Growing Up, American Style Author: National Constitution Center staff About this Lesson



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Growing Up, American Style



Author:


National Constitution Center staff

About this Lesson


This lesson, which includes a pre-lesson and post-lesson, is intended to be used in conjunction with the National Constitution Center’s Growing Up, American Style program. Together, they provide students with first-hand experience about how life has changed for children living in the United States, specifically with respect to child labor.

In this lesson, students begin by learning about child labor practices in the 1800s and early 1900s. In preparation for the NCC program, they study the photographs of Lewis W. Hine and analyze what his body of work reveals about child labor practices in the U.S. during this time period.

After the program, students turn their attention to current rules about child labor in the U.S., first by learning about the regulations established by the Fair Labor Standards Act and then by working in groups to create posters as part of a public awareness campaign about child labor rules.

Designed for students in grade 3-5, this lesson takes approximately four to six class periods from beginning to end.
B

Grade(s) Level

3-5

Classroom Time


Two or three 45-minute class periods (pre-lesson)

Two or three 45-minute periods (post-lesson)



Handouts

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words student worksheet

Timeline: Child Labor Laws in the U.S. (teacher reference)

True or False? Rules for Children’s Jobs in the U.S. student worksheet

Rules for Children’s Jobs in the U.S. (student reference)

Current Child Labor Regulations in the U.S. (teacher reference)

Constitutional Connections

The Bill of Rights


ackground

The lives of children in the United States have not always been what they are today. In the 1800s and early 1900s, it was much more common for school-age children to spend long days working, whether as farmhands in their parents’ fields, “newsies” (children who sold newspapers) on city streets, or machine operators in industrial factories. In addition to not receiving much formal schooling, children often worked long hours in unsafe conditions and for relatively little pay.

As a result, a child labor movement began to grow in the U.S., beginning in the mid-1800s, when Massachusetts became the first state to pass a law requiring that children under the age of 15 who worked in factories had to receive formal schooling for at least three months each year. By the end of the 19th century, other states had followed suit, but these laws were not enforced consistently.

In 1904, the National Child Labor Committee formed, meaning that a campaign to reform child labor practices began on a national level. Photographer Lewis W. Hine spent many years documenting child labor practices through his work for the Committee. In the early 1900s, Congress passed two laws regulating child labor practices, but the Supreme Court declared both laws to be unconstitutional.

In 1938, during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which established the following guidelines for child labor: children needed to be at least 14 years old to work after school, 16 to work during the school day, and 18 to perform dangerous work, like mining. Exceptions were made, however, for agricultural work and some family businesses.

Today, examples of child labor abuses continue to exist, but it is not as widespread a problem in the U.S. as it was in the 1800s and early 1900s. The FLSA continues to establish many regulations for child labor practices, from the types of jobs that children of different ages may hold to the hours they are allowed to work.



Objectives

  • Learn about child labor practices in the U.S. during the 1800s and early 1900s;

  • Analyze how the photographs of Lewis W. Hine document child labor practices during this time period;

  • Understand basic information about current child labor regulations in the U.S. as established by the Fair Labor Standards Act; and

  • Create a public awareness campaign about current child labor regulations.


Standards

8.1.3.C: Conduct teacher guided inquiry on assigned topics using specified historical sources.
8.3.3.C: Identify and describe how continuity and change have impacted U.S. history.

  • Belief systems and religions

  • Commerce and industry

  • Technology

  • Politics and government

  • Physical and human geography

  • Social organizations


8.3.3.D: Identify and describe how conflict and cooperation among groups and organizations have impacted the history and development of the US.


  • Ethnicity and race

  • Working conditions

  • Immigration

  • Military conflict

  • Economic stability

Activity

Pre-Lesson

  1. Begin the lesson by asking students to write down a list of everything they did yesterday, starting with when they woke up and ending with when they went to bed. If yesterday was not a school day, use the most recent school day instead.

Encourage students to be as specific as possible in writing down how they spent their time, including how long they spent on each activity. Activities may include the following: going to school, doing homework, playing outside with friends, going to sports or dance practice, eating dinner with their families, reading, watching TV, playing video games, doing their household chores, taking a shower, etc.

  1. Once students have completed their lists, ask volunteers to share their lists with the rest of the class. Lead a brief discussion about how students spent their days by asking the following questions:

  • What did you spend most of your time doing?

  • Which activities did you enjoy the most? The least?

  • Which activities did you do by choice? Which did you have to do? Why?

  • If you were younger, how do you think your day would have been different? What about if you were older?

  • What similarities do you notice among all of your lists? Why do you think this is?

  • What differences do you notice among all of your lists? Why do you think this is?




