Grade: all
Subject: History

#1932. Experiencing the Underground Railroad

History, level: all
Posted Thu Aug 31 11:20:07 PDT 2000 by Catherine Tomlinson (
Materials Required: Willing gym teacher, markers, roll white art paper
Activity Time: Flexible
Concepts Taught: Understanding the experience slaves escaping

Part 1: Teach unit on slavery and the Underground Railroad. Have students lie on the art paper and outline each other with pencils. Then have them fill in the image with a time-appropriate figure, paying particular attention to clothing, etc. Post the pictures in the gym.
Part 2: Ask the Gym teacher to create a "Underground Railroad" obstacle course. Students are split into teams of 4, but only the "Conductor" can talk to the others.
We used scooter boards to start and a rope. Conductor had to get all the people to the "finish line" without them touching the floor. If someone talks or touches, the team is sent back and one person is "handicapped" (arm put in sling, blindfolded, etc). Team has to try again.
Next obstacle can be the bleachers, with the team in constant touching contact.
Next obstacle can be a rope web they have to get through without touching.
Create any other obstacles you wish, but if any member fails on any obstacle, the entire team goes back to the start and another member gets "handicapped". A prize for the first successful team can be ice cream, a free homework pass, or whatever works with your students.

Wrap Up: Talk to the students about how it felt and the handicappings from failed efforts. Tie it in with the frustration of the slaves and the dangers.

*Added Element: have one blindfolded person stand with a flashlight, randomly sweeping and pointing it around the gym. If your member is caught in the light, it's a failed attempt.