Lesson Plan

Role Playing on the Natchez Trace Parkway

Frontier Days 2008
Frontier Days, 2008

NPS Photo

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Grade Level:
Third Grade-Fourth Grade
Social Studies, Writing
45 minutes for activity, 30 minutes for trail, and 1 class period for paragraph
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
Third Grade:
Social Studies: 3, 3b, 3c
Language Arts: 3, 3b, 4

Fourth Grade:
Social Studies: 3, 3a, 3d 

Language Arts: 3, 3b, 4
human migration, early settlers, settlers, Old Trace, Natchez Trace, Old Southwest, Roads, Mississippi History, Alabama History, Tennessee History, boatmen, Kaintucks, natchez trace parkway


The teacher will orient the students with an official map of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Prior to playing the game, the teacher will need to obtain “flags” and write character assignments on slips of paper. The students should keep their characters secret. In the flag-football type game, the students will role-play boatmen, American Indians, outlaws, and bears.  The slips of paper will also tell students whose flags they may take. The students will draw the names from a “hat”.


Enduring Understanding: The migration of humans affects their chance of survival.

Essential Question: Who all used the Natchez Trace Parkway?

The students will:

1) Have a better understanding of the Old Natchez Trace and the struggles people traveling on it had to overcome in the 1800s

2) Compose text

3) Use social studies tools


Boatmen, or Kaintucks, floated down the Mississippi River on flatboats to Natchez, Mississippi where they sold many different items. They broke apart their boats and sold the wood too. They could not use their boats for the trip home as paddling upriver was too difficult. Some had to go as far home as Pennsylvania. The Natchez Trace is the route many chose to take because it was a direct route to Nashville, Tennessee. Over the years, American Indians had made trails from frequent use and the boatmen followed their paths. Eventually, the Natchez Trace turned into a sometimes dangerous road. Sometimes the boatmen and American Indians did not get along. The boatmen felt the American Indians were getting in their way and the Indians felt the boatmen were invading their homeland.

Outlaws were sometimes another difficulty. After selling all of their goods and the wood from their boats, the boatmen were carrying a lot of money. Outlaws knew that the boatmen had large amounts of money and would steal from them while they were asleep. Sometimes the outlaws would even kill the boatmen for the money. Some of the first serial killers are believed to have started their killing sprees on the Natchez Trace. The Harpes brothers were very vicious outlaws and murders. These two men killed anyone and everyone who stood in the way of what they wanted, even their own children.

There were also natural obstacles such as snakes, bears as well as hunger and fatigue. The most common threat however, would have been from the weather, especially heavy rains that caused floods


1.) Worksheet

2.) Flag football belts or substitute for every student (3 flags for every student)

3.) 1 MS state map, 1 AL state map, 1 TN state map, and 1 Natchez Trace Parkway map

4.) Paper, pencils, and crayons



Fair play in the game. Participation in the hike descriptions. Quality of text composition.

Park Connections

This program discusses the history of the Natchez Trace Parkway.


For an interpretive program on the boatmen of the Natchez Trace Parkway, call 662-680-4027 or 1-800-305-7417 for information.


Boatmen, Kaintuck