  1. Emphasize that, while no two students spent their days in exactly the same ways, all of them spent a significant portion of their time in school. This is understandable because children between the ages of 8 and 11 are expected to attend school, whether they go to public, private, parochial, or other types of schools, like home schools. Many years ago, however, this was not necessarily the expectation that society had for children of their age. For children of elementary-school age, a typical day often involved working, not going to school. Review the following information with students:




  • As the U.S. became a more industrialized (machine-driven) society in the 1800s, child labor became more common, mostly because children worked for less money and were less likely to strike. Before this period, many children had worked on their parents’ farms, but industrial work was often more grueling and dangerous for children than farm work.

  • By the 1900s, children worked in many different types of industries, including mines, glass factories, agriculture, textiles, and canneries. They also delivered newspapers, worked as messengers, and sold goods on the street. Many children worked extremely long hours (12-18 hours a day) for little money. Their working conditions were often dirty or dangerous and caused them to contract illnesses. Child laborers often had to sacrifice their schooling in order to work.

  • By the 1900s, many states had laws regulating child labor. For example, Massachusetts passed a law in 1836 requiring that children under the age of 15 who worked had to receive formal schooling for at least three months each year. In 1842, Massachusetts passed a second law limiting a child’s work day to 10 hours. (It’s worth putting this law into perspective for your students. While many adults in the U.S. no longer work solely from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., a 9 to 5 workday is still only eight hours!). But, states did not necessarily enforce their child labor laws consistently.




  1. Explain that many people in the U.S., particularly in the Northern states, were opposed to child labor by the end of the 1800s and began advocating for reform. Some people expressed their outrage by documenting child labor practices so that others would understand the types of conditions that young children were working in. One such person was photographer Lewis W. Hine, who spent several years photographing children working in a range of settings, from cotton mills in Georgia to coal mines in Pennsylvania.

Have students break up into pairs and look at The History Place, a website that has compiled dozens of Hine’s photographs, including his original captions (http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/childlabor/). Distribute copies of the student worksheet, A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, and have them answer the questions as they look at the website.


When students are finished, discuss the questions and students’ reactions to looking at the photographs. Possible answers include:


  1. What types of jobs did children in the early 1900s have? (They worked in cotton mills, coal mines, glass factories, canning factories, on farms, and on city streets selling newspapers and other goods.)

  2. How would you describe the children’s appearances? (Many of them looked like they did not bathe frequently; their clothing was often torn and ragged; many of the children were young, small and frail, etc.)

  3. What can you conclude about working conditions from looking at the children and reading the captions? (Child laborers worked very long days for little money; they worked all hours of the day; they worked under dangerous conditions; many of them became ill because of their work, etc.)

  4. From reading the captions, why do you think most of these children worked? (They had to work in order to help support their families; some of them wanted to work in order to earn extra money for themselves or for their families; everyone around them was also working; etc.)

  5. Why do you think the first set of photographs is titled “Faces of Lost Youth”? (Many of the children were extremely young and, instead of enjoying childhood and attending school, they were working long hours.)

  6. What surprises you about the lives these children led? (Answers will vary, but students are likely to be surprised by how young some of the children are, how dangerous some of the jobs were, how long the hours were, the amount of money children earned, their lack of education, the types of activities they engaged in outside of work, like smoking, gambling and prostitution, etc.)

  7. What do you learn from looking at these photographs that you might not understand otherwise? (Answers will vary.)




  1. After the discussion, have each student choose one photograph and caption for a free-writing exercise (More than one student can choose the same photograph). Provide students with the following prompt, and give them at least 20-30 minutes to write. Remind them that the photographs can be enlarged in order to see details better.


Prompt: Imagine that you are the child (or one of the children) in this photograph. If you still had a little bit of energy left after working all day, what do you think you would write in your journal? Using what you observe in the photograph and the information provided in the caption, write a journal entry about how you spent your day.


  1. To conclude the lesson, invite students to read their journal entries aloud to the class.


Post-Lesson


  1. After students have participated in the Growing Up, American Style program, they will be more familiar with how life has changed for children in the U.S. over the past 200 years. Toward the end of the program, students will learn about how state and federal laws began to regulate child labor practices in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The handout Timeline: Child Labor Laws in the U.S. is provided toward the end of the lesson plan for your reference.




  1. Explain to students that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which was first passed in 1938, continues to exist today, though it has been changed and updated many times. The FLSA sets rules for minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and child labor practices for employees working in the private sector and in federal, state and local governments. For example, as of July 24, 2009, the minimum wage for nonexempt workers is $7.25 per hour.

