Lesson Plan

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Students will:

  • Create a list of "push" and "pull" factors that cause people to move from one place to another.
  • Consider the ideas of "cultural pluralism" and the "melting pot" while discussing to what extent immigrants today should integrate themselves into American society.
  • Watch video clips and complete the student handout with questions about the immigrant experience of an American couple who emigrated to Tanzania.
  • Conduct research and/or an interview to produce an immigrant profile on a fellow student, friend in the community, living family member, or an ancestor in their family tree who came from another land to the United States.

SUBJECT AREAS: Behavioral Studies, Geography, U.S. History, or to introduce migration or immigration studies. (See related learning standards below.)



  • TV and VCR or DVD player
  • Copy of POV: A Panther in Africa (Note: POV broadcasts can be taped off-air and used for educational purposes for up to one year from the initial broadcast. Alternatively, K-12 schools can Buy the Film.)
  • Transcript of film (PDF file, 152 KB, for teacher planning purposes)
  • Student handout (PDF file, 64 KB)
  • Maps that show the locations of Kansas City, Missouri and Tanzania.

Note: A PDF version of this lesson plan is available for download. Adobe Acrobat Reader— is required to view PDF files. Get Acrobat Reader.

ESTIMATED TIME: Two 50-minute class periods, plus outside class time for students to produce immigrant profiles. Additional class time would be needed if you want students to share their completed profiles with the rest of the class.


For various reasons, millions of people have left their homelands and emigrated to the United States. This stream of immigrants continues today, bringing both new talent and challenges to American society. This lesson examines some of the reasons behind human migration and seeks to raise student awareness about what immigrants experience as they settle in a new place.

The lesson first examines the immigrant experience from the perspective of Americans who moved to a foreign land. Pete and Charlotte O'Neal were members of the Black Panther Party in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1969, Pete was arrested for transporting a gun across state lines. One year later, he fled the charge and has lived in exile in Tanzania for more than 30 years. In many ways, Pete and Charlotte have adapted to life in Tanzania. At the same time, they have held on to their Black Panther roots and their identity as African-Americans.

The Black Panther Party, founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, opened up its first chapter in Oakland, California in 1967. Its Party Platform and Program sought improved conditions for African-Americans, and reflected the Black Power trend at that time towards separatism and community control, as opposed to integration and nonviolence. While the Panthers were more commonly known for their guns, berets, leather jackets, and militant rhetoric, they also provided meals for the poor, free medical clinics, and other social services. For more information on the Black Panther Party and its history, please see the links provided in Extension 6 of this lesson plan.

After looking at the experience of moving away from the U.S., the lesson then asks students to research the experiences of someone who moved to the U.S. and produce an immigrant profile.


Step 1:
Ask students to write in their journals or on a separate piece of paper about why people move from one place to another. Have them include specific examples from their lives or from previous academic studies to support their ideas. Allow about five minutes for students to record their thinking.

Step 2:
Explain to students that the reasons people move from place to place can be classified into "push" and "pull" categories. For example, a student's family may have moved to the area (or the United States) for better employment opportunities, a "pull" factor. An historical example of a "push" factor would be when persecution prompted a number of religious groups to leave Europe and colonize the Americas. Ask students to refer to what they've written and then name additional factors that might "push" people to move from one place to another. Students should also provide an example of a person or group who likely moved because of that reason. Do the same for "pull" factors. Organize responses in a class chart while students record a copy in their notes.

Step 3:
Remind students that nearly every family in the United States has an immigrant heritage. And due to a number of "push" and "pull" factors, the tradition of immigration in the U.S. is still going strong. According to the U.S. Office of Immigration Statistics, just over one million people were legally admitted to the United States in 2002. Many others came illegally. Ask students to consider to what extent immigrants today should assimilate, or integrate themselves into American society. Should they learn to speak English? Follow American clothing trends? Listen to popular music by U.S. artists? Celebrate the same holidays? Be required to study U.S. history and civics? Explain that some have referred to America as a great "melting pot" where immigrants from all over the world should blend into a single American culture by leaving behind their native customs, learning to speak English, and adopting American ways and traditions. Others, however, advocate for "cultural pluralism," where immigrants should proudly retain their native backgrounds so that many cultures co-exist together to form one society. (This view is sometimes compared to a "mosaic" or an "orchestra.") Ask students which of these viewpoints they agree with the most, or if they can think of another metaphor that they think better describes to what extent immigrants should assimilate into American society. Also, briefly discuss the pros and cons of preserving one's cultural heritage when moving to a new place.

