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Settling a State Lesson Ideas
Settling a State Lesson Ideas
The study of Michigan's settlement days can provide lessons across the curriculum:
- Learn about the role of transportation in Michigan during the 19th century by reading The Plank Road Craze. Learn Michigan geography by using a road map to locate the cities mentioned as terminuses of plank roads. Use math skills to make a graph that shows the numbers of plank road companies chartered between 1848 and after 1851. Find the percentage of companies that actually built plank roads after being chartered and the percentage of miles of road built of those chartered.
- Build a model plank road to encourage skills in following directions. Do historical research and use creativity to design a setting for the road.
- Read "Riding on the Plank" and other poems about travel as part of a literature class. Encourage students write their own poems about historic or modern travel. Illustrate the poems.
- Read the excerpts from "Journal of a Trip to Michigan In 1841." Discuss the importance of writing journals to record one's own experiences and thoughts. Have students keep a journal for their next field trip or for experiences as ordinary as traveling back and forth to school each day. Build powers of observation by encouraging attention to detail as they record events and surroundings.
- What was life like for a politician on the western frontier? Read the biography of Stevens Thomson Mason. Discuss the likelihood of becoming governor of a state at age 24 today. What was the "Five Million Dollar Loan" scandal? Compare the incident to the allegations of wrong-doing that politicians face today.
- Build critical thinking and decision making skills with the Packing the Wagon activity. After doing the activity with the class, ask the students to pack one imaginary suitcase with items they would take if they were moving to a new state today. How would they decide what to leave behind (or give away or sell at a garage sale)?
- Compare and contrast historic times with the present by doing the "Then and Now" activity. Then ask students to interview their parents, grandparents or other older members of the community to find out how life has changed over recent years.
- With older students, read and discuss "The Plank Road Law." Ask such questions as: Who was regulated by this law? What restrictions did the law place on the people who built the plank road? Why do you think people thought a law like this was needed? What kinds of laws regulate private companies today? Do you think such laws are necessary?
- Find out about roads and the travelers who used them in the "Roads" section of the online version of the Barn Exhibit at Walker Tavern. Use the interactive map to see how wagon trails, then highways, followed the footpaths of Native Americans. Ask students to study a physical or a topographical map of Michigan and determine why those routes wopuld have been chosen.
Contact the Michigan Historical Museum.