Train Lesson Plan for Middle Schoolers

Recently, together with Google, Amtrak launched a cool interactive tool that lets our customers track their train across the U.S. That’s also great news for teachers who are looking to bring their transportation lessons to life in the classroom. Did we mention, kids ride for half price?

We’ve created a cross-curriculum train lesson plan for middle school students requiring them to use the new Track a Train technology, critical thinking and team work to analyze train travel as an intermodal mode of transportation. Let’s get started!

Have students identify their hometowns on a U.S. map then have them visit our interactive route map to confirm Amtrak serves their community. If not, what other modes of intermodal transportation are available to get them to the closest Amtrak station?

Next, break the students into small groups and have them decide on a destination that’s at least two states away and accessible from their hometowns or nearest station. We have more than 500 destinations, so it might be hard to choose!

Have the small groups create an itinerary for their trip. Using the Track a Train technology, have them analyze whether they can catch today’s train or if they have missed it. Discuss the four compass directions, ensuring they know the direction their desired train is traveling. If they have missed a recent train, use our Amtrak route guides to decide when the next train is coming. When will they arrive at their destination? When can they return home? What speed is the train going?

Based on what the students know about the American landscape, what scenery will they see out of the window of their train? Examples: farms and farm animals in the Midwest, oceans and seagulls along the coasts, cities and dense housing in the Northeast, etc.

At the end of their analysis, give the groups the opportunity to present their findings. The oral presentation should cover where the group “traveled” to and from, what modes of transportation were used, what they “saw” and how long the roundtrip would take.

Lead a group discussion on intermobility and rail connectivity. Ask the students to examine the Track a Train map to decide which regions have the most train traffic. Why might this be the case? What are the disadvantages of having certain areas receive more train service? What kind of intermodal solutions would solve this problem?

Key Terms

Direction (North, South, East, West): The course or path on which something is moving or pointing

Intermodal: Being or involving transportation by more than one form of carrier during a single journey

Transcontinental: Extending or going across a continent

Field Trip Opportunities

If all this train talk inspires you to take your students out of the classroom and onto the rails, you can make a request for group travel using our online group travel form. The best part? Kids 2-15 ride for half price!

What are some other creative ways to teach students about geography and math using train travel? Tell us in the comments below!