Step 4:
In order for students to better understand what immigrants experience, explain that you are going to play part of a video that shows an American man named Pete O'Neal and his wife Charlotte, who moved from the United States and settled in the country of Tanzania in the early 1970's. Show students where Tanzania and Kansas City are on a map. Set up the video clip by explaining that when Pete O'Neal was growing up in Kansas City, he got involved in criminal activities. Later, he joined the Black Panther Party, a revolutionary movement seeking better conditions for African-Americans. Due to the Panthers' militant strategies, FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover considered the Panthers a threat to U.S. security. A number of Panthers were arrested for various charges, including Pete O'Neal, who was charged with transporting a gun across state lines. Instead of serving prison time, O'Neal fled the charge — and the country — in 1970, and hasn't returned to the United States since. (Note: You may want to introduce the concept of "being in exile" at this point.) Tell students that the clip will show the O'Neals in recent times at their community center in Tanzania, as well as during their Black Panther Party days in Kansas City. Ask students to take notes on what the O'Neals have changed about their lives since they've moved to Tanzania, as well as what they haven't.

At about five minutes into the film
Beginning: "We'd like to welcome you all to the..."

End: "...for a different kind of life."
Length of clip: 4:10

Step 6:
After the clip, discuss the following questions:

  • What were the O'Neals' first impressions of Tanzania?
  • Did Pete and Charlotte O'Neal move to Tanzania because of "push" or "pull" factors? Explain.
  • After they settled in Tanzania, which parts of their lives did the O'Neals keep the same and which did they assimilate? Why do you think some parts of their cultural identity changed while others didn't? Do you think they should have changed more? Less? Why?

Step 7:
Explain to students that you are going to show another video clip that shows what happened when two Kansas City high school students, Derek and Marty, were selected by one of the O'Neals' community programs to visit Tanzania. Distribute and review the student handout (see Materials section), then play the clip.

At about 28:20 into the film

Beginning: "The whole idea behind the 'Heal the Community' program..."
End: "You take care now. Much love, Brother." (farewell at the airport)
Length of clip: 14:25

Step 8:

After watching the clip, add that at the end of the program from which that clip was taken, Pete O'Neal says that he does not plan to ever return to the United States and that he is going to apply to become a citizen of the Republic of Tanzania. Then, discuss student responses to the questions on the handout. Bring the discussion back to the ideas of "the melting pot" and "cultural pluralism," as well as the students' own metaphor if they developed one. Which of these ideas best describes the immigrant experience of the O'Neals? Why?

Step 9:
Help students bring this examination of the immigrant experience closer to home by asking them to create an immigrant profile based on research or an interview. Students should first choose an immigrant to report on, such as a fellow student, friend in the community, living family member, or an ancestor in their family tree who came from another land to the United States. Next, students should find out some basic information on this immigrant: Name, relationship to student doing the profile, age at the time of immigration, country of origin, "push" or "pull" reasons this person came to the U.S., challenges this person faced upon arrival, and challenges today (if the person is still living). In addition, students should record observations (similar to what they did while watching the O'Neals) about the parts of the immigrant's previous life and culture that have been preserved, and which parts have been assimilated to life in the U.S. If students are profiling an ancestor, they should also note what characteristics, if any, from the country of origin have been maintained by subsequent generations. (Note: Students may need to read a bit about the country of origin in order to identify cultural distinctions. See Resources section below for some helpful websites to get students started.) Encourage students to produce sketches or photographs of key observations, when possible. Decide on a format or choice of formats for students to use when submitting their work, based on student skills, teaching priorities, and available resources. Consider written profiles, PowerPoint presentations, web pages, posters, video reports, front pages of newspapers, and collage with a written summary, organizing details into verse or music, or other means.

Step 10:
If time permits, allow students to share their profiles with the rest of the class. Conclude the lesson by looking again at the previously discussed ideas related to immigrant assimilation: "the melting pot," cultural pluralism," or another that students may have developed. Discuss whether or not student viewpoints on these ideas have changed during the course of the lesson.


Consider the following opportunities for assessment:

  • Give students points for their participation in class discussions.
  • Collect and grade student's handouts.
  • Evaluate the quality and content of the immigrant profiles.


Note: Links open a new window.

