Underground Railroad Activities

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

The Underground Railroad provided a means for thousands of slaves to escape prior to emancipation. This asset contains activities for teachers to use in classrooms while studying the Underground Railroad.

Underground Railroad

If you knew someone was legally holding another person against their will, what might you do to help? While learning about the Underground Railroad, students can contemplate ways that people in history have worked together to do the right thing despite personal risk. The following activities support instruction about the Underground Railroad.

Interactive Museum

Students will create a classroom museum to teach each other about important historical figures in the Underground Railroad.

Grade Level: 6-8

Materials:

  • computer, internet access, and printer
  • poster board

Procedure:

  • Students will choose a key figure in the Underground Railroad to learn about, such as:
    • Elijah Anderson
    • John Brown
    • Levi Coffin
    • Thomas Garrett
    • Isaac Hopper
    • Thaddeus Stevens
    • William Still
    • Harriet Tubman
  • Groups will research their assigned person and create a poster that includes a picture, background information, and major contributions.
  • Groups will write a script from the perspective of the key figure that introduces the person.
  • Groups will take turns presenting their poster and introduction to the class.

Awards Assembly

Students will create awards for historical figures from the Underground Railroad.

Grade Level: 3-5

Materials:

  • construction paper
  • markers

Procedure:

  • Students will select a key figure from the Underground Railroad they have learned about. (Refer to list provided in Interactive Museum activity.)
  • Students will create an award for their chosen historical person that is specific to that person's contributions. (For reference, search the Presidential Medal of Freedom or the Congressional Gold Award)
  • Students will take turns coming to the front of the class to present their award and explain why their award was chosen for that historical figure.

Secret Messages

Students will create and decipher secret messages using the Underground Railroad secret codes.

Grade Level: 3-5

Materials:

  • Underground Railroad secret code cipher (or have students create their own cipher)

Procedure:

  • Divide students into pairs. Provide each pair with materials.
  • Pairs will discuss the reasons for using secret codes and what types of messages might be sent among the network of people supporting the Underground Railroad.
  • Pairs will write a secret message that would be relevant to conductors using the Underground Railroad secret codes.
  • Pairs will trade messages to decipher the codes.

Primary Document Analysis

Students will examine a variety of primary documents from the Underground Railroad, analyze them, and create a brochure that explains their work.

Grade Level: 9-12

Materials:

  • computer with internet access
  • printer to print brochures or tri-fold poster boards

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