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Rocky Train Trek

Explore the various modes of transportation used to move west across North America in the 1800s. Create a scene with paint, drawing, and collage.

  • Grade 2
    Grade 3
    Grade 4
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. During a unit of study focused on Western expansion of the United States, invite small groups of students to research modes of transportation available to people moving into the North American west in the 1800s. Find out about geographic features, weather conditions, indigenous peoples, and items settlers took with them. How did the Homestead Act and the Gold Rush change the course of U.S. and Canadian history? Organize a variety of resources for students to view during this investigation.
    2. When groups have completed their research, have them write an imaginary log about a train journey across the continent using Crayola® Erasable Colored Pencils. Encourage them to include maps and other information.
    3. To accompany their journal writing, groups create a scene from the west. Students cover their work areas with recycled newspaper. With Crayola Washable Kid's Paint, students paint tall, snowcapped mountains and a dramatic sky on a large sheet of construction paper. Dry.
    4. Tear white construction paper to make a snowy foreground. Attach with a Crayola Washable Glue Stick.
    5. With Crayola Construction Paper Crayons, students may draw a steam train on the rest of the white paper. Cut it out with Crayola Scissors and glue to the landscape. Add railroad tracks using brown and black crayons.
    6. Draw other landscape elements, such as trees and wildlife. Cut out and glue.
    7. Student groups share their journal writing and artwork with classmates.
  • Standards

    LA: Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grade level text complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    MATH: Generate a number or shape pattern that follows a given rule. Identify apparent features of the pattern that were not explicit in the rule itself.

    SCI: Construct a simple explanation for the relationship between energy and motion.

    SCI: Obtain and communicate information for how technology allows humans to concentrate, transport, and store energy for practical use.

    SS: Identify and use various sources for reconstructing the past, such as documents, letters, diaries, maps, textbooks, photos, and others.

    SS: Describe how we depend upon workers with specialized jobs and the ways in which they contribute to the productions and exchange of goods and services.

    SS: Identify and describe examples in which science and technology have changed the lives of people, such as in homemaking, childcare, work, transportation, and communication.

    VA: Use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.

    VA: Use visual structures of art to communicate ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Big Book Of Trains by DK Publishing; Seymour Simon's Books of Trains by Seymour Simon; The Transcontinental Railroad by Jean F. Blashfield; Ten Mile Day: And the Building of the Transcontinental Railroad by Mary Ann Fraser

    After researching the building of the transcontinental railroad in the U.S., students work in small groups to create an advertisement promoting the railroad. Display these advertisements in the classroom.

    Students take on the role of worker on the transcontinental railroad. Students keep a log of their experiences during work days. Illustrations to assist with promoting understanding of the day's events are encouraged.

    Students work in small groups to map the building of the transcontinental railroad across the United States.


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