Lesson Plan: Networking our Land The Railroad Lesson Plan G 8

Written By: Andrea Holton
Grade Level: 8

Time Allotment

5 days

Overview

The Erie Canal and the Transcontinental Railroad both served to network sections of America and, thus, to promote growth in many ways. Economic growth and new opportunities for living transformed the nation. What did these two transportation systems have in common in this transformation?
The railroad enabled people to settle and make a living in North Dakota and the region in general. The railroad grew in stages with towns developing along the way. Throughout the years, railroads have been networking our land. They have changed through the years as their need as a transportation mode has changed.
Students will view videos, examine photos, read, (these all on the web) and do hands‐on map investigations, do an Internet search, and respond orally, in writing, and in an art piece to the concepts covered.

Subject Matter

Social Studies, Language Arts, Arts - Visual

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
  • identify three changes that occurred in our nation with the building of the Erie Canal.
  • identify three changes that occurred in our nation with the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.
  • discuss the meaning of figurative language in the Transcontinental Railroad video.
  • recognize three similarities that the Erie Canal and the Transcontinental Railroad had in transforming our country.
  • write paragraphs about the changes and similarities listed above.
  • recognize the connection that the railroad had to the settlement of North Dakota/ our region.
  • recognize the pattern of towns that were formed as railroads grew.
  • list ways the railroads allowed the economy of North Dakota to grow.
  • investigate the railroad system in North Dakota with the use of a road map.
  • search for the “birth year” for a North Dakota city or town of choice, give a brief oral report on its beginnings, and compare the locations in relation to others “born” or incorporated at the same time and to the railroad system.
  • investigate how railroad use has changed over the years.
  • write a paragraph about how railroads impacted our state/region.
  • write a haiku poem that reflects student knowledge of the railroads in North Dakota.
  • design a centennial logo for a city or town in North Dakota.

Media Components - Video/Web

  • Websites
    • http://www.history.com/videos America: The Story of Us Building the Erie Canal and America: The Story of Us Transcontinental Railroad
    • http://www.ndstudies.org Scroll down to “A Brief History of North Dakota” in the pink box. Select “Territory to Statehood” which will take you to “Dakota Territory Overview” in the North Star Dakotan. Select “The Great Dakota Boom, 1878‐1890”, and then find “Railroads Open Dakota for Note: An easier way, as listed below, is to do a Google search for North Star Dakotan then proceed.
    • http://www.digitalhorizonsonline.org Search for railroads.
    • http://www.beachnd.com Beach, North Dakota website
    • http://www.youtube.com Individual videos are listed within the lesson plan.
    • http://aar.org American Association of Railroads website Select “Statistics and Publications” then “Railroads and States”.
    • http://flikr.com/photos Railroad trestle crossing a coulee near Minot, ND

    Materials

    • Textbook – North Dakota Legendary. Chapter 9 is The Iron Road and will be used as a reference.
    • North Dakota maps ‐ one for each student
    • Styrofoam cups‐ one for every two students
    • Paragraph organizer of your choice
    • Paper
    • colored pencils
    • markers
    • highlighters

Teacher Preparation

  • Bookmark websites
  • Reserve the computer lab for the days needed
  • Open videos to starting points and minimize
  • Familiarize yourself with stopping points
  • Gather North Dakota road maps and Styrofoam cups
  • Prepare paragraph organizer
  • Review pattern for writing a haiku
  • Gather paper and colored pencils, markers, highlighters

Introductory Activities

  1. Read aloud “The fur trade, early riverboats, and army posts introduced the land of Dakota to some people, but it was the railroad that enabled many settlers to come to North Dakota. Peak years for bringing settlers were between 1892 and 1910.”(Howe, Neil E., and Theodore B. Jelliff. North Dakota Legendary, North Dakota Center for Distance Education, 2007).
  2. Ask “How many of you think your great or great‐great‐grandparents might have come to this area on the train? How did the train make getting here and thriving here possible?”
  3. Assign an oral interview “Ask your oldest relative or someone from an older generation whom you can easily ask if and how the railroad is part of their family history.” Students give brief oral report in two days.

