Lesson Plan

Trail of Tears Reenactment: Building Background Knowledge

Trail of Tears 800 Miles Insignia
Photo By Kelley Clinton


Russell Cave National Monument is one of the few National Parks that is located and associated with the rich cultural stories of the Trail of Tears. Students will learn the experiences and nutritional needs during the Trail of Tears.


  • Build background knowledge of the Cherokee as they walked along the Trail of Tears. 
  • Experience aspects of walking on the Trail of Tears. 
  • Exercise prediction skills. 


"Trails of Tears Reenactment: Building Background Knowledge," is a 4th grade social science program that students can do in the classroom or in a small green space in less than an hour. The teacher will proctor the students about the survival of the American Indians during The Trail of Tears by using various educational tools such as videos and handouts. Students will write down everything they eat in one day in their Trail of Tears Notebook Journal as their homework assignment. 


The teacher will need to show the National Park Service's Trail of Tear movie. This movie can be ordered for free or watch it online at: www.nps.gov/trte/photosmultimedia/dvd.htm.   

A journal of any size will be needed in order for the students to record their observations that they learned during the program. 

 Materials List


  1. Introduction/Motivation: Show students a ration of food that Cherokee people received. (Photo examples included below)
    1. The students will think about and discuss what they believe the food represents.
    2. Using the Trail of Tears Notebook Journal

                   i.     The students will title the first page: Predictions.

Prediction 1: The students will write their prediction of what they think the food shown represents.


  1. Watch the NPS Trail of Tears video. This video is free from the National Park Service. It can be ordered for free, or watch it online at: http://www.nps.gov/trte/photosmultimedia/dvd.htm
    1. Using the Trail of Tears Notebook Journal

                          i.     Students will write: Prediction 2

                         ii.     Students will write what they think the food rations shown at the beginning of the lesson represents after watching the video.

  1. The following lesson is adapted from the Indian Removal lesson by Barak Gtzersen,
    1. Group Activity: (This activity could be completed in a hallway, on a school playground, football field, hiking trail, etc)

                    i.     Suggested hiking trails in northern Alabama National Parks: Russell Cave National Monument Hiking Trail 1.2 miles, Russell Cave National Monument Nature Trail .5 miles. Little River Canyon National Preserve Path to Learning Trail .5 miles, Little River Canyon National Preserve Canyon Mouth Trail 1 mile, Little River Canyon National Preserve Beaver Pond Trail Loop 1.5 miles, Desoto State Park.

  1. Assign ten students to be soldiers.
  2. Assign one student as the Captain.
  3. The rest of the students will be Cherokees.
  4. The Captain will:

                         i.     Instruct the soldiers to round up the Cherokee.

                          ii.     Instruct the Cherokee to scatter on the field.

                           iii.     Instruct the soldiers go round up the Cherokee and bring them into the stockade. Stockade can be four benches or predetermined areas. This represents the stockades that the Cherokee were rounded up in.

                              iv.     As the Cherokee are brought in, have a couple of the soldiers pretend to burn their houses.

  1. Explain to the students that some of the Cherokees were marched westward by the soldiers but most asked that they conduct their own removal.
    1. Removal Begins.

                        i.     The Cherokee begin their march. Some of the Cherokee are given hazard cards,

1.     Illness-Measles and Whooping Cough-5 people die

2.     Cold Weather-2 people die

3.     Fell into a River-1 person dies

                                          ii.     As the walk is reenacted, the teacher will call out the hazard card categories.

1.     Students will reenact these events.

  1. Conclusion: Students will be given five minutes to discuss the events that they experienced during the reenactment.

                     i.     Students will record their experiences in their Trail of Tears Notebook Journal

1.     Students will go to page 2 in their Trail of Tears Notebook Journal and write:

a.      Their role in the Trail of Tears activity.

b.     How they would feel about their role

c.      What they saw in the video and how their role was depicted.

d.     Students will create a title for this page

2.     Students will go back to page one and write:    

Prediction 3: Students will write what their prediction is now about the food presented at the beginning of the lesson.

HOMEWORK: Students will write down everything they eat in one day in their Trail of Tears Notebook Journal.


  • Check the students Trail of Tears journals the following day. 

Additional Resources

 Additional Resources and Websites 


Trail of Tears
Native American