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Labor on the Brooklyn Bridge


As part of a week-long exploration of the Brooklyn Bridge at CITYterm, an experience-based residential semester program, I co-taught a lesson about the labor that went into the icon.


The Brooklyn Bridge was built before standardized labor union laws, so conditions were rough and laborers had little support. Rather than telling students this, we gave them "job cards" we created and told them to consider their satisfaction with their job and their pay. I acted as Henry Murphy, the man who funded the bridge, and my co-teacher, Lisa, acted as John Roebling, the architect of the bridge.


By taking on the role of a character, students felt connected to their stance. I taught this lesson six times and everytime, there were heated arguments and passionate soapboxing. Relatedly, because peers in the classroom were taking on the oppositionary roles, every student was able to see and hear the reactions of laborers who might disagree with their character's point of view. 


To see the lesson plan we created and the roles students took on, see below.

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