Subject: History, Social Studies

Lesson Length: 45 - 60 mins

Topic: Panama Canal Debate

Grade Level: 8


Analyze the economic, military, and security motivations of the United States to complete the Panama Canal as well as major obstacles involved in its construction. (CPALMS.ORG)

Brief Description: Students will practice their research and debate skills by creating a comic which explains their perspective on a historic event.

Know Before You Start: Students should be familiar with the issues related to the U.S. taking ownership of the Panama Canal.


  • Read and discuss the sample comic. What were the benefits of building the Panama Canal? What were the costs?  Why would  building a canal be difficult? Why did Panama oppose the building of the canal? 

  • As students answer, list arguments for and against on the board.

Activity: After reading, discussing & critically thinking about this issue in class, students will create a comic (minimum 6 frames) that offers a creative take on the issues of whether the United States should have taken over the Panama Canal zone & built the Panama Canal there. 

  • The time period this comic is to take place in is before the Canal itself was built (prior to 1903) or present time if learning about the discussions currently taking place on the topic.
  • The comic should reflect the student’s opinion as to whether or not the building of the canal was a good idea.
  • Students should include specific details supporting their opinion.

Closure: Read comics as a class or display them on a bulletin board or online.


  • Students can work independently, in groups, or with a partner.

  • Allow students to use speech-to-text feature as needed.

  • Provide printout of the sample comic for student reference.

Resources: Comic to print or display: Comic.

Suggested Content Pack(s):