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Unit introduction, timeline, essential questions, objectives, national standards, adaptations


Art, Computers & Internet, Language Arts, Math, Music, Social Studies  



Title – All Aboard! Exploring the Secrets of the Underground Railroad – An Interdisciplinary Unit
By – Elizabeth Hodgson and Rachel Vogelpohl
Primary Subject – Social Studies
Secondary Subjects – Math, Music, Art, Language Arts, Computers/Internet
Grade Level – 4th

Subject: History of the Underground Railroad

Social studies will be the primary subject focus for the unit, with links to the following subject areas, as well: English language arts, mathematics, technology, visual arts, theatre arts, dance, and music.

NCSCOS Objectives: NCSCOS Objectives are listed individually for each activity/day.


      This unit will take place over the course of two weeks in February, as a special in-depth unit to explore Black History Month. Lessons focusing on different aspects of the Underground Railroad will occur on a daily basis, with much overlap during literacy, social studies, and art time. The unit will begin with a focus on the lives of slaves in North Carolina, followed by the different views held regarding slavery (particularly abolitionists and Quakers), and then it will progress to the role of the Underground Railroad in helping to free slaves. As a final project in the unit, students will research the Underground Railroad and create a map to freedom. The students will then write a detailed diary entry in which they write from the perspective of young slaves trying to escape to freedom.
      By February, it is expected that students will have adequate background knowledge of and experience with reading and understanding maps, appropriate organization and participation in cooperative group work situations, creating and delivering oral and visual presentations, and developing and publishing narrative journal writings.
    (Note: The unit is arranged in the format of the daily activities performed over the course of two weeks.)

Essential Questions:

      1. What were the lives of slaves in North Carolina like during the Civil War?

      2. What were Quakers’ views on slavery, and how did they support North Carolina’s Underground Railroad?

      3. What was the role of the Underground Railroad in the abolition of slavery?

      4. Who were some powerful figures in the Underground Railroad movement?

      5. How did the Underground Railroad move slaves out of North Carolina to freedom?


      The final assessment of this unit will be the creation of a portfolio of the students’ work throughout the unit. Assessment of daily projects is done primarily through informal assessment, by means of teacher observation and the completion of separate rubrics for both student projects and presentations throughout the unit. Click


      to see the

project rubrics


All Aboard! Exploring Secrets of the Underground Railroad

4th grade Unit Objectives

Purpose: To detail the history of North Carolina’s African Americans and the Underground Railroad’s presence in the acquisition of their freedom from slavery. This unit will include a more comprehensive understanding of the lives of blacks in early North Carolina slave history, the physical geography of North Carolina and how it related to the movement of runaway slaves, the roles that North Carolinian abolitionists, especially the Quakers, had in assisting in the escape of slaves to the north, the systems of codes and hidden messages to direct conductors and escapees as they traveled the Underground Railroad, and the brave escapes made by conductors and runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad.

Objective 1
At the end of the unit, students will be able to describe the Quakers’ role in North Carolina’s Underground Railroad.
Objective 2
Given a map of North Carolina, students will be able to trace the movement of the Underground Railroad through North Carolina.
Objective 3
At the end of the unit, students will be able to analyze the importance/impact of the Underground Railroad to the lives of North Carolina’s African Americans.

Objective 4
Given a description of the lives of slaves in North Carolina, students will be able to defend the efforts of the Underground Railroad based on the principles of ethics and morality.

Objective 5
At the end of the unit, students will be able to identify with the movement of slaves on the Underground Railroad.

Objective 6
At the end of the unit, students will be able to recall the ways in which the Underground Railroad moved humans through North Carolina.

Cognitive Social Affective Skill
History of NC Underground Railroad Value of freedom Group Activity
Necessity of UGR Trust Hands-On
Instrumental people Bravery Self-reflection
Geography Tenacity Role Play
Events Perseverance Journaling
  Teamwork Writing

NCSS National Standards (History)

  • assist learners in utilizing chronological thinking so that they can distinguish between past, present, and future time; can place historical narratives in the proper chronological framework; can interpret data presented in time lines; and can compare alternative models for periodization;
  • enable learners to develop historical comprehension in order that they might reconstruct the literal meaning of a historical passage, identify the central question(s) addressed in historical narrative, draw upon data in historical maps, charts, and other graphic organizers; and draw upon visual, literary, or musical sources;
  • guide learners in practicing skills of historical analysis and interpretation, such as compare and contrast, differentiate between historical facts and interpretations, consider multiple perspectives, analyze cause and effect relationships, compare competing historical narratives, recognize the tentative nature of historical interpretations, and hypothesize the influence of the past;
  • help learners to identify issues and problems in the past, recognize factors contributing to such problems, identify and analyze alternative courses of action, formulate a position or course of action, and evaluate the implementation of that decision;
  • assist learners in acquiring knowledge of historical content in United States history in order to ask large and searching questions that compare patterns of continuity and change in the history and values of the many peoples who have contributed to the development of the continent of North America;
  • enable learners to develop historical understanding through the avenues of social, political, economic, and cultural history and the history of science and technology.

    Adaptations for Students with Special Needs
  • Pair work–paired with students who are patient, compassionate, and willing to do physical work that partners are unable to complete.
  • Adapted roles for students in performances–i.e. narration, creation of props, etc.
  • Group work–roles of organizer or planner
  • Modifications for writing–i.e. drawing, computers, etc.
  • All field trips will be accessible or modified.
  • Activities for all types of learners — i.e. role play activities for kinesthetic learners, graphic organizers for visual/spatial learners, group work for interpersonal learners, etc.
  • Lessons can be easily modified for gifted learners to be more challenging.

    Unit Lessons:

        Click on each lesson, rubric, or bibliography you wish to see. They really should all be viewed in order because some lessons depend on the previous days’ activities.

    Day 1 – Human Rights And Slavery
    Day 2 – Abolitionist And Quakers
    Day 3 – Musical Freedom Messages
    Day 4 – Tracking Quilting Codes
    Day 5 – Tracking Quilting Codes – Continued
    Day 6 – Underground Research
    Day 7 – Underground Research – Continued
    Day 8 – Mapping North Carolina Routes
    Day 9 – Personal Freedom Journeys
    Day 10 – Personal Freedom Journeys – Continued
    Bibliography / Webliography: Bibliography / Webliography

    E-Mail Elizabeth Hodgson and Rachel Vogelpohl !

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