by Martha Sharma

The United States has always been a nation of immigrants, but in recent years the racial and ethnic composition of the country has begun to change as immigrants have arrived from different areas than in the past. From colonial days, immigrants have shaped our national culture and left their mark on the landscape. But as new groups gain prominence, what changes can we expect? How will the national culture be affected? Students need to understand the implications of changing patterns in immigration at multiple scales—national, state, and local—so that they will be able to participate in informed decision making in the future.


  • To understand historical and contemporary patterns of immigration to the United States
  • To observe immigrant markers in the cultural landscape
  • To identify trends in population change in the local state and community

Grade Level: Grades 9-10 [These activities can also be adapted for use with younger or older students.]

Student Activities

[Note: This lesson assumes that students already have a basic understanding of the process of migration and the forces that cause people to leave their homes for a new country. Before beginning the lesson, introduce or review such terms as: migration, immigration, emigration, push factors, pull factors, diversity.]

Lesson Resources

Mapping Census 2000 (U.S. Census Bureau)

"International Migration: Facing the Challenge,"Population Bulletin 57.1 pp.6-9 (PDF: 380KB) [Note: The page numbers provided refer to the pages of the publication, not the pdf file.]

Central Concepts: Diversity, migration, immigration

Case Locations: United States, Minnesota, Minneapolis-St. Paul [State and metropolitan examples can be modified to reflect the local area]

Content Standards

National Geography Standards
Standard 9 (Human Systems): The characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth's surface.
• Understand why people live where they do, and why they move from place to place.
• Understand spatial variation in the social, cultural, and lifestyle characteristics of human populations.

Minnesota Geography Standards
Spatial Organization: Populations—Benchmark 4
• Students will use the concepts of push and pull factors to explain the general patterns of human movement in the modern era, including international migration, migration within the United States and major migrations in other parts of the world.

Special thanks to Donald D. Peterson, Debbie Lange, and Linda Jacobsen for reviewing this lesson plan.