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California Cultures

Lesson Plan: Children in the Fields
The Life of the Hispanic Child Laborer During California's Agriculture Explosion

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Creator: Theresa Chaides, Marquez Charter Elementary / Grade 4

Grade Level Recommendation: 4

Unit Overview: From 1880 to the 1930s, California's population and economy were booming. By the early 1900s, the state was a leading agricultural producer, dominated by corporate agribusiness. To keep prices low and profits high, growers wanted laborers who were migratory, nonwhite, nonunion, and alien. By World War I, most farm workers were Mexican, working 16-hour days in the hot sun. With no schooling available, children worked alongside their parents. Conditions began to improve in 1930s. In the 1960s Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and others organized the United Farm Workers union. Although the federal and state governments passed a series of labor laws restricting child labor, many Hispanic children still work alongside their parents in California's fields today. In this unit students will learn about the California agriculture industry and the experiences of child laborers in this industry.

This lesson plan was originally created at the UCLA Institute on Primary Resources.

Primary source materials used in this lesson plan include:

Doc 1:  A Documentary History of Migratory Farm Labor