Social Studies Wednesday: Creating and using webquests

Social Studies Wednesdays

Welcome to Social Studies Wednesday!  I hope you will stop by to share ideas and resources for teaching Social Studies. Please comment and  leave a link to your post, I’ll check in and  round up contributions throughout the day.  If you don’t have a link to share, please leave a comment about the posts in the round up. It’s always good to hear your feedback!

The internet has made Social Studies so much more fun to design lesson plans and activities for.  With each passing year, I find more resources on line, and more ways to design interactive learning experiences for my kids.  For just about every unit, Ive designed at least one on-line activity that requires research, note-taking, some visual aspect and a writing component to synthesize the learning.  Sometimes I create a webquest all of my own design, and sometimes I just use one I’ve found online and tweak/add to it a bit  to personalize it for my kids and the unit we’re studying.  
These webquests used o take days to create, but I can now put one together in a matter of a few hours.  The main thing is to make sure the links work (if you’re using a pre-existing webquest, this can sometimes be a problem) and that the project is not too involved (too many instructions and activities, I find, leads to too many frustrations and confusion).  I try and limit my focus and provide a clear timeline – and we always “walk through” the webquest to answer questions before we begin to work on it.  It’s a wonderful way to practice so many skills, and my kids enjoy the independence they have in creating something all their own using the research tools and guidelines I’ve outlined.  Here, for example, is a webquest we just completed for a unit on the the Underground Railroad:

The Underground Railroad

What would life have been like for slaves?  To avoid this harsh treatment, what alternatives would you try?  The Underground Railroad was neither underground nor a railroad, but a secret escape route for fugitive slaves to free states.  It was run by local antislavery activists.  Every home that welcomed runaways was considered part of the Underground Railroad. 
You are traveling aboard a time machine and arrive in the year 1851.  You have been transformed into an antislavery activist as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.  Each of you is trying to protect your livelihood while helping less fortunate people  in this great protest against slavery.

The Task:
Harriet Tubman has asked for your help in protecting escaping slaves in your home.  You  must become familiar with all perspectives of the Underground Railroad in order to prepare for this endeavor. 
When  Harriet Tubman returns, you must present her with:
(1) A journal that reflects your background knowledge and the obstacles you might encounter as part of the underground railroad.
(2)A “Heroes of the  Abolition Movement” poster for an anti-slavery rally.
The Process:
1.       Research the Underground Railroad. This is done independently. Go through the  webquest at to gain an idea of what it was like to be traveling along the Underground Railroad.   Use your Social Studies notebook to keep notes about what it was like to travel on the Underground Railroad the routes, the challenges, how you communicated with other slaves, what fears, dangers and challenges you encountered. 
2.      Create a Journal (use your imagination for this – it should have a cover and pages   inside containing the information):
·         The route you took.
·         Signs along the way to help you make the journey safely.
·         Challenges you encountered along the way.
·         Five points of advice you would give an escaping slave.
·         A coded message to a slave escaping on the Underground Railroad.
Resources to help you write your Journal:
Songs and signs used on the Underground Railroad:
Visit the following website to gain an understanding of brave men and women who fought to abolish slavery:

Design a poster to celebrate six of these individuals – your poster should have their names, a picture/illustration, a brief biography and information about their achievements.


The Underground Railroad was a dramatic protest against slavery in the United States.  It is an example of a time in American history when people of different races and religions came together to help those who were willing to risk their own lives to reach freedom.
The Round-up:
Linda at Teacherdance shares more ideas about the importance of  writing about place.

Maria at Teaching in the 21st Century shares reading resources and teaching ideas for her unit on slavery as well – as she says, we’re on the same wave length today!


7 thoughts on “Social Studies Wednesday: Creating and using webquests

  1. I love this lens for examining history. The idea that " pieces of land hold many layers of history" is so powerful and worthwhile spending time investigating! Thanks, Linda!

  2. What a lot of great resources and ideas! I love the idea of getting under the tables to replicate something of the experience aboard slave ships – it's so hard teaching about this brutal experience. Thanks, Maria!

  3. Love the idea of SS Wednesdays! :)I just saw your e-mail about this (that you sent me a few weeks ago). Sorry I haven't responded. I've been resting my wrists and trying to stay off of the computer as much as possible. However, I HAD to check your blog out today. That was a necessity!

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