Amana Colonies People and the Land: How Culture and Nature Create Place

Introduction

The Amana Colonies are a unique place in Iowa. With roots in a communal religious society and over 150 years of ownership of a tract of about 26,000 acres, the community's history provides an interesting contrast to Iowa history. Driving into the Amana Colonies from the surrounding farmland, it is readily apparent that a different way of using and managing the land occurs there. The forests are larger, the land use more diverse, and the towns arranged differently. At the same time, many of the same historical trends have affected both the state as a whole and the Amana farms and villages.

Through understanding the Amana Colonies' environmental history, students can gain insight into how economic, cultural, religious, and environmental influences have shaped history and the communities in which they live today. They will increase their knowledge of how the Iowa landscape has supported human, animal, and plant communities and how these communities have changed, while gaining skills they can use to understand the environment that surrounds them.

The lessons in this guide utilize Amana Colonies history to teach Iowa Core Curriculum skills (listed at the end of each lesson). The lessons provide students with historical background and a chance to explore different elements of the relationship between people and the land in Amana. They can be taught as a group or individually.

 

Guide Components

Historical Overview

This overview of Amana Society history provides information about the history of the Amana Colonies. Each lesson has additional background information specific to each topic.

Amana Landscape

Explore the landscape the Amana Colonists found when they arrived in 1855, then build a model of the landforms, habitats, and fauna found in the Iowa River valley before large-scale agriculture transformed the landscape.

Land Use in Amana

Learn about how the Amana Society made use of the prairies, forests, and wetlands in the Iowa River valley; then create a land use plan for the same tract of land. Will it be communally-owned or subdivided into individual farms? Will it have a wetland reserve?

Lily Lake

The Lily Lake in Amana is home to a remarkable number of native species. Write a story about a day in the life of one of them. Will you be a dragonfly zooming above the lake? Or a muskrat building a den? Or a bulrush swaying in the wind?

Photo Sleuths

Study historical photographs for clues about how residents of the Amana Colonies used natural resources and how they affected the environment.

Photo Sleuths

Study historical photographs for clues about how residents of the Amana Colonies used natural resources and how they affected the environment.

Amana in the Newspapers

Using historical newspaper articles as examples, write an article about the Amana Colonies today. How can the things that make the Colonies unique be described?

History Collage

Create an image-based comparison of different eras in the history of the Iowa River valley at Amana. See what has changed and what has remained the same as cultural, economic, and technological changes have shape the communities and the land.

Student Resources

Complete list of resources for students.

Teacher Resources

Complete list of resources for teachers.

 

Acknowledgements

The lessons in this curriculum were written by Jennifer Ott, with the assistance of Lanny Haldy, Amana Heritage Society director. A number of people have been very helpful in the development of this curriculum guide. We would like to thank John McGrath and Larry Gnewikow from the Amana Society, Inc.; Kelly Van Gelder, Leanne Nelson, Gretchen Muhlenbruck, Tarena Toy, and Molly Wait from Clear Creek-Amana School District; Peter Hoehnle from Iowa Valley Resource Conservation and Development in Amana, and Leroy Graesser and Roy Moser, former Amana Society farm managers. Thank you, also, to Wendy Sandersfeld, Datahaus, for designing the curriculum guide website.

Silos and Smokestacks

We would love to hear your comments and suggestions about the curriculum guide. Email the Amana Heritage Society at amherit@juno.com

We would also like to thank the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area General Grant Program for supporting the development of this curriculum guide.