Title: The Building of the Transcontinental Railroad#140

National Standard: 12 The processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement.

State Standard: 13

Teaching Level: E

Lesson Introduction: This lesson may be used with a unit on Westward Expansion, transportation or Native Americans.

Objectives/Purpose: Students will trace the approximate route of the Transcontinental Railroad. Students will discuss human and physical obstacles to the Transcontinental Railroad.

Materials: Large maps of U.S.A., toothpicks, coffee stirrers, glue.

1)Provide students with background information on the Transcontinental Railroad. The Union Pacific Railroad was built from both ends, meeting a Promontory Point, Utah where the last spike, a golden spike, was laid.
2)Distribute maps to groups of three students. In teams of three the students determine which team will begin from Chicago and which team will begin from San Francisco.
3)The students then begin to lay the track for their railroad. The toothpicks are the ties and the coffee stirrers are the rails. The toothpicks must be placed down first, no more than four, then the coffee stirrers are glued on top. The track does not need to be glued or taped together.
4)The track must travel through Virginia City, Nevada, go north of Great Salt Lake, go through Cheyenne, Wyoming, Omaha, Nebraska.
5)Debrief the activity by having the groups determine who laid more track. What went well with the activity as far as cooperation and teamwork are concerned? What could be done to improve the cooperation and teamwork of the groups?
6)Have the students look at their map and discuss what physical features posed problems to the actual builders of the railroad. Discuss what effect the railroad had on the physical and human environment. Discuss what technologies were available during the mid-1800's that may have aided in the building.

Evaluation/Assessment: Following the debriefing ask students to respond to the following questions: How did the railroad improve the lives of people living in the West? What problems and opportunities arose for people living near the railroad? Why wasn't a railroad built that would connect the northern part of the U.S. to the southern part?

Extension/Enrichment: Research the Native American tribes that were effected by the railroad developments. Determine what actions they took. Develop a possible compromise between the Native Americans, the ranchers, and the railroad.

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