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Social Studies Lesson Plan: Using the National Geographic Underground Railroad Site

written by: Margo Dill • edited by: Trent Lorcher • updated: 7/18/2015

The National Geographic website about the Underground Railroad is perfect for elementary and middle school students to use with a social studies lesson plan on the Underground Railroad. It is interactive, informational, and for kids.

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    Interactive Trip on the Underground Railroad

    Social studies lesson plans often need something to spice them up. One thing you can use with an Underground Railroad lesson plan National Geographic logo is this National Geographic site. It can also help students learn some Underground Railroad routes.

    When you enter the website, you begin your voyage on the Underground Railroad. You are told you are a slave in Maryland in the 1850s, and you can choose to escape to freedom or stay where you are. If you choose YES, then you begin your voyage. Sometimes, you have a choice, such as whether or not you should approach a house with a lantern, and sometimes, you just click to move on your way up north. If you continue to choose correctly, you will make it to safety and freedom in Canada.

    Besides the fact that this part of the website is interactive, which most of your students will enjoy, it is also informative. Each time your students are taken to a new screen with a new choice, there are facts about the Underground Railroad. Your students will learn about Harriet Tubman, safe houses, Thomas Garrett, William Still, and crossing Lake Erie.

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    Faces of Freedom and Routes to Freedom

    After you take your journey on the Underground Railroad, there is a pull-down menu that your students can use to find more facts about the Underground Railroad and the Underground Railroad routes, which can enrich your social studies lesson plan. Two of the best items on the menu are the "Faces of Freedom" and "Routes to Freedom" pages. Students can look through these pages on the site to discover important people such as Lucretia Mott and Frederick Douglass, who took part on the Underground Railroad, and the map shows students the hard journey that many slaves took to freedom.

    One tip would be to have students write down some facts, complete a worksheet or map, or write a journal entry about these parts of the website that are not interactive to make them more interactive. When students can use facts they learn to complete assigned work, they will most likely learn and retain more.

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    Is It Easy to Use?

    This Underground Railroad website is easy to use once you get students started, and you could use it for a few days as part of your social studies lesson plans. You might have to point out the pull-down menu at the top of the screen--sometimes, students have trouble finding and using it. Once students see the pull-down menu, then they will be able to easily navigate the website that will help them better understand any unit on slavery and the Underground Railroad routes.

    Don't forget to check out the Classroom Ideas section. This page of the National Geographic website provides ideas for teachers for a variety of age groups.

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