The Midwest area extends from the Appalachians to the Rocky Mountains, and it largely consists of flat countryside, ideal for farming. Can you find these two mountain ranges on a map? Try and name some states which belong to the Midwest.
Bread Basket, Steel Belt, Rust Belt
It is no coincidence that this region is referred to as the nation’s "breadbasket", as there are vast farms here. In Minnesota and other states west of the Mississippi, the flat prairie landscape stretches out and seems to go on indefinitely. Some of this land made for excellent farmland, and when the government passed the Homestead Act of 1862, millions of Europeans settled here. Many Norwegians settled in places like Wisconsin, Minnesota and the two Dakotas.
The eastern part of the region used to be the industrial center of the country, the so-called “steel-belt”, but after several of the factories were closed down or relocated to other areas, the area saw large unemployment and was re-named “the rust-belt”. The situation is now improving due to the new high tech industries that are being set up.
Major cities include, Chicago (Illinois), home to the 44th US President, Barack Obama, Detroit (Michigan), the automotive capital of the world and the Twin Cities: Minneapolis and St. Paul, (Minnesota). The people of the Midwest are often considered conservative, but also friendly and open. They are known to speak their minds when occasion calls for it.
Tasks and Activities
Sit in pairs and take turns explaining the following expressions.
- Bread basket
- Steel belt
- Rust belt
- Prairie landscape
- The Homestead Act
- High tech industries
- The automotive capital of the world
- Twin Cities
- Choose a major city and make a five minute oral presentation.
- Search on the internet for stories, letters or pictures of Norwegian immigrants who settled in the Mid-West during the 1800s. In groups of three or four, create and present the story of one of these settlers. Include something about how the Homestead Act enabled him/her to start this new life.
- Find music by Bruce Springsteen or other artists that deal with the industrial decline in the USA. 'My Hometown' by Bruce Springsteen may be a good start. What is the atmosphere of the songs - is it characterized by pessimism or a fighting spirit? Present one or two songs in class.
Read more about presentations here: How to Make a Mini Presentation
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