Learning Activities

MATERIALS:
  • computers
  • Styrofoam cups
  • North Dakota maps
  1. Watch video on the building of the Erie Canal. http://www.history.com/videos Search for America the Story of Us Building the Erie Canal. Ask “What are three things you learn about how the Erie Canal transformed our nation?” Discuss orally and possibly write a paragraph together to answer the question.
    • Video notes: The Erie Canal enabled Americans to move products across great distances. It got people farther west. It linked settlements. Because people could help each other, they could specialize.
  2. Watch the video on the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. http://www.history.com/videos Search for America the Story of Us Transcontinental Railroad. Ask “What are three things you learn about how the Transcontinental Railroad transformed our nation?” Discuss orally and possibly write a paragraph in pairs to answer the question. Locate the Transcontinental Railroad on a map.
    • Video notes: The Transcontinental Railroad was a convenient, efficient, economical transport of goods and people. It got people to the West. The coasts were united. Cities could now be built. People could think continentally. Many foreigners came to work on building the railroad as 5,000 people were needed. Two‐thirds of the workers were Chinese. The Transcontinental Railroad/railroads can be called the “arteries of America”, “the Internet of the 19th century”, and that which “knitted together America”. Communication and commerce were fostered. The Industrial Revolution was now possible. The United States could become a global economic power. Anywhere the railroad was built, the area around it was transformed.
  3. Discuss the meaning of the figurative language found in the Transcontinental Railroad video: “arteries of America” “Internet of the 19th century” “knitted together America”
  4. Ask “What similarities in transforming America did the Erie Canal and the Transcontinental Railroad have?” Discuss and possibly individually write paragraphs to answer this question.
  5. Google North Star Dakotan; find “The Great Dakota Boom, 1878‐1890”, and then find “Railroads Open Dakota for Settlement”, by D. Jerome Tweton. Read together and discuss to answer the question “How do you think the railroad impacted North Dakota?”. On a North Dakota road map, use a highlighter to draw the progression of railroads as outlined in the previous article.
  6. View photos of railroads throughout the years. Go to http://www.digitalhorizonsonline.org and search for railroads. Have the students look at various photographs of their interest.
  7. Have groups of two choose an area of North Dakota. Put a styrofoam cup upside down on this area, and trace around it. On the Internet, research the date each town within the circled area was born or incorporated. Discuss the following:
    • How did the formation of the town relate to the railroad?
    • Were there similarities in when and why or how the towns in your circled area formed?
    • Why were railroad stops so close together?
    • Has our town celebrated its centennial?
    • Have you attended any centennials?
    For an example, go to http://www.beachnd.com. Look at Golva and Sentinel Butte as well.
  8. Ask “How has railroad use changed over the years?” Use the following examples to assist in the class discussion.
    • Coal trains are common. Look for photos of coal trains
    • Discuss Amtrak. Search for Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2008,State of North Dakota and discuss.
    • http://www.digitalhorizonsonline.org Search for railroads. See Item 19.
    • For information on ND freight trains, go to http://www.aar.org. Select “Statistics and Publications” then “Railroads and States”. Choose ND.
    • If possible, visit the North Dakota State Railroad Museum in Mandan, ND.
For further interest:
  • A train trestle over the Cheyenne River is found at http://www.youtube.com BNSF Loaded Coal Train C‐SCMSUD Crossing the Cheyenne River at Valley City, ND with All‐EMD Lashup
  • A train clearing snow is found at http://www.youtube.com North Dakota Railroad Crossing
  • Information on Minot and a photo of the trestle there is found at http://www.flikr.com/photos Railroad trestle crossing a coulee near Minot, ND
  • A video of a train crossing on this trestle is found at http://www.youtube.com BNSF train on Gassman Coulee Trestle

Culminating Activity

MATERIALS:
  • paper
  • colored pencils
  1. Social Studies: Write a paragraph that answers, “How did the railroads impact the settlement of North Dakota?”
  2. Language Arts: Write a haiku that reflects knowledge of the railroads in North Dakota.
  3. Art: Design a town’s centennial logo that includes the railroad, even if it is a small part of the logo. For an example, go again to http://www.beachnd.com and look at the logo. A small set of railroad tracks could have been added to show that railroads supported the settlement and the growing of the wheat.
  4. Social Studies: Discuss why the title of this lesson/unit is Networking our Land The Railroad. Ask “How did the railroad enable westward expansion for America? How did the railroad enable North Dakota to become settled? What is a network? How, then, did the railroads network our land?”

Cross-Curricular Activity

MATERIALS:
  • paper
  • colored pencils
  1. Language Arts: Write paragraphs about the changes and similarities listed above. Use a format taught in your school’s English class.
  2. Language Arts: Write a paragraph about how railroads impacted our state/region. Use a format taught in your school’s English class.
  3. Language Arts: Write a haiku poem that reflects student knowledge of the railroads in North Dakota. Haiku is a Japanese word that means “Light Verse”. There are 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third. They do not need to rhyme. While nature was originally the topic, any topic can be used.
    Examples:
    • Reaching to new lands
    • Bringing people and supplies
    • New towns are built there
    • Whistles in the night
    • Important work to get done
    • Long ago and now
  4. Art: Design a centennial logo for a city or town in North Dakota that includes the railroad, even if it is just a detail on the graphics.

Community Connections

  1. Interview an older relative or other person of an older generation about any connections their ancestors had to the building of or use of the railroad in North Dakota.
  2. Research the connections between North Dakota towns and the railroad. Discuss ways your town’s origin is connected to the railroad and share that information with others through a display at the local library.
  3. Possibly visit the North Dakota State Railroad Museum or a local depot.
  4. Find out when a town or towns celebrated their centennial and any relationships they have and share with the railroad. Enter a contest or help a centennial planning committee design a logo.


OTHER POSSIBILITIES TO EXTEND OR ENHANCE THIS TOPIC:
  • Discuss Morse code and how the train engineers reached for their instructions written in Morse code by leaning out the train window as they passed by a station.
  • Research date nails used at the time. See http://fantasticprices.com/DATENAIL/Railroad.htm..
  • Research the perils of train travel, snowstorms and robberies.
  • Research dining cars and “The Great Big Baked Potato” served by the Northern Pacific Railroad.
  • Research the various jobs on the train.
  • Invite someone who works on the railroad as a guest speaker.

Student Handouts:

  1. Networking Our Land Lesson Plan
    • Download
  2. Paragraph Organizer
    • Download