Lesson Plan

America’s Earliest Highway: The Natchez Trace

Birdsong Hollow Bridge
The Birdsong Hollow Bridge, Near Milepost 438

NPS Photo

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Grade Level:
Eighth Grade-Twelfth Grade
2 50 minutes class periods
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
8th grade: 1, 1b, 1f, 4, 4a, 4b
Secondary: 9th-12th: MS Studies: 1, 1a, 1e, 3a, 3e, 3f, 4, 4a
Local Culture: 1, 1a, 1b, 2, 2b, 3, 3b, 4, 4a, 4b
Local Resources Studies: 1, 1b, 1c, 3, 3b, 4, 4a, 4b
human migration, early settlers, settlers, Old Trace, Natchez Trace, Old Southwest, Roads


A historical narrative and four independent lesson activities including mapping, persuasive letter writing, research, and “bridge building” are provided to teach students about the physical evolution of the Natchez Trace. This lesson will teach about the history of the building of the road now known as the Natchez Trace Parkway. Four separate activities are provided, including plotting the Trace on a blank map, writing a letter, learning about engineering, and building a bridge with cards.


Enduring Understanding: Both the physical characteristics and human inhabitants of regions change over time.

Essential Question: What are some essential engineering aspects that go into making a travel corridor more functional?

The students will:

1.) Be able to recognize the Natchez Trace as a road that began in Nashville, Tennessee, and ends in Natchez Mississippi

2.) Identify the how and why the Natchez Trace was improved, and concerns regarding the development of the Natchez Trace to the new nation

3.) Practice the art of civil engineering and test the building of a bridge over a road.


See Historical Narrative for background information in Materials.


1.) Historical Narrative (5 Pages)

2.) Critical Load Student Worksheet #1

3.) Critical Load Student Worksheet #2

4.) Resources used for this lesson

5.) Map of Tennessee

6.) Map of Mississippi and Alabama

7.) Blank map of United States

8.) Bridge making materials

For Each Student:

1.) Playing cards

2.) 4 coins For

Each Team:

1.) 2 quart cardboard juice/mild container (base only)

2.) Objects to build weight of base from 4-10 pounds (ex: coins, marbles, sand)



Participation in all activities and writing assignments.

Park Connections

Explains the history of the Natchez Trace and the importance of the Old Trace in history.

Additional Resources

Suggested Resources: http://memory.loc.gov to search the Library of Congress for historic photographs and documentation of engineering projects.