Meet the Underground Railroad


Grade level 4th or 5th grade

Concepts covered/Objectives for students:


Standards for Ohio:

By 3-5th grade student will be able to:



National standards: 





Day one:  Students will review, explore and discuss a vocabulary (metaphor, network, resistance, vigilance, covert) and keyword list (found at the Menare Foundation’s North Star Website ) Go to “Research with Resources”.  Teacher could organize this work in a KWL chart.  Through this discussion a brief review of circumstances at this point in history should emerge.


Day two: Students will visit the computer lab or as a class with a computer, Internet access and a projector visit and explore the web site Tracks to Freedom:  Canada and the Underground Railroad sponsored by the Ottawa –Citizen newspaper


On this day or on their own time, perhaps for homework, students will participate in the Interactive Journey “Can You Escape?” link on the front/home page of Tracks to Freedom.  If possible another day could be taken to participate in the journey.


Day three:  Students will be assigned an individual (other than Harriet Tubman) to get to know. The will begin with the brief biography offered at the Dickinson College page of biographical profiles

 and then doing their own research seek longer biographies to answer a set of questions (worksheet at the end) about their person.  Students will also collect a picture of their person and save it on their school network folder or some other media with which they will have future access.


Day four:  As a journaling activity, homework or writing assignment students will use the information they have collected to compose a one-page introduction of their Underground Railroad person.


Day five: Students will be given black outline maps of the United States at the mid part of the 19th century  They will first neatly shade all of the areas on the map that say territory so that the size of the United States at this time is visually evident to them.  Next with a different color they will color all of the slave states, then all of the “free” states and then the Border States.  Finally they will locate the state and approximate city location(s) of their Underground Railroad person and indicate these locations with a dot and naming the city.


Day six:  A large time line of major events happening during the first 60 years of the 19th Century will be hung in the classroom (time line created with Tom Snyder’s Timeliner®).  Students will be given removable labels or sticky notes and they will neatly write the name and life years of their Underground Railroad person and place this name on the larger time line at the front of the classroom.  Another variation would be to have students put their person’s name repeatedly covering the span of their lifetime and see how many of these folks were contemporaries at any point.  Discuss observations or patterns that may emerge. 

Optional but might be interesting to do also on this day:  Have a large version of the map that was given to the students on the wall in the class room and have students add sticky notes or labels of their person on the map and see if there are any patterns as to where these folks are located.


Day seven:  Students will come in small groups to the computer lab to upload their person’s picture and a scanned image of their completed map to a Windows Movie Maker project.  Students will also create a frame with their person’s name and dates of their life. 


Day eight:  Students will come in very small groups to record the reading of their introduction of a person who participated in the Underground Railroad network.


Day seven and eight could take several days or only one depending on the resources of your school.

This project could take up to 10 days depending on the school resources and interest of the students and the teacher.  Teacher will finalize project by putting all slides together with transitions selected by students and burn the final class project onto DVD’s for each student to enjoy and learn from as they “Meet the Underground Railroad”.  The beauty of using Windows Movie Maker is that any classroom that has the Windows XP operating system has Movie Maker and these projects can be burned onto DVD’s that can be viewed on TVs resulting in even more people (i.e. family and friends) having the opportunity to “Meet the Underground Railroad”.


Additional Activities:


For Ohio students and others living in what were once identified as free states it would be a good idea to discuss with students what it meant to be a free state and help them to also understand that often these states were not free of racism.


For Ohio students, they should be able to tell about several actual places in Ohio where famous Underground Railroad activities took place (i.e. Ripley, Ohio, the Ohio River, Oberlin College and in Columbus, the Kelton House).  They could add these locations to a large classroom map of Ohio. 


As a culminating activity for students in Columbus, Ohio a field trip to the Kelton House for the Underground Railroad program could be taken.


Have students during this time simultaneously read a book about escape from slavery.  Some examples:


Visit the web site of the National Freedom Center to learn about Columbus native Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson, artist and view some of her work


Students could then create a written or artistic reaction to their person of the Underground Railroad and add this creation to the class DVD.


Using E-Pals, student online email system,  communicate with students in another state about people who were a part of the Underground Railroad network or reaction to the reading of the above mentioned books.









































Student Research Worksheet for

Meet the Underground Railroad


What is the name of your person? 


When were they born?                                             When did they die?




Where were they born?



Where did they live? 



Where did they move?



Did they move again?




Did they have a profession, special job or skill?



Were they a former slave or were they a “free” person by birth?



What were their actions or “adventures” with in the network of the Underground Railroad?



Does this person have any special story about them or a story of their escape from slavery?






Collect and save to your school folder a picture of your person.