Lesson 207: Panama: A City and a Canal

Panama City has been a pivotal shipping port for hundreds of years, over water and over land. Today it has become an economic powerhouse, the Hong Kong of the Americas, thanks to its booming canal. The canal cannot function without the services provided by the huge rainforest that envelopes it.

Learning Objective

Students will learn more about the economic importance of the Panama City and canal.

Social Studies Standards

Science, Technology, & Society A, C

Discussion Prompts

  • The Panama Canal is used by most countries for importing or exporting goods. What are some of the reasons that the United States had to justify the assistance of building the Panama Canal?
  • From what you observed in the video, what examples could describe how progress impacted the environmentally friendly architectural features surrounding the buildings in the old and new cities?
  • According to David Yetman’s historical account, Henry Morgan, the pirate, attacked and sacked the city. What did Henry Morgan take from Panama City during this attack?
  • In the video, the scientist on the boat knew that humans had been in certain areas of the rainforest because of the trees that were not native to that area. What fauna and flora species were introduced to your area and how are they viewed by scientists?

Lesson Activities

  • The major urban cities of the Western Hemisphere according to the video are San Francisco, Los Angeles, Panama, and Lima. Find at least five similarities and differences that everybody would think of and then find a similarity and difference that nobody would think of.
  • Create a T-chart listing some of the pros and cons of the commerce industry expansion because of the Panama Canal’s construction and write a conclusion about your findings.
  • Create a replica of the design of the Panama Canal including places, nature, people impacted by this architectural achievement and the idea of the water staircase.
  • Henry Morgan needed help to attack Panama. Write a letter, as if you were Henry, enticing or/and inciting people to join his pirate business activities. Reasons for the attack and financial compensations must be cited in the letter.


  • commerce
  • embarkation
  • introduced species
  • isthmus
  • passage
  • pirates
  • pivotal
  • powerhouse
  • seceded
  • water staircase