Lesson Plan

What’s Happenin’ on the Trace?

The Natchez Trace Parkway in the fall.
NPS Photo
Grade Level:
Sixth Grade-Twelfth Grade
African American History and Culture, Agriculture, American Indian History and Culture, Anthropology, Aquatic Studies, Archaeology, Biodiversity, Biology: Animals, Biology: Plants, Botany, Civic Engagement, Civil Rights Movement, Civil War, Climate Change, Community, Conservation, Constitutional Amendments, Constitutional Law, Earth Science, Ecological Engineering, Ecology, Education, Environment, Environmental Law, Family Life, Fire Ecology, Geography, Geology, Government, Health, Historic Preservation, History, Hydrology, Immigration, International Relations, Journalism, Language Arts, Media Studies, Planning/Development, Recreation / Leisure / Tourism, Recreation Ecology, Science and Technology, Social Studies, War of 1812, Westward Expansion, Wildlife Biology, Wildlife Management, Women's History, Writing
At least 1 class period for discussion, additional time depending on report requirements
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
Variable depending on assignment
Social Studies:
6th: 2,3
8th 4,5,6,7,8
MS Studies:
US Hist 1877 to Present:
US Government:
Local Resource Studies:
current events, journalism, communication, communications, service learning, stewardship, community involvement


Students will investigate current events associated with the Natchez Trace Parkway. They will write a journalism type report and/or develop a visual presentation. Subject areas may include: community events or issues, plants, animals, invasive species, boundary issues, social issues and environmental issues. The students should pretend they are reporters. They will develop a written or visual project, depending on the teacher assignment.


Enduring Understanding: Investigation into current events creates an awareness of our world's past and present.

Essential Question: How can your knowing about current issues help the Natchez Trace Parkway?

The students will:

1) become familiar with issues affecting the Natchez Trace Parkway

2) examine their role as citizens in recognizing and solving those issues

3 ) examine the impact of humans on the environment

4) develop communication skills

5) describe the impact of technology on development of the Western Hemisphere and its ecology


The students should already be aware that the Natchez Trace Parkway is part of the National Park system and therefore management is part of the federal government. (See lesson plan "So What is the Natchez Trace?")

There are many issues that affect a federally protected and maintained 444 mile-long roadway the runs through three states and several metropolitan areas.

It is impossible to separate issues that affect only cultural or natural concerns as our culture affects the natural areas of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

The Natchez Trace Parkway was established to commemorate the historical significance of the old Natchez Trace. The parkway right-of-way varies from 400 to 100 feet with bulges at irregular intervals. Commercial vehicle traffic is prohibited.

Through National Park Service internal policies and guidelines and the federal historic preservation laws and regulations, the Park Service is mandated to provide for the preservation, restoration, protection, interpretation, use, study, and management of significant cultural resources within the Parkway boundaries.

One purpose of natural and cultural resource management is to protect rare, threatened or endangered resources.  Inseparable to this mission is the support of visitor use programs. Another objective is to maintain scenic quality along the parkway.


1.) Guidelines

2.) Access to public records and newspapers.

3.) Natchez Trace Parkway website www.nps.gov/natr/index.htm for news releases

4.) National Park Service's service-wide issues website at http://www.nature.nps.gov/criticalissues


Student Task: Review the purpose of the National Park Service and the Natchez Trace Parkway. Review the physical qualities of the parkway. Have the students brainstorm what they think may be some issues that would affect the Natchez Trace Parkway. Write the issues on the board or overhead as the students develop the ideas. Discuss which issues would have definite answers or answers that are opinions. Discuss which issues would be easy or hard to research.

Student Instructions:

1.) Investigate and write a "newspaper article" report or make a display board about one of the issues discussed in class.

2.) Be sure to answer the "who, what, where, when, why and how" questions. The tricky question will be the WHY question.

3.) If your presentation is persuasive you will need to develop an opinion about your subject.

4.) If your presentation is descriptive, then you will need to know a lot of facts.

Option: The students could write a creative fictional story using facts for the base of the story.

Possible topics (options are limitless):


Endangered species or threatened species

• Should we worry?

• Should they be reintroduced?

Invasive plant or animal species

  • Privet
  • Kudzu
  • Wisteria
  • Cogon grass
  • Nutria
  • Feral hogs, cats and dogs

Spotted salamander migration issues

Beaver management concerns

Fire as a resources management tool

General Resource Issues

Effects of climate change or global warming

Archeological protection

  • American Indian inclusion
  • Care of American Indian mounds

Boundary issues

Special use of the Natchez Trace by individuals or groups

How much influence should states have on the federal land?

Federal firearms laws Should state or federal laws be enforced?

Allowed modes of transportation

Social Studies:

Privately owned portions of the old Trace and their care

How current construction projects affect the Trace

Construction by neighbors

Agricultural lease issues

Viewshed protection

  • Cell towers
  • Buildings
  • Private land
  • Utility right-of-way
  • Road right-of-way

Visitor Use or Misuse of the Trace

  • Drugs 
  • Speeding
  • Geocaching
  • Timber theft
  • Hunting
  • Picking flowers
  • Hiking
  • Pets or horses 
  • Bicycling
  • Motorcycling
  • Camping


Teacher Closure: Conduct a class discussion as to whether or not students changed their opinions about certain issues. At the teacher's discretion, have the students give oral reports.



Participation in the activity and quality of the report.

Park Connections

Discusses issues regarding the Natchez Trace Parkway.


1.) Associate issues with the Natchez Trace with other federal, state or local areas in the news.

2.) Invite a lawyer familiar with federal law to visit your classroom and have the lawyer focus on federal vs. state law.

 3.) Invite a park ranger to your classroom to speak about one of the issues. 

4.) Visit the Natchez Trace and observe issues first hand. Invite someone from the Natchez Trace Parkway to come speak about one of the issues.

Additional Resources


Natchez Trace Parkway Headquarters, 2680 Natchez Trace Parkway, Tupelo, MS 38804, 662-680-4027

National Park Service website www.nps.gov

National Park Service Policies http://home.nps.gov/applications/npspolicy/index.cfm

National Park Service Issues http://science.nature.nps.gov/

Code of Federal Regulation http://www.gpoaccess.gov/cfr/

Selected laws http://www.nature.nps.gov/RefDesk/index.cfm#Laws%20and%20Related%20Material

Selected Executive orders http://www.nature.nps.gov/RefDesk/index.cfm#Executive%20Orders

NPS policies and guidelines http://www.nature.nps.gov/policiesguidance/index.cfm

Natchez Trace Parkway Environmental Assessments http://parkplanning.nps.gov/search.cfm

Journalism Links:

How to Write a Feature Story

Teen News Organizations