Pathways to Freedom: Maryland and the Underground Railroad
Classroom Resources
about the underground railroad
following the footsteps
eyewitness to history
figure it out
mapping it out
secrets: language, signs and symbols
create a quilt block
living history
underground railroad library
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Lesson Plan:
Building a Memorial to the Underground Railroad

Quick links: Stage 1 | Stage 2 | Stage 3 | Stage 4

STAGE 3: Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction


Children's literature can introduce, enhance or extend students' understanding of the Underground Railroad.
  • Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson with illustrations by James Ransome (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, 1993)

  • Harriet Tubman (Junior World Biographies) by Bree Burns - Reading level: Ages 9-12

  • Learning About Bravery from the Life of Harriet Tubman (Character Building Book) by Kiki Mosher

  • Now Let Me Fly: The Story of a Slave Family, Aladdin Picure Books, by Dolores Johnson, Delores Johnson (Illustrator)
    Paperback - (January 1997) 32 pages
    Reading level: Ages 4-8
    Paperback - 32 pages Reprint edition (January 1997)
    Aladdin Paperbacks; ISBN: 0689809662

  • Journey to Freedom : A Story of the Underground Railroad
    by Courtni C. Wright, Gershom Griffith (Illustrator)
    Paperback - 32 pages Reprint edition (September 1997)
    Holiday House; ISBN: 0823413330
Extensions/Differentiation for Advanced Students:
1. Complete a Virtual Field trip of Sotterley Plantation in Southern Maryland. Sotterley Plantation is a very important historical site in Maryland.

2. Learn more about the song you can hear in "Following the Foosteps."
One of the best known songs sung by enslaved people was Follow the Drinking Gourd. People sang this song to teach other people about escape routes north. The drinking gourd refers to the Big Dipper, the stars in the sky. By using the two stars at the end of the "cup" you could see in the sky, runaways could locate the North Star and follow it to freedom. The chorus of "Follow the Drinking Gourd" says
"for the old man say, follow the drinking gourd."
Who do you think the old man was?

According to legend, the old man was a sailor known as Peg-Leg Joe, who traveled throughout Alabama around 1840 to 1860 helping slaves escape. He showed them the marks his feet made in the soil (a natural left foot and a round hole made by his peg leg) and told them to follow those marks. The words to Peg-Leg's song gave people a "map" to follow. They walked in the shallow water of the riverbank, and followed the North Star to the Alabama River and on to the Mobile River. When they got to the Ohio River, they followed it to Pennsylvania, New York and on to Canada. Can you find these rivers on a map?

Here are the lyrics to "Follow the Drinking Gourd."
The river's bank is a very good road
The dead trees show the way:
Left foot, peg foot going on,
Follow the drinking gourd.

The river ends between two hills,
Follow the drinking gourd;
Another river on the other side,
Follow the drinking gourd.

Song and translation: Available at two locations [site one] and [site two] (includes picture of a drinking gourd)

Community Connection
How can students take action in the community through their learning? For additional insight into community-based projects, go to the "Making Family and Community Connections"

Fine Arts
Create an illustration, mural or torn paper collage based on one of the "frames" in Following the Footsteps or your sense poem.

Graph the population data included in the Pathways to Freedom: "Figure it Out" section.

Students can create a Kid Pix presentation describing all that they have learned from these lessons.

Go to STAGE 4 »

Quick links: Stage 1 | Stage 2 | Stage 3 | Stage 4

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