(Culminating activity of a 3 week unit)
By Sandy Frasch (In collaboration
with Kim Markley)
July 24, 2001
Topic (Overall theme):
Traveling the Underground Railroad
60-70 minutes (must have prior knowledge
of URR and related vocabulary)
Grade Level(s): 4
Exploring the emotional, physical, and
intellectual experiences of traveling the Underground Railroad.
(Music, Physical Education, and classroom integration)
Geography Standards Addressed:
9, 12, 13- human systems, 15-environment
Indiana Social Studies Academic
4.1.12-Civil War Era
4.1.16-growth and development
4.1.25- comprehension, analysis, and interpretation
4.2.9-roles of citizens
4.5.7-individuals, society and culture
4.5.1 (Standard 5)-Work cooperatively
with others to obtain a common goal
4.6.1 (Standard 6)-Explore the role of
4.7.1, 4.7.2, 4.7.3 (Standard 7)-participation,
interaction, and social challenges
4.1.1-demonstrate mature movement patterns
Teacher Background Materials:
While traveling through a simulated UGRR,
students will apply the skills of balance, climbing, crawling, pulling,
pushing, rolling, and walking through different pathways and levels while
moving through the obstacle course.
Students will maintain complete silence and
cooperate by assisting each “slave” to complete the obstacle without ringing
the attached bells.
Students will travel North by locating and
following the North Star.
07-24-01-click on PE Talk- This site is where the original idea for the
URR obstacle course was found. http://www.connerprairie.org 07-01-01-
interactive activity location/educational materials
Park Service information on the URR
Books: Winter, Jeanette.
Follow The Drinking Gourd. New York: Dragonfly Books, 1998.
McGovern, Ann. “Wanted Dead or Alive”
The True Story of Harriet Tubman (original title: Runaway Slave).
New York: Scholastic, 1965.
Douglas, Frederick. Narrative of
the Life of Frederick Douglass. Boston: Published at the Anti-Slavery
Howell, Donna Wyant. I Was A Slave:
Book 1: Description of Plantation Life. Washington DC:
American legacy Books, 1995.
Videos: Follow the Drinking Gourd.
Video. Rabbit Ears, 1992. 30 minutes.
Harriet Tubman. Video. Nest
Entertainment, 1996. 30 minutes.
Purpose of Materials:
Various pieces of equipment to create a simulated
journey on the URR. Example: Balance Beam (log); Climbing Ladder
(wall); Tunnel, etc. *See attachment
Bells and String: Bells are tied to
each piece of equipment. Students must complete station without ringing
Full Size Black Sheet: Cut holes in
the sheet in the pattern of the Big and Little Dipper. Hang the sheet
at the North end of the gym.
Trouble Light: This light is hung behind
the sheet in the darkened gym as the only source of light. Students
follow the illuminated North Star.
Tape: A tape of howling dogs and voices
yelling is played for effect as they begin their journey.
Lanterns (2): These lanterns are used
to signal the “all clear” to conductors who are leading their group to
Tape: A tape of spirituals or songs
such as: “Follow the Drinking Gourd”, “Steal Away”, and “Swing
Low Sweet Chariot”. This tape will play softly in the gym during
the entire journey.
***The 5th graders from the previous year
are the conductors, stationmasters, slave catchers, slave overseers, and
Station Masters: (1 person per each
station) Example: Balance Beam: Kayla: This person would whisper
to the conductor, “Walk across the log-do not leave anyone behind-remember
not to ring the bells.
Slave Catchers: (2 people) These students
hide and circulate through the URR as they listen for a bell to ring.
They usually wait for the second ringing of a bell before capturing the
group and returning them to the plantation. **Select students who
will understand that all students should not be captured-probably 2-3 groups.
Slave Overseers: These students remain
in the classroom (plantation) with a classroom teacher. When students
(slaves) are returned to the plantation, the overseers make them wash desks,
clean cupboards, straighten bookshelves, etc.
Conductors: Each conductor is assigned
4 slaves to lead to freedom. They wait for the signal from the lantern
people that all is clear before starting their people on the URR journey.
Slaves: Pre-assign 4 slaves per conductor.
Teacher will send the conductor to pick-up slaves who will follow their
conductor during the entire journey. Conductors and slaves must remain
together and remain at each station until all have safely made it through
the obstacle. The group then moves to the next station on the route.
***Before beginning this activity, students
should know the terms listed above. They should be instructed to
be very quiet; listen to their conductor; be responsible for everyone in
their group. If one person is captured, the entire group will be
returning to the plantation.
The lantern person signals the 1st conductor
by swinging the lantern. This conductor leaves the 5th grade room
and travels to 4th grade to pick-up his group. They proceed to the
gym and wait(hiding quietly outside the gym until teacher has them enter.
Upon entering, they proceed to the first station where the stationmaster
whispers directions to the conductor. The group continues through
the URR. When the first group is ½ way through, the teacher
signals to the lantern person who signals the next conductor to begin…..
After crossing the Ohio River, students
wait in the hall for the next lantern person to signal for them to go on
to Cabin Creek. PART B.
**The groups that are captured will be
given a second chance to complete the journey. They should not be
told about the 2nd chance until after they have worked on the plantation.
I send for them after all other groups have finished.
After completing part B, students return
to classroom and gym for assessment and discussion.
Gym Assessment: (group)
In the groups used to travel the route,
students discuss and complete a checklist as follows:
1. During your journey, discuss
how your group helped each other using cooperation and problem solving.
Did your group use these life skills?
2. Did everyone safely make it through
the URR: (participation)
3. Choose 3 stations on the URR.
What part of the journey could these obstacles have represented?
Example: The ladder may have represented climbing over a wall or
Adaptations and/or Extensions:
*Any piece of equipment may be used to
design the obstacle course.
*Black paper may be used instead of a
sheet for the Big and Little Dippers.
*Adapt as closely as possible to allow
for movement through the obstacle course. Example: A child
in a wheelchair could go around the obstacles.
*If this is the first year to use this
idea, an older class could be trained on how to run the stations and other
Extensions: The above
lesson allows slaves to reach Indiana. The next step would be to
travel from Indiana to Canada by mapping a route, estimating mileage and
determining how may laps in the gym would equal the distance between each
station on their route. Students would jog the first 5 minutes
of each class and record the number of laps for the class. As the
class acquired enough laps to reach a station on their route, a marker
would be placed on the map. Students could then follow their journey
Second Baptist Church of Detroit.
Abbreviated History by Nathaniel Leach. 441-461 Monroe Ave., Detroit,
Levi Coffin House State Historic Site.
An Underground Railroad Station. Lesson Plan for Grades K-12.
113 US 27 North, Fountain City, IN., 47341.
Coffin, Levi. Reminiscences of Levi
Coffin. Cincinnati: Western Tract Society, 1876.
U.S. Department of the Interior.
National Park Service Handbook. Underground Railroad. Washington,