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In this “Follow the Drinking Gourd” activity, students create a big dipper looking glass and write their personal meaning of freedom


Art, Science, Social Studies  



Title – Follow the Drinking Gourd Activity
By – Heather Richards
Primary Subject – Social Studies
Secondary Subject – Art, Science
Grade Level – 5


    Students will learn about the song “Follow the Drinking Gourd” and how it was used to help the slaves to freedom. They will create a model of the Drinking Gourd as well as make personal connections about freedom and review the Underground Railroad.

Day One:

      Students watch Reading Rainbow’s “Follow the Drinking Gourd” video. Then students get into six groups and answer one of the following questions with their group:
  1. How would the Underground Railroad been different for the slaves had there been no volunteers willing to help out?
  2. What did the volunteers have to risk by helping out? If you lived in that time period, would you have been willing to risk everything to help people escape slavery?
  3. How would escaping slaves hide out during the day and what risks did they face in the daytime?
  4. How would escaping slaves find or receive food?
  5. How would changes to the weather or geographical land changes affect slave travel?
  6. What advantages and disadvantages would slaves have by traveling at night?

    Reconvene and have students share their answers.

Day Two:

      Have students bring an empty Pringles can. Have construction paper cut to size to fit around the can. Have students fold paper into four squares and draw a line on fold to separate. In each of the four boxes, have them write the following:
  1. The chorus to the song “Follow the Drinking Gourd”

    Follow the Drinking Gourd
    Follow the Drinking Gourd
    For the old man is a-waiting
    To carry you to freedom
    Follow the Drinking Gourd

  2. The story behind how the drinking gourd was used by the slaves.
  3. What the underground railroad was and how it worked to help the slaves.
  4. The top five things that freedom means to them personally.

    On the bottom of the Pringles can, draw the big dipper (backwards) and then use a thumbtack to push through each “star”. When held to the light it will show the correct direction and look like stars.

E-Mail Heather Richards !

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