Lesson Plan

Little Kinnakeet Lifesaving Station: Home to Unsung Heroes

A wooden rowboat sits on wheels in front of a four-wall, hipped roof building. Seven men stand between the boat and the building.

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.3, 6-8.RH.4, 6-8.RH.5, 6-8.RH.6, 6-8.RH.7, 6-8.RH.8, 6-8.RH.9, 6-8.RH.10, 9-10.RH.1, 9-10.RH.2, 9-10.RH.3, 9-10.RH.4, 9-10.RH.5, 9-10.RH.6, 9-10.RH.7, 9-10.RH.8, 9-10.RH.9, 9-10.RH.10
Additional Standards:
US History Era 5 Standard 2A: The student understands how the resources of the Union and Confederacy affected the course of the war.
Curriculum Standards for Social Studies from the National Council for the Social Studies
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.

Essential Question

Where did the United States Lifesaving Service work? What did it do? What historic place could you study to answer these questions?


1. Understand why the Federal Government took an active role in protecting mariners by creating the U.S. Lifesaving Service;
2. Explain the nature of duty in the U.S.L.S.S., including the daily routine and rescue activities;
3. Describe how the U.S.L.S.S. was perceived by some of the Atlantic Coast sailors whose lives were saved;
4. Examine modern rescue methods in their community and to compare them to U.S. Lifesaving Service operations.


Time Period: 1870s to 1910s
Topics: The lesson could be used in U.S. history, social studies, and geography courses in units on 19th-century commerce or transportation, civics, or the chronological period after Reconstruction. Little Kinnakeet will help students understand the need for the U.S. Lifesaving Service (U.S.L.S.S.), a government agency that often has been forgotten but was responsible for saving more than 175,000 lives during its 44 years of operation. In 1915 the U.S.L.S.S. merged with the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service to become the U.S. Coast Guard.


Bellowing its rage like a thunderous symphony, the Atlantic Ocean throws itself once more against the narrow bastion of North Carolina's barrier islands. Storm winds shriek above the roaring breakers, and carry with them a blinding flurry of sand and sea-foam. Bird and beast alike have fled the unyielding fury of the storm, for nothing can withstand this powerful onslaught of nature. Merciless waves will overwhelm ships caught in the turmoil or drive them ashore to be smashed to pieces in the pounding surf. Yet for this very reason a lifesaver from Little Kinnakeet Lifesaving Station struggles amidst this forbidding storm, patrolling the beach in search of shipwrecks where mariners might be in need of assistance.

Little Kinnakeet Lifesaving Station is an excellent reminder of the stations constructed by the U.S. Lifesaving Service (U.S.L.S.S.) during its 44-year existence (1871-1915). The original station building was among the first seven constructed on North Carolina's treacherous Outer Banks in 1874. A larger building was added in 1904, and the site remained active under the U.S. Coast Guard until 1954, when it was decommissioned and transferred to the National Park Service as a part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It still stands among the windblown sands of Hatteras Island, untouched by development and a poignant monument to the lifesavers it once housed.

Lesson Hook/Preview

When the Southern states first considered secession, most people believed that if war came, it would be brief. They did not envision four years of fighting that would lead to cruel deaths and the thousands that were captured as prisoners of war. In 1862 a system of parole and exchange was informally adopted by the Union and Confederate governments. A "paroled" prisoner pledged not to participate in the war or assist his allies. He would often be released on the spot to proceed to a camp where paroled soldiers were concentrated until the two governments officially exchanged prisoners. He could then return to the military. In the fall of 1863, the U.S. government suspended exchanges. The growing number of captured soldiers soon began filling Union and Confederate prisons.

Although conditions were bad in both Southern and Northern prison camps, the large number of prisoner deaths at Georgia's Andersonville Prison combined with the defeat of the Confederate states resulted in national attention and public outrage on the treatment of Union prisoners there.


Getting Started Prompt
Map: Orients the students and encourages them to think about how place affects culture and society
Readings: Primary and secondary source readings provide content and spark critical analysis.
Visual Evidence: Students critique and analyze visual evidence to tackle questions and support their own theories about the subject.
Optional post-lesson activities: If time allows, these will deepen your students' engagement with the topics and themes introduced in the lesson, and to help them develop essential skills.

Additional Resources

Andersonville National Historic Site
Andersonville National Historic Site is a unit of the National Park System. The park's web page details the history of the park and visitation information.

National Park Service Civil War Website
Visit the official National Park Service Civil War website. Offering the current generation of Americans an opportunity to know, discuss, and commemorate this country's greatest national crisis, while at the same time exploring its enduring relevance in the present, the website includes a variety of helpful features and links such as the About the Civil War page that offers a timeline and stories from various perspectives. Also included are links to Civil War Parks, NPS education programs, and much more.

Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System
The National Park Service's Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System is a recently created database containing facts about Civil War servicemen, lists of Civil War regiments, and descriptions of significant Civil War battles. Also on this site is a descriptive history of African-Americans in the Civil War.

Historic Places Honoring Those Who Served
The National Register of Historic Places online itinerary Civil War Era National Cemeteries: Honoring Those Who Served commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. This itinerary explains where the idea of national cemeteries came from and their meaning today.

Southeast Archeological Center
Southeast Archeological Center, a division of the National Park Service, offers a detailed discussion of their archeological investigation at Andersonville Civil War Prison. The site includes historical background and a description of the conditions at Andersonville.

National Archives and Records Administration
The National Archives and Records Administration offers a wealth of information about the Civil War as well as Andersonville Prison. Included on the site when searching "Andersonville Prison" is a special collection of photographs covering many aspects of the Civil War, such as prisoners and prisons. Another interesting search on "Civil War records" provides comprehensive sources of Union and Confederate records.

Library of Congress
The Library of Congress web page has selected Civil War photographs in their digital collections. Included on the site is a photographic time line of the Civil War covering major events for each year of the war.

The Valley of the Shadow
For a valuable resource on the Civil War, visit the University of Virginia's Valley of the Shadow Project. The site offers a unique perspective of two communities, one Northern and one Southern, and their experiences during the American Civil War. Students can explore primary sources such as newspapers, letters, diaries, photographs, maps, military records, and much more.

Wirz Trial Home Page
The Wirz Trial Home Page provides coverage of the famous trials surrounding the execution of Henry Wirz. Included on the site is a discussion about the controversies of the trial, the impact it had on military rules of conduct, and the legal implications. The materials were prepared as part of a class assignment at the University of Missouri-K.C. School of Law.

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Last updated: October 15, 2018