Lesson Plan

Name It

Yockanookany sign along the Natchez Trace
Yockanookany, Milepost 130.9

NPS Photo

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Grade Level:
Fourth Grade
Social Studies, Writing
30-45 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
Social Studies: 1, 1a,1b,3a, 5
Ethnic/Cultural Heritage, Cultural History, cultural influence, place name, geographic name, geographic names


This lesson engages students to determine important locations and creatively develop their own names for places around the school. 


Enduring Understanding: There is a history to how locations got their names.

Essential Question: What events or people can influence the naming of a location?

The students will learn to:

1) Understand how pioneers generated place names

2) use creative skills to generate their own place names

3) determine important features of localized geographic area


"A trail led from Natchez northward and eastward through forests of oak and hickory and pine, through can thickets and swamps, to Nashville on the Cumberland, 500 miles away. The trail had many names. The southern part followed Indian paths to the farm villages of the Choctaws. English men of the 1770's therefore spoke of the Path to the Choctaw Nation. The northern part was known by the people of Nashville as the Chickasaw Trace in the 1780's.

"As the flow of through traffic between Nashville and Natchez increased, men began to speak of 'the Natchez Road' or 'the Nashville Road,' naming it for the distant point to which they were headed.

"Frontiersmen who first explored the valleys that drained into the Ohio River left faint paths for others to follow. Such paths were called traces. Many of them became famous: Boone's Trace, Berry's Trace and others. In time, the people of the Cumberland Valley began to speak of the Natchez Trace. Oddly enough, they called it the Natchez Road" When it was merely a 'path that serpentine those boundless forests'. Not until after it had in face become a road did they call it the Natchez Trace." (Phelps and Ross 1952)

Where did people get ideas for names?

Place names can be descriptive like French Camp.

Place names can be historic like Yackanookany.

Place names can be aesthetic like Emerald Mound.

Place names can be about a person Colbert Ferry.

Place names can be about an event Pigeon Roost.


1.) Name It worksheet

2.) Name It worksheet example



Participation in the activity and quality of worksheet responses.

Park Connections

Teaches students the importance of how locations may have gotten their names and brings them into the history of the Natchez Trace.


1.) On a field trip to the Natchez Trace Parkway have the students observe place names along the roads.

2.) Provide the students a list of names of people and places on the Natchez Trace. Have them choose a person and write a report about that person and how they were associated with the Old Natchez Trace. Alternatively, if the student knows a family member or friend who has a name associated with the Natchez Trace, have them investigate that family's role on the Old Natchez Trace.

a. Students write a creative paragraph about one or more of the place names they created. For example, the nurse's office could be accompanied by a story about a student who got sick and went to the nurse's office. Students should be encouraged to use descriptive words.

b. Students write a creative paragraph about one or more the place names on the Natchez Trace. Students should be encouraged to use descriptive words