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Freedom Train

Simulate the Underground Railroad and design dream homes for fictional former slaves.

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Students read non-fiction and fiction books about slavery and the Underground Railroad in book groups, as read-alouds, and independently. Share information with the class about life in slavery and methods used to communicate secret information about passage on the Underground Railroad.
    2. Use Crayola® Model Magic®, Crayola Multicultural and Regular Markers, and fabric scraps to model a small figure of a slave. Give the slave a name and identity.
    3. Make a small box into "slave quarters" with minimal furnishings of scrap cardboard, using Crayola School Glue and Crayola Scissors.
    4. One or two students label another box FREEDOM and place it in an inconspicuous area of the room.
    5. Students write a testimonial for the slave, including details about life in slavery found in their reading. Each day, write about the slave's desire to be free and escape. Write songs, letters, poems, and plans.
    6. Choose four students to become conductors on the Underground Railroad. They secretly free slaves over a period of 1 to 2 weeks. The first child secretly removes slaves from their quarters, then passes the figure along to the next child. Slaves move carefully and secretly from child to child, remaining hidden in clothes, lunchboxes, desks, and pencil cases until the next move. The final move is into FREEDOM.
    7. Have a class discussion about how slave owners reacted to losing slaves. Make posters publicizing rewards for lost slaves.
    8. Finally reveal the Underground Railroad and return figures to children now as free citizens. Use a variety of craft and recycled materials, Crayola School Glue, and Crayola Scissors to build new homes. Write about new lives in freedom, including details found in reading.
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

    LA: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    SS: Explore and describe similarities and differences in the ways groups, societies, and cultures address similar human needs and concerns.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Give examples of and explain group and institutional influences such as religious beliefs, laws, and peer pressure, on people, events, and elements of culture.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

    VA: Use subjects, themes, and symbols that demonstrate knowledge of contexts, values, and aesthetics that communicate intended meaning in artworks.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Unspoken: A Story From the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole; Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine; Follow the Drinking Gourd: An Underground Railroad Story by Robert Squier; The Last Safe House: A Story of the Underground Railroad by Barbara Greenwood; Under the Quilt of Night by Deborah Hopkinson

    Encourage students to read through an interactive website titled Pathways to Freedom: Maryland and the Underground Railroad located at . Students work through each of the interactive buttons on the website and culminate their activity with the creation of an original quilt block.

    Working individually, students research slavery in the United States prior to the opening of the American Civil War in 1860. Assuming the role of a slave, students compose a journal of the daily life of a slave. Students can select to write of a slave living in a southern state, a slave running away; or a slave that has successfully make it north to freedom. Students journal entries should reflect their research for authenticity. Provide a place to display student slave journals in the classroom.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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