Lesson Plan

How the Early Railroads Changed New Mexico

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Grade Level:
Third Grade-Seventh Grade
American Indian History and Culture, Economics, Geology, History, Inventions / Inventors, Reconstruction, Social Studies, Transportation, Westward Expansion
60 Minutes
Group Size:
Up to 36 (6-12 breakout groups)
National/State Standards:
Grades 3-8 can be addressed
Most appriopriate grade level: 7
STRAND: History Grade 7
Content Standard I:
Benchmark 1-A
Benchmark: 1-B
STRAND: Geology
Content Standard II:
Benchmark 2-B
Benchmark 2-E


This is a lesson that can be used to teach geography, history and economics using pictures, maps and scale models.


Students will:

Know: The first groups of people in New Mexico: Native American, European, and Spanish. The Transcontitental Railroad: What did it look like? What parts of the U.S. did it operate? The A.T.&S.F. Railroad and its significance to New Mexico.

Understand: Westward expansion and the railroad: involving the significant changes in daily life of people living in New Mexico.

Be able to do: Discuss what changes were involved with the introduction of the railroad in the Southwest.  Be able to answer how those changes impacted and altered the lives of people in Albuquerque.


Focus Question:


How did the different groups of individuals get to the Albuquerque area throughout time?

Put the following information on the board-

The Native Americans- 1250 AD

The First Europeans-1750 AD

Spanish Conquistators- 1600 AD

Since 1850: Developments

Each group and time period should include extended information on transportation means and resources available.


Handout #1

Reading #1

Reading #2

Reading #3



Focus Question: What changes did the railroads bring to New Mexico and Albuquerque?

Put student answers to the focus question on the board. (Possible answers: population and economic growth, statehood,...)

Group Activity: Divide the class into four to seven groups. Give each group a set (2) of "then and now" pictures from the photo album. Have the students find the differences (changes) in the photos. After five to ten minutes, bring the groups together to discuss the changes they found, and how these changes impacted the lives of the people of New Mexico and Albuquerque.

Park Connections

Westward Expansion


1. Draw a map of Albuquerque in the 1880's. Show major streets, buildings, parks, schools, fair grouds and rail yards.

2. Write a five paragraph illustrated essay comparing the Albuquerque of 1880's with today.

3. Create an illustrated timeline of railroad history in New Mexico.

4. Draw a collage of the future of railroads in New Mexico.

Additional Resources

Bryan Howard. Albuquerque Remembered. University of New Mexico. 2006

Editor, Sheck, Ree. (1982) Railroads and Railroad towns in New Mexico. New Mexico Magazine, page. 3 & 4.

Fye, Sandra. Historic Photos of Albuquerque. Nashville, TN: Turner Pub., 2007.

Palmer, Mo. Albuquerque Then and Now. San Diego, California: Thunder Bay Press., 2006.

Williams, John Hoyt. A Great and Shining Road. New York: Times Books, 1988.


Transcontinental Railroad
A.T.&S.F. Railroad
Westward Expansion: Influence in Albuquerque

Last updated: February 24, 2015