Field Trips

C&O Canal Riddle Me History (4th Grade, Oldtown, Maryland)

A photo of the C&O Canal Lockhouse 70 near Oldtown.
Immerse your students in Maryland history.

NPS photo

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Students will visit Oldtown, Maryland, to learn about Native Americans, use their navigation skills, and immerse themselves in frontier Maryland history. At the end of the activity, students should be able to…

  1. Navigate using a map with compass and/or GPS unit, 
  2. Identify how Native Marylanders and early Maryland settlers met their basic needs,
  3. Identify significant early people and structures in Maryland settlement.

The park partnered with Allegany County Public Schools to develop this field trip along with pre- and post-visit activities for your classroom. Completing the classroom activities will enhance student learning. The lessons include watching a short video about the tunnel (link below). 

Field Trip Itinerary

During this extended outdoor experience, students will learn about change over time and how places develop. They will walk to sites in the Oldtown area, a total of approximately two miles. 

Welcome (30 minutes)

Students will meet the ranger at the parking lot of Lockhouse 70/Oldtown. They will share their canal knowledge and portray historical figures from the Oldtown area.  

I'm a Mystery, Tell My History (60 minutes)

The students will go on a scavenger hunt and visit sites in Oldtown to reveal the layers of history here. 

Basic Needs (60 minutes)

Students will work in cooperative groups to draw conclusions about how Native Americans met their basic needs through observation of the landscape. 

Exit Ticket/Wrap Up (30 minutes)

Students will learn discuss advocacy and write a song to recap their day.

Pre-Visit Activities

These pre-visit classroom activities introduce students to the canal. 

  • Option A: Journey on the C&O Canal (Recommended). Students will learn why the C&O Canal is an amazing accomplishment in Maryland's history, understand more about the genre of historical fiction, and describe what a typical nine-year old canal boy and family were like in the late 1800's. The lesson materials include a printable lesson plan, Power Point presentation and notes for the teacher, journal excerpts with a map for the students, and a vocabulary list
  • Option B: Read Captain Kate (Recommended). In the classroom, read Captain Kate, a fiction chapter book about a young girl who learns to operate a canal boat and makes the trip from Cumberland to Georgetown. Please inquire about obtaining copies of Captain Kate when making your program reservation. 
  • Option C: Writing Activity. Students may fulfill their fall writing piece (Maryland History) curriculum requirement focusing on the history of Oldtown. Suggested topics include Native American settlement, early frontiersman Michael or Thomas Cresap, or C&O Canal families. 
  • Option D: A Place of Refuge, Recreation and Reflection. Years after boats carrying goods ceased floating down the canal, one man would take a stand to save this national treasure from development and destruction. This man, Justice William O. Douglas, recognized that that the C&O Canal offered a place of refuge, recreation and reflection to all who took the opportunity to just "take a walk." In this lesson, students take a walk with Justice Douglas and think about what they would do if a place they loved was threatened with development.
  • Option E: Oldtown Archaeology People have lived in Oldtown, Maryland, for 9,000 years. Learn a bit more about archaeological investigations by exploring two National Park Service sites: one on Thomas Cresap and the other on Oldtown.

Post-Visit Activities

Use these lessons as a post-visit activity.

  • Option A: STEAM Activity Computer-Aided Design of Native Marylander Settlement. Using various software programs (i.e. PowerPoint, Adobe, Paint), students will re-create a Native Marylander settlement in Oldtown. Students will plot/design/label different areas of the settlement and create a legend as a guide to understanding their design. Download instructions.
  • Option B: Writing Piece. Students write a letter to Captain Kate describing their recent visit to Oldtown on the C&O Canal.

Plan Your Visit

Print the Plan Your Visit Guide for more information. To schedule a field trip, email us.


Canal Classrooms Rangers


Colonial History, Engineering, French and Indian War, History, Science and Technology, Transportation
National/State Standards:
Field Trips