Lesson Plan: “Steamboats on the Red”

Written By: Jan Thompson
Grade Level: Grades 3-12

Time Allotment

3 class periods-30-40 minutes each


  1. Students will study the history of the steamboat on the Red River.
  2. Students will be engineers.

Supplemental Material
Download Lesson Plan
Map of ND
Aluminum Bottom Steamboats

Subject Matter

Social Studies, Science, Language Arts (Students could write about their steamboat ride, or about being a wood hawk)

Learning Objectives

Students will study steamboat history on the Red River.
Students will make aluminum foil boats.
Students will test buoyancy and density.

Media Components - Video/Web

Steamboats on the Red-Chapter 1-2 and Chapter 5


Video-Steamboats on the Red
Worksheet to go with video

Teacher Preparation

Preview video
Run off worksheet

Introductory Activities

Day 1
  1. Inquiry discussion-How did most people move around the United States in the early 1800s? Students should bring up horseback, walk, Red River carts, horse and wagon, and boats on the river.
  2. Does anyone have any ideas on how they could transport more goods at a faster pace? (Get them to discuss transportation on the river].
  3. Does anyone know what forms of transportation they could use on the river?
  4. Read pages 40-48 – Explorers and Fur Traders in North Dakota-Book is found on the internet.
  5. Power point-slides1-16 going over dangers of steamboats and the vocabulary.

Learning Activities

Ask the big question-“How did people move around during the 1800s?”
Read pages 40-48
View power point “Steamboats” slides 1-16

Day 2
Students will view video-Steamboats on the Red-can be found on Prairie Public web site, and fill out worksheet as they view video. Video will help students retain information.
  1. Using selected segments Chapter 1 & 2
  2. Students will have directed focus to answer questions on the worksheet.
  3. Pause-I will pause the video to discuss pictures and activities on the video.
  4. Slide 18- Students will discuss video and history on it.
  5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXrY-65EYKk

Day 3
Students will become engineers. They will construct the bottom of a steamboat following the engineering activity.
  1. Students will look at pictures of steamboats and discuss their construction.
  2. Students will construct their bottom of a steamboat following engineering art lesson.
  3. Students will try their steamboats in water loading them with pennies for freight.
  4. Students will discuss the winning steamboat’s shape and bottom construction. They will discuss buoyancy and diversity.
  5. Students will write why their boat sank-mentioning construction and area.

Day 4
  1. Students will use a North Dakota map and put the towns along the Red River on the map.
  2. Students will figure out the mileage on the map and figure out how long a steamboat took to go from one town to the next going 8mph.
  3. Students will discuss the influence steamboats had on the towns along the Red River. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXrY-65EYKk

Cross-Curricular Activity

MATERIALS: North Dakota maps and ND outline map
(remember to number each step)
Social Studies: Students will use the North Dakota Map and place towns on the map that are along the Red River. They will figure out how long it would take a steamboat to go up the Red River.
Science: Students will make aluminum foil boats to see how much freight (pennies) their boat will hold.
Language-They will write about navigating a steamboat up the Red River.
Write about being a passenger on a steamboat and write about your trip up the Red.

Community Connections

Students will go on a field trip to Bonanza Ville to look at the history of steamboats on the Red River.