Stagecoach Travel Lesson Plan

Lesson: #4 Stagecoach Travel (History, contemporary issues)

Grade: Third


Standard Based Outcomes:

SS:HI:4:4.2: Explore the impact of important technological inventions, e.g., new forms of transportation or housing.


Specific Objectives/Student Performance:

Students will be active participants in the lesson discussion, raising their hands to speak, listening to their peer’s responses, and staying on task while seated on the rug with 100% accuracy.

Students will identify that stagecoach travel improved the use of the horse for travel, but was still restricting on travel conditions and speeds by orally answering discussion questions with 90% accuracy.


Essential Questions:

Do students know how horses were used in travel in the early 1600-1800’s?

Do students recognize how much slower and more difficult travel was hundreds of years ago?

Do students have any previous knowledge of stagecoaches? Do they know what they look like?



White board and marker

Travel journal entry found on page 8 of Wells Fargo website at:


Instructional Arrangements and Considerations for Diverse Populations:

This third grade class includes three students with individual education plans (IEPs) as well as several students currently performing below grade level expectations.

An educational technician is present in the classroom at all times as provided by RR’s IEP.

BM is identified as having a specific learning disability in reading and requires assistance in reading comprehension and fluency.

The students in this class often need frequent prompts to stay on task and participate in the lesson.

Keeping the lesson under 30 minutes, providing different mediums of instruction, and communicating expectations will help students stay engaged and on task.

This lesson will be taught with students sitting on the rug, having the students sit in an alternating boy/girl pattern will help separate students who can distract each other and help students stay engaged and on task.





Lesson Outline:


I will remind students that we are learning about the modes of transportation that were available in South Berwick throughout history in preparation for our Hike Through History event.

I will begin the lesson by reviewing the Transportation Timeline we have been filing in during this unit.

I will review that we have learned primarily about river transportation at this point, referencing the bark canoe, gundalow, wherry, and sailboat on the timeline.

I will tell students that today we will be looking at how people were traveling on land during this time.

Interactive Presentation:

I will ask students to think of how people were traveling on land during the 1600’s and 1700’s in South Berwick guiding them to recognize that walking and horseback were the only available modes of transportation on land during this time.

We will discuss the limitations traveling by foot and on horseback would impose, ensuring students recognize that walking was slow, the person had to be physically fit (limiting travel with young children, sick, or older family members), and any supplies/goods had to be carried. We will discuss how not every family would have been able to afford horses, and similar to walking, riding horses limited how much could be carried and who could travel. 

I will tell students that just like the bark canoe evolved to suite peoples needs (in the creation of the gundalow, wherry, and sailboat), the use of the horse was also advanced to meet people’s needs.

The Stagecoach was developed as a means to advance travel on land through the use of the horse.

I will tell students that the stagecoach began being utilized in South Berwick in the 1850’s.

I will introduce stage coach travel by reading aloud a journal entry of a stagecoach traveler in 1860 found on page 8 of the Wells Fargo website at

I will read the “Starting Out” and “Traveling” portions of this journal entry aloud to students stopping periodically to ensure understanding of historic vocabulary terms used (intrepid, sumptuous, legitimate, vivacious, tumult).

Upon finishing reading this journal entry I will check student’s comprehension and summarize key points by discussing the following questions with the students:

            What was it like to travel on board a stagecoach?

                        Crowded, bumpy, uncomfortable, dusty, slow, rough road conditions

            What did stagecoaches carry besides people?

                        Mail, luggage, express packages

            What was difficult and limiting about stagecoach travel?

Horses had to be changed every 10 miles, lots of stops, breakdowns, could only carry limited amount of weight, passengers limited to 25 pounds of luggage each.

            How was the mail service through use of stagecoaches?

Unreliable, late (when stagecoach broke down in journal entry, conductor threw half of mail out onto prairie and left it).

I will discuss with students the rate at which stagecoaches traveled by telling them that on average, a stagecoach traveled 5 mph.

I will invite students to estimate how fast they typically travel in a car, reinforcing how slow and limited travel was at this time.

I will ask students how many of them often travel to Portsmouth NH and ask them how long it typically takes them to get there (about 20-30 min.).

I will ask students how long they think it may have taken them to get there if they lived in South Berwick during the 1850’s and had to travel by stagecoach.

I will write the equation on the whiteboard for calculating the travel time: T= miles/speed.

I will write the equation for travel from South Berwick ME to Portsmouth NH, 20 miles traveling by stagecoach at 5 mph.

I will have students identify that to solve the equation they divide 20 by 5, giving 4 hours as the answer.

I will have students consider that it took 4 hours, each way, to travel to Portsmouth, reinforcing how limiting travel was at this time.

I will ask students to consider how travel at this time affected the environment versus how today’s forms of travel are affecting the environment.

I will guide student’s responses to help them understand that in the 1850’s, travel had very little environmental impact. The creation of the stagecoach would have led to the development of some dirt roads, but that would have been the most significant environmental impact at this time.

Today’s current forms of travel have had a significant impact on our environment.


I will close the lesson by summarizing and restating that travel by stagecoach:

Was developed to further the efficiency of the horse in travel.

Travel was uncomfortable, crowded, and limiting to passengers.

Although it was faster than by foot, stagecoach travel was slow and time consuming.

I will put a picture of a stagecoach on the timeline under the year 1850.

I will tell students that we have now covered the major forms of transportation used by people in South Berwick from the 1600s-1850’s.


Evaluation of Student Objectives:

I will assess student’s progress through formative data collection during the discussions based on their responses to questions asked during the lesson.