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Putting It All Together

The Ohio & Erie Canal had a significant impact on the development of the state of Ohio, economically, socially, and politically. Just as the Ohio & Erie Canal was important to Ohio, so was the total American canal system important to the nation’s growth and development. These activities will give students a better understanding of the canal, the importance of America’s canal system in general, and the significance of the link between transportation and the economy.

Activity 1: Life on the Ohio & Erie Canal
Using the information provided in the lesson for background, have students pretend to be a canal construction worker, a captain (or wife of a captain), or a crew member on a canal boat. (You may also want to read the lesson plan introduction to students.) Have them write diary or journal entries about what life might have been like for such a person living on the Ohio & Erie Canal during its heyday. Have students compare accounts and summarize the different aspects of life described.

Activity 2: The Effects of Transportation on Daily Life
Ask students to consider if there are or were any industries in their region that developed, at least in part, as a result of a transportation system. Then have students bring to class items that they feel represent one or more of these industries. Examples in Ohio might include a box of cereal for the milling industry, a piece of coal or metal for the steel industry, a piece of wood or a miniature boat for boat building. Something made of silver might be an example from western states where narrow gauge railroads made mining a profitable enterprise. Have students explain how the items they have chosen represent an industry, and then discuss how these industries affect our lives today.

Activity 3: The Importance of Transportation Systems
The canal system in America was just one step in the evolution of our country’s transportation network. Have students work in groups of five or six and use their textbooks to create a time line or illustrated map of the nation’s transportation history. Then to help students understand the impact of transportation on their own community, have each group research one local transportation route or transportation system. This could be a major interstate highway, local airport, subway system, ferry port, or train station. They might compare the community’s economy before and after the transportation system was built, describe new businesses brought to the area, and list the types of goods exported via this transportation route. To gather information on how their regional transportation systems evolved, students might contact a local transportation office, use newspaper archives, research collections at local historical societies, or conduct interviews with area residents.

The group should use their findings to create a local time line or map for the transportation history of their community and compare it with the time line or map they prepared for the national system. Have them note the relationships between the two time lines or maps and determine if their community’s transportation system differed in any way from national developments. If there are significant differences, have students research why that was the case. Have the groups make presentations describing their projects, and use those presentations as the basis for class discussion.

 

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