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Teach the Underground Railroad in a Meaningful and Sensitive Way

Teach the Underground Railroad in a Meaningful and Sensitive Way

Does your textbook only contain one paragraph about the Underground Railroad? Maybe it's a simple sidebar that leaves your students with little understanding of this network of routes and safe houses used by freedom seekers. The problem is that our students can leave with misconceptions about the institution of slavery and the Underground Railroad if our students only read one paragraph in a textbook.

Did you know that the National Parks Service has designated over 690 sites that have verified connection to the Underground Railroad through their Network to Freedom program?

I've taken the time to carefully craft a virtual field trip that will take your students to 15 locations across multiple states to help tell the story of the Underground Railroad. This virtual tour has been carefully crafted to ensure that history is not gamified or trivialized.

Underground Railroad Lesson with Links

This virtual field trip combines informational text, video clips, and Google Earth 360-degree views to help your students better grasp just one way that enslaved people sought freedom.

This trip also addresses common misconceptions and is presented in a way that tells the story of the Underground Railroad with verified details as your students learn about houses, inns, churches, and natural resources that provided refuge for freedom seekers.

Throughout the virtual field trip, your students will answer critical thinking questions that ask students to think about what they learn, address pre-conceived notions, and share what they observe as they tour different locations. All of the questions are editable, so you can tailor the responses to meet your unit of study.

All About the Underground Railroad Lesson with Links

While it wasn't feasible to travel to all 690+ locations, I chose 15 locations across various routes. Some of the locations are safe houses, while others are natural resources like the Great Dismal Swamp that provided a place of refuge for freedom seekers. In doing this, my goal was to provide a well-rounded understanding of the Underground Railroad.

This virtual field trip is versatile, so it could be done whole group or you could have your students complete this with partners. I figured if you had a class of 30 students, 15 locations would be ideal.

You'll want to ensure that your students have access to YouTube and Google Earth to take full advantage of the interactive features and video content.

Learn about the Underground Railroad with this ready to go digital lesson with Google Earth links

If you choose to have your students complete this as an independent assignment, you may have students finish at different times. If you are in need of an early finisher activity, I have created a collaborative poster that focuses on the Underground Railroad.

This poster could serve as a helpful word wall or reference. Each student colors one piece of the poster for a student-created display. I've also included a reading passage about Harriet Tubman that could be assigned as homework or used in small group work.

Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman Collaborative Poster Word Wall

I've designed these lessons with your precious prep-time in mind. I know that a 30-minute prep period doesn't leave a lot of time to prepare a lesson, let alone prep for multiple subjects or periods. This virtual field trip is ready to go with all the content done and links ready for your students. The collaborative poster is easy to print and assemble and is a great extension activity. Your students will leave with a deeper and broader understanding of this critical piece of American history.

Learn more about these ready-to-go resources here:


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