For your reference, the U.S. Department of Labor provides a thorough overview of the FLSA (http://www.dol.gov/whd/flsa/index.htm) and answers to frequently asked questions about current child labor regulations (http://www.dol.gov/elaws/faq/esa/flsa/toc.htm#cl) on its website.




  1. In order to help students understand some of the current rules about child labor in the U.S., distribute copies of the student worksheet, True or False? Rules for Children’s Jobs in the U.S., and have them determine whether each of the five statements is true or false.

Review the correct answers with students and provide copies of Rules for Children’s Jobs in the U.S. to students. The handout Current Child Labor Regulations in the U.S. is provided for your reference.




  1. Explain to students that, even though the FLSA establishes much stricter regulations for child labor than those that existed 100 years ago, there are still instances each year when employers in the U.S. violate these regulations. In addition, certain types of child laborers, like the children of migrant workers (workers who move frequently from one region of the country to another in order to find employment, often involving harvesting crops), are not subject to these regulations.

Because strict regulations for child labor do exist, however, it is important for the public, both children and adults, to be educated about what these regulations are. Remind students about the photographs that Lewis W. Hine took, and explain that his work was a type of public awareness campaign designed to help people learn about child labor conditions in the U.S. at that time.


Divide students into mixed-ability groups of three or four. Explain that they will be creating posters as part of a public awareness campaign about child labor rules. When making their posters, students should think about how they can use both pictures and words to share important information about child labor rules. Before students begin working, it may be helpful to do a class brainstorm of ideas. Possible ideas include posters that show the FLSA’s guidelines for:


  • The types of jobs that 8- to 11-year-olds are allowed to have (babysitting, walking dogs, helping parents with chores, acting in TV commercials, selling lemonade, etc.);

  • How the types of jobs that children can have change as they get older;

  • What times of day and how many hours children can work if they are 14 or 15 years old.

Conclude the lesson by having each group share its poster with the rest of the class, and, if possible, have students display their posters in public spaces at school.



Further Resources




  • http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/childlabor/ (The History Place’s collection of photographs and accompanying captions by Lewis W. Hine)

  • http://www.continuetolearn.uiowa.edu/laborctr/child_labor/about/us_history.html

(Child Labor Public Education Project)

  • http://www.dol.gov/whd/childlabor.htm (The U.S. Department of Labor’s website about current child labor laws and regulations)

  • http://www.dol.gov/elaws/faq/esa/flsa/toc.htm#cl (The U.S. Department of Labor’s answers to questions about current child labor laws and questions)





A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words:

What can we learn about child labor from the work of Lewis W. Hine?


As you look at The History Place’s website (http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/childlabor/), answer the following questions about Lewis W. Hine’s photographs.


  1. What types of jobs did children in the early 1900s have?


  1. How would you describe the children’s appearances?




  1. What can you conclude about working conditions from looking at the children and reading the captions?


  1. From reading the captions, why do you think most of these children worked?



  1. Why do you think the first set of photographs is titled “Faces of Lost Youth”?


  1. What surprises you about the lives these children led?



  1. What do you learn from looking at these photographs that you might not understand otherwise?



Timeline: Child Labor Laws in the U.S.

1832: The New England Association of Farmers, Mechanics and Other Workingmen condemn child labor because it endangers their health and well-being.

1836: Massachusetts passes a law requiring that children under the age of 15 who work in factories must attend school for at least three months each year.

1842: Massachusetts passes a law limiting children’s work days to 10 hours.

1899: By the end of the 19th century, 28 states have passed laws that regulate child labor.

1916: Congress passes the first federal law that prohibits transporting goods across state lines if the minimum age laws for employment have been violated.

1918: The U.S. Supreme Court declares the new federal law unconstitutional.

1922: Congress passes a second national child labor law, but the Supreme Court again declares it unconstitutional.

1924: Congress proposes a constitutional amendment that declares child labor to be illegal, but the states do not ratify it.

1938: Congress passes the Fair Labor Standards Act, which establishes that children need to be at least 14 years old to work after school, 16 to work during the school day, and 18 to perform dangerous work, like mining. Exceptions were made, however, for agricultural work and some family businesses.

True or False?

Rules for Children’s Jobs in the U.S.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes rules for children’s jobs in the United States. For each of the statements below, decide if you think it is true or false, and circle your answers.

  1. In order to have most non-agricultural (non-farming) jobs, a child must be at least 16 years old. True or False

  2. Children younger than 14 years old can be hired for the following jobs: picking crops; delivering newspapers; performing in radio, television, movie or theatrical productions; working in some businesses owned by parents; and performing babysitting or other chores in a private home. True or False

  3. Workers who are 14 or 15 years old must work during non-school hours. True or False

  4. Workers who are 14 or 15 years old cannot work after 10 p.m. True or False

  5. Workers who are 17 years and older may perform any job, whether hazardous or not. True or False


Rules for Children’s Jobs in the U.S.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes rules about children’s jobs in the U.S.. Below is information about these rules.



