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Teacher Feature

Secret Expedition


After visiting the Civil War Era (1863) in the Time Machine, students will learn about the Underground Railroad.


Review the topic of slavery in the 1860's and how it was a key issue during the Civil War.  Discuss the significant people involved with slavery such as Harriet Tubman, and the challenges they faced.  Read a text to the students about the Underground Railroad and the slaves' struggle to become free, such as:

  • If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine
  • The Drinking Gourd: A Story of the Underground Railroad by F. N. Monjo
  • The Secret to Freedom by Marcia K. Vaughan
  • Life on the Underground Railroad by Stuart A. Kallen

Discuss what the 'Railroad' was and why it was needed.  Display a United States map and, as a class, review the various routes of the Underground Railroad.  Tell the students they will be taking a journey back in time to the 1860's.  Have the students research various 'stations' of the railroad using websites that show a map of the Underground Railroad.

The students will explore the 'stations' along the Railroad, and learn key facts about relating people and places.  Using the information from the Internet, they will create a map showing the 'stations' in the various states along the trail.  Instruct the students to use the information they learned to create journal entries from the perspective of a slave running for freedom in the 1860's.  The entries should include: where they are, who they might see, and how they feel.  There should be one journal entry per 'station' stop. Display the maps in the classroom, and create a class book of the students' journal entries.


  • Have the students research key people responsible for assisting the travelers on their journey through the Underground Railroad.  Create flash cards or a game to share the information with other students or classes.
  • Have the students learn the lyrics and discuss the meaning of the song, "Follow the Drinking Gourd." Sing the song as a class.


The project described above reflects some of the national standards of learning as defined by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), and the International Society for Technology in Education.  These standards are listed below:

Language Arts Standards

Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language to communicate effectively.

Social Studies Standards

Culture and Cultural Diversity:  Students will understand the culture of the Civil War time period demonstrated through journals entries from the slaves' point of view.

Time, Continuity and Change:  Students will understand key events in the Civil War time period relating to the Underground Railroad.

People, Places and Environments:  Students will create a map of the trail of the Underground Railroad.

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