  1. Have students bring in examples of news reports that discuss the migration of people. Invite students to share their examples with the class and talk about what "push" and "pull" factors influence the movement of the people involved. Alternatively, build on the "push" and "pull" factor discussion by reading books like, "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck and "Ellis Island: Land of Dreams" by Joan Lowery Nixon, or by viewing the film, "El Norte."
  2. Consider how the issue of assimilation relates to U.S. immigration policy. Have students examine the timeline at the CloseUp Foundation's feature on U.S. Immigration Policy. What types of people have been excluded from entering the U.S. at various times? What historical, political, economic, and social factors might have influenced such exclusions? How might the issue of assimilation by immigrants have affected U.S. policy over time? The feature also provides helpful links to further resources related to immigration policy.
  3. Conduct a study of the country of Tanzania. Helpful sources of information include the U.S. Department of State, the CIA World Factbook, and the University of Pennsylvania's African Studies Center.
  4. How would a member of the Maasai tribe react to a visit to the United States? Have students write a mock journal entry that describes American culture from the Maasai perspective.
  5. Invite an ESL teacher and/or ESL student from your school to visit your classroom and talk about the educational process for students who are learning English as a second language. What challenges do these students face at your school, both academically and socially? What can your students do to help with these challenges?
  6. Explore the Black Panther Party's mission, structure, organizing strategies, community service programs, key activities and players, and influence on contemporary society. What historical events and circumstances facilitated it's rapid rise to prominence? What were the reasons behind its demise? What lessons can be learned from the Black Panther Party? How do the efforts of the Black Panther Party compare to social movements today? Here are some links to get started:
  7. Black Panther Party Newspaper Collection
    This site features a collection of original writings of the Black Panther Party during its first three years of existence.

    The Black Panther Party Platform and Program
    This resource contains the original manifesto of Black Panther Party goals and philosophy.

    The Black Panther Party Research Project
    This site from Stanford University features a list of Panther community programs, a comparison of Panther platforms in 1966 and 1972, and recommended links.

    It's About Time: Black Panther Party Legacy and Alumni
    This site includes an extensive collection of photographs, stories, documents, and other information compiled by Black Panther Party alumni.

    What Was the Black Panther Party?
    This summary of Black Panther Party history was written by the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation.

    The Resources section of this site also contains links to websites about the history and members of the Black Panther Party.

  8. One way that the Black Panther Party shared its messages about social change was through music. Recording artists known as "The Lumpen" shared Panther messages, and Panther leader Elaine Brown signed a deal with Motown Records and recorded "Seize the Time" and "Until We're Free." (See a review of Elaine Brown's music.) Invite students to share examples of recent music that seeks to bring about social change through its messages. (Note: You may want to establish some ground rules about profanity or other objectionable content in the music that would be inappropriate for sharing in a school setting.) Allow students time to share and discuss their musical selections, perhaps in small groups. Ideally, students should also provide listeners with lyric sheets so they can follow along as the song plays and then refer to specific points in the text later. Have students identify the key message of each song. Should music be used as a vehicle to address social issues? What kind of an impact can/does such music have?


Background Notes, from the U.S. Department of State
U.S. government information on countries around the world, including each country's land, people, history, government, political conditions, economy, and its relations with other countries and the United States.

The United African Alliance Community Center

This is the official website of Pete and Charlotte O'Neal's community center in Tanzania. It features photographs of community activities, a history of the center, and related news reports.

United States Office of Immigration Statistics
Access statistical reports as well as official definitions for "immigrant," "refugee," "asylee," etc.

The World Factbook
This resource from the CIA profiles the geography, people, government, economy, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for countries around the world.


These standards are drawn from "Content Knowledge," a compilation of content standards and benchmarks for K-12 curriculum by McRel.

Behavioral Studies

Standard 1: Understands that group and cultural influences contribute to human development, identity, and behavior

Level IV, Benchmark 7
Understands that family, gender, ethnicity, nationality, institutional affiliations, socioeconomic status, and other group and cultural influences contribute to the shaping of a person's identity

Standard 2: Understands various meanings of social group, general implications of group membership, and different ways that groups function

Level IV, Benchmark 5
Understands that social groups may have patterns of behavior, values, beliefs, and attitudes that can help or hinder cross-cultural understanding


Standard 6: Understands that culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions

Level IV, Benchmark 1
Understands why places and regions are important to individual human identity and as symbols for unifying or fragmenting society

Level IV, Benchmark 2
Understands how individuals view places and regions on the basis of their stage of life, sex, social class, ethnicity, values, and belief systems

Standard 9: Understands the nature, distribution and migration of human populations on Earth's surface

Level IV, Benchmark 3
Knows how international migrations are shaped by push and pull factors (e.g., political conditions, economic incentives, religious values, family ties)

Standard 10: Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Level IV, Benchmark 2
Understands how human characteristics make specific regions of the world distinctive

U.S. History

Standard 29: Understands the struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties

Level IV, Benchmark 1
Understands how diverse groups united during the civil rights movement

Standard 31: Understands economic, social, and cultural developments in the contemporary United States

Level IV, Benchmark 5
Understands major contemporary social issues and the groups involved (e.g., the current debate over affirmative action and to what degree affirmative action policies have reached their goals; the evolution of government support for the rights of the disabled; the emergence of the Gay Liberation Movement and civil rights of gay Americans; continuing debates over multiculturalism, bilingual education, and group identity and rights vs. individual rights and identity; successes and failures of the modern feminist movement)