Journey  on the Underground Railroad


Ken Zahora




(Overall theme)

The journey on the Underground Railroad was extensive.

Classroom sessions or estimated time

3-4 lessons of 45-60 minutes

Grade Level(s)

3rd or 4th


To get an idea of the hardness and difficultness of a journey on the UGR.

*Geography Standards Addressed

The World in Spatial Terms: 1 Maps.

Human Systems: 13 Forces of cooperation and conflict.  The uses of Geography: 17 Apply geography to interpret the past.

*Indiana Social Studies Academic Standards addressed

Standard 1 History: 4.1.12 Underground Railroad.

Standard 2 Civics and Government: 4.2.10 Equality of opportunity.

Standard 3 Geography: 4.3.2 Estimate Distance, 4.3.4 Locate, 4.3.10 Trace Route.

Standard 5 Individuals, Society, & Culture: 4.5.9 Use Primary Sources




1.      Use Indiana and Michigan state road maps to trace a route to Canada from Madison, IN. with the many possible stops along the way.

2.      Find the distance between Madison and Windsor, Canada using a regional map of the United States.

3.      Make a picture book that depicts a runaway slave’s journey on UCR.


IPS #96 Meredith Nicholson


Indpls. IN

*Teacher Background Materials

1.      Road maps of Indiana and Michigan.

2.      Regional map of central United States.

3.      Pictures of runaway slaves, slave catchers, and area pictures of Indiana and Michigan.

4.      Computer with internet access.

5.      Color pencils, etc.

6.      Writing and drawing paper.

*Purpose of Materials

Background information and materials to use to complete lesson.


Lesson 1.  Time students walking a mile. (use a track if available) This will be used to determine how far a runaway could walk in a day and used to imagine eventually how tiring a 10-15 mile day walk would be walking thru the woods, etc.  Use this information to calculate how long it would take to go from Madison, IN to Windsor, Canada.

Lesson 2.  With state road maps of Indiana and Michigan construct a possible route from Madison, IN to Windsor, Canada and designate with some symbol where you would stay each night.  Calculate the total number of days needed for this journey.

Lesson 3.  Make a 5-10 page picture book of a slave’s  journey on the UGR.  Each page should  have a picture  of the runaway hiding in an attic, wagon, woods, dogs chasing them, slave hunters, or crossing a river, etc.  Include sentences that go with each picture.

*Teaching Strategies

Lecture/Discussion, 3-5 person co-operative groups.

*Assessments (key questions to simulate critical thinking)

Finish products with be used for assessment:  Picture book and completed maps.  (use Power Point to make a picture book if  available)

If you place yourself into your picture book write a short story telling how you would have felt, your fears, concerns during this journey.





Adaptations and/or Extensions


1.      Use “Follow the Drinking Gourd”  poem recording as an introduction.

2.      Follow up activity.  Use the following books as a conclusion  activity:  Follow the Drinking Gourd by Bernadine Connelly.  Picture book also available in audio version narrated by Morgan Freeman. Grade 4-8.  Get on Board:  The Story of the Underground Railroad by Jim Haskins.  Grade 4-6.  Two Tickets to Freedom:  The True Story of Ellen and William Croft, Fugitive Slaves by Florence B. Freedom. Grades 4-6.

3.      Resource:  July 1984 “National Geographic Magazine”  Escape from Slavery:  Underground Railroad.