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Workers Have Rights: Third and Fourth Graders Learn About Labor Day

written by: Patricia Gable • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 7/30/2016

When we think of Labor Day, we think of two things: a long weekend and the beginning of a new school year. But what is Labor Day? How and why did it become a national holiday? In this lesson, third and fourth graders will explore the answers to these questions.

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    Objectives

    3rd and 4th Graders Learn About Labor Day 1. Retell stories to describe past events, people and places. SS03-S01-C01-04

    2. Use primary source materials (e.g., photos, artifacts, interviews, documents, maps) to study people and events from the past. SS03-S01-C01-03

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    Vocabulary

    • Labor: work, workers
    • Honor: to pay respect to
    • Conditions: the way something is
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    Materials

    • Reference material such as computer websites, encyclopedias, etc.
    • Poster board or 12’x18" construction paper
    • Art supplies
    • Writing supplies
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    Procedure

    Ask your students, “What time do you get up on a school day? What time do you usually go to bed?"

    Generally, the timespan between rising and bedtime will be about 14 hours.

    Then say, “Imagine if you had to work in a factory almost the entire time that you are awake. You may be working on machines or with tools that are not safe. By the end of each day, you are tired, dirty and sore. No time to play, watch TV or see your friends.

    “Over 100 years ago, many children and adults had this kind of life, working hard in unsafe conditions receiving very little pay.

    “If you, your parents or relatives had this kind of life how would you feel? What would you do to change things?

    “Labor Day began because of these conditions. You will be working in small groups to find out more about this national holiday."

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    Activity

    Arrange students in small groups to explore one aspect of Labor Day. Provide time, resources and materials.

    Subjects can be:

    • Peter McGuire
    • September 5, 1882
    • Ways We Can Celebrate Labor Day Now
    • What Was the Purpose of the Labor Days in the Beginning?
    • What are Labor Unions?
    • Jobs Children Had in the 1800s

    Each group should take some notes on what they have learned. Then make a poster to advertise an event or provide information about the topic they have researched. Add drawings or photos. Be prepared to present what you have learned to the rest of the class.

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    Homework

    Interview a parent:

    • How many hours do you work per week?
    • Are you in a union?
    • Do you feel your job is safe?
    • Do you know what kind of jobs grandparents or great-grandparents had and how their jobs compare to jobs today?

References