history of the Panama Canal. Explain that it was constructed from 1904 to 1914 under the direction of the United States, with the help of thousands of workers from around the world. Share relevant facts, like that the Panama Canal is a 50-mile-long artificial waterway that cuts through the narrow Isthmus of Panama and that it helped reduce the travel time between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans from weeks to just hours.
Next, teach students the engineering aspects of building the canal. The Panama Canal required dams and locks to be built, as well as the excavation of dirt and rock. Explain that many innovative techniques were required, including steam-powered shovels and explosives. Also, share information about the environment challenges that workers faced, including disease-carrying mosquitoes and harsh tropical weather conditions.
You can also integrate technology into this lesson by showing students pictures and videos documenting the construction of the canal. There are several documentaries available that show the process of building this engineering marvel. Students can watch these programs in class or as homework assignments to help them better visualize the process of constructing the canal.
Another way to enhance this lesson is to encourage students to study the impact that the Panama Canal has had on global trade and transportation since its construction. Ask students to research and present on its effect on shipping and international commerce, as well as the economic and political significance of the canal for different countries.