ArtsBridge - The Way We Move!

B&O Railroad Lesson Plan

The Lesson:

Length: 50 minutes

Age Group: 5th Graders

Materials Needed: picture hand out, journals

Standards: Dance – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7

Standards: Social Studies – 1, 2, 3, 5, 6

Learning Objectives (SWBAT)- Performance Tasks for this lesson:


  • Students will learn about the history behind railroads in America
  • They will learn about the obstacles the B&O construction faced


  • Follow directions
  • Cooperate and demonstrate good behavior
  • Work as a team


  • Use dance concepts, such as locomotor movements, levels, and shapes to represent the obstacles in the way of the train
  • Act out the way a train would move across the country, including sound effects

Assessment Criteria for this lesson (describe what the student’s performance of this task will look like):

  • A pre and post test will be given with information on the subject
  • Verbal analysis throughout the lesson on the history of the railroad

  • Utilizing teaching strategies for management, such as ringing the bell and turning lights on and off to get their attention, as well as making sure the kids raise their hands to speak

  • Reviewing different movements before they need to use them in the lesson
  • Have them create their own set of obstacles to get through as a train

Introduce the Lesson’s Target Learning

How will you introduce your lesson’s concept?

We will start by giving a background Railroads in America, showing a picture of the land route they used to take, and giving a history with pictures of the B&O Railroad’s creation. Then we will review necessary dance terms before moving on to the Exploration Activity.

Why are you studying this? It is important for the students to understand why railroads were so necessary to our nation, and how Maryland (where they are from) was such an important factor in the Industrial Revolution’s beginnings with the construction of the B&O Railroad.

Integrated Activities:

Outline the steps/instructions that will take place for his activity from beginning to end:


1. Briefly review shapes and pathways

2. History of Railroads in America:

a. Ask what they know about the B&O Railroad/want to know

b. Originated in England

c. Americans wanted railroads because they dropped the cost of shipping by carriage by 60-70%

d. Baltimore, the 3rd largest US city in 1827, did not have a canal like NY (Erie Canal), yet Baltimore is closer to the western frontier than NY. Baltimore used the National Road (show picture)…what potential problems could occur from the National Road? Why is it not economical?

e. Baltimore decided to create the B&O Railroad – 1st Railroad in US

f. July 4, 1828, construction began and Charles Carroll (Carroll County), the only surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence at 91 yrs old, lay down the First Stone (show picture)

g. Many people opposed the railroads at first. Any idea who would oppose it? Answer: Canal workers, stage coach companies, wagon drivers, and inn keepers. Because of the economical advantage, the railroads continued regardless of opposers.


1. While building the B&O Railroad, the workers came across many obstacles. Can you think of any?

2. Three specific ones were: Tarpean Rock (a giant rock in Ellicott city blocking the route), the Potapsco River Valley (had to get over rivers), and Appalachian Mountains (how to get through or around them). Pass around maps

3. Move desks

4. Assign four people to be the Tarpean Rock and have them make a shape together in the center of the room. Assign four people to be the train. It gets stopped at the rock and can’t pass. Ask the class, what can we do? They decided to blow it up! So the rest of the class will make sound effects, while the four rocks will separate from each other as if being blown up to allow the train through

5. Next scenario: Assign two people to be the river, four people to be the train. The train comes across the river and cannot continue. What should we do? BUILD A BRIDGE! They actually built a stone bridge to cross it, called the Thomas Viaduct, but now they don’t use the stone anymore because it is way too expensive. Have the river go to a very low level, so the train can pass on an imaginary bridge over them. The rest of the class can make construction noises as if building a bridge for the train.

6. Next scenario: we come across the Appalachian mountains. What can we do? They built the Point of Rocks Tunnel to go through the mountains. Have six students be mountains for four students as the train to get stuck at. Have the class make sound effects for building a tunnel, and have the mountain create a tunnel for the train to pass under.

7. Show the picture of the tunnel, and ask what problems might occur in the future, though? (If trains become more and more popular, having only one tunnel might not be enough, but it would be hard to expand since it is right next to a canal).


1. Split into groups of 5. Each group must come up with some sort of obstacle for a railroad (they can be serious or silly), and a way to fix that obstacle. Then act out the scenario for the rest of the class, explaining what they chose as their obstacle


Write 3 things that they learned in their journals