Lesson Plan - The Introduction of the Car to North Carolina

A Lesson Plan for Grade 4 Social Studies

By Jennifer Job, School of Education, UNC-Chapel Hill

Students will examine the history of the car in America and use their knowledge to evaluate the impact that automotive technology had on North Carolina travel and city growth.

Detail from North Carolina primary highway system, 1948-1949.

Time Required: 70-85 minutes

Materials and Resources:

  • Computer lab
  • Computer with speakers (for the instructor)
  • Handout (.pdf)

Teacher Instructions:

  1. Ask students to name what they think the most life-changing invention of the 20th century was. List their answers on the board, and try to encourage them to think of inventions from the beginning of the century (such as the telephone rather than the computer).
  2. Remind students what transportation was like in the 19th century, when people typically used horses or railroads to travel. Have a short discussion about what life was like because of those modes of transportation. Ask them to imagine what the first car must have seemed like to a person living in 1910.
  3. Play the Documenting the American South excerpt from Ralph Waldo Strickland's conversation in which he describes seeing an automobile for the first time, in 1910. To find the excerpt, go to the Ralph Waldo Strickland interview website, click on the mp3, and fast-forward to minute 21:13. The excerpt runs about a minute and a half.
  4. For the next portion of the lesson plan, students should have their own computers. Give them a copy of the Handout (.pdf) and ask them to read the following two Web sites giving a history of the impact of the automobile on America: If the readability of the sites is too difficult, summarize the contents using this PowerPoint presentation.
  5. The Handout (.pdf) asks them to answer questions about the Web sites and then to use two North Carolina maps from NC Maps to analyze the effect the car had on the state.

Assessment Activity: You may collect the handout for assessment. It is best to discuss their answers after they are finished.

North Carolina Curriculum Alignment

4th Grade Social Studies Standard Course of Study
7.01: Cite examples from North Carolina's history of the impact of technology.
7.02: Analyze the effect of technology on North Carolina's citizens, past and present.
7.03:Explain how technology changed and influenced the movement of people, goods, and ideas over time.