What is the youngest age at which a person can be employed?

  • For most non-agricultural (non-farming) work, a child must be at least 14 years old to work.

  • Children younger than 14 can have the following jobs: working on a farm; delivering newspapers; performing in radio, television, movie, or theatrical productions; working in businesses owned by their parents (except in mining, manufacturing or hazardous jobs); and performing babysitting or perform minor chores around a private home.

Must young workers be paid the minimum wage?

  • For workers under the age of 20, minimum wage is $4.25 per hour.

  • After consecutive 90 days (days in a row) of working, however, workers under the age of 20 must make the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

When and how many hours can youth work?

  • For children who are 16 years and older, there are no rules about how many hours or during which times of day they may work.

  • For children who are 14 or 15 years old, the hours they work must be:

    • Non-school hours;

    • No more than 3 hours in a school day;

    • No more than 18 hours in a school week;

    • No more than 8 hours on a non-school day;

    • No more than 40 hours on a non-school week; and

    • Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (except from June 1 through Labor Day, when they can work until 9 p.m.)

Source: The U.S. Department of Labor (http://www.dol.gov/elaws/faq/esa/flsa/toc.htm#cl)

Current Child Labor Regulations in the U.S.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes regulations for child labor in the United States. Below is information about these regulations.



What is the youngest age at which a person can be employed?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets 14 as the minimum age for most non-agricultural work. However, at any age, youth may deliver newspapers; perform in radio, television, movie, or theatrical productions; work in businesses owned by their parents (except in mining, manufacturing or hazardous jobs); and perform babysitting or perform minor chores around a private home. Also, at any age, youth may be employed as homeworkers to gather evergreens and make evergreen wreaths.

Different age requirements apply to the employment of youth in agriculture.

Many states have enacted child labor laws, some of which may have a minimum age for employment which is higher than the FLSA. Where both the FLSA and state child labor laws apply, the higher minimum standard must be obeyed.

Must young workers be paid the minimum wage?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires payment of at least the federal minimum wage to covered, nonexempt employees.  However, a special minimum wage of $4.25 per hour applies to employees under the age of 20 during their first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment with an employer. After 90 days, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay the full federal minimum wage.

Other programs that allow for payment of less than the full federal minimum wage apply to workers with disabilities, full-time students, and student-learners employed pursuant to sub-minimum wage certificates. These programs are not limited to the employment of young workers.

When and how many hours can youth work?

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the minimum age for employment in non-agricultural employment is 14. Hours worked by 14- and 15-year-olds are limited to:



  • Non-school hours;

  • 3 hours in a school day;

  • 18 hours in a school week;

  • 8 hours on a non-school day;

  • 40 hours on a non-school week; and

  • hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (except from June 1 through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended to 9 p.m.)

Youth 14 and 15 years old enrolled in an approved Work Experience and Career Exploration Program (WECEP) may be employed for up to 23 hours in school weeks and 3 hours on school days (including during school hours).

The FLSA does not limit the number of hours or times of day for workers 16 years and older.

Many states have enacted child labor laws as well. In situations where both the FLSA child labor provisions and state child labor laws apply, the higher minimum standard must be obeyed.

What kinds of work can youth perform?

Regulations governing youth employment in non-agricultural jobs differ somewhat from those pertaining to agricultural employment. In non-agricultural work, the permissible jobs, by age, are as follows:



  1. Workers 18 years or older may perform any job, whether hazardous or not;

  2. Workers 16 and 17 years old may perform any non-hazardous jobs; and

  3. Workers 14 and 15 years old may work outside school hours in various non-manufacturing, non-mining, non-hazardous jobs

Fourteen is the minimum age for most non-agricultural work. However, at any age, youth may deliver newspapers; perform in radio, television, movie, or theatrical productions; work in businesses owned by their parents (except in mining, manufacturing or on hazardous jobs); perform babysitting or perform minor chores around a private home. Also, at any age, youth may be employed as homeworkers to gather evergreens and make evergreen wreaths.

Different age requirements apply to the employment of youth in agriculture.



Must a youth have a work permit to work?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require that youth get work permits or working papers to get a job. Some states do require work permits prior to getting a job. School counselors may be able to advise if a work permit is needed before getting a job.



Source: The U.S. Department of Labor (http://www.dol.gov/elaws/faq/esa/flsa/toc.htm#cl)



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