Beginning Your Study
- Transportation Center
Set up a small display in your classroom about public transportation. Invite students to contribute items such as maps, photographs, postcards, MetroCards, advertisements, books, and hats and jackets that resemble the uniforms of transit workers to use for dramatic play. Also establish a word wall, posting vocabulary words related to your study. Students can add to the collection of objects and words, which can be referred to as the study progresses.
- Share and Compare
Ask students to bring in toys or magazine pictures of various modes of transportation. Use the toys and pictures for sorting and classifying activities:
• compare and contrast the similarities and differences in the vehicles
• sort by distinguishing features such as shape, color, and sound
• sort into categories of land, air, and water
• sort modes of public transportation from those that are not public transportation
• pair various means of transportation and have students tell which they think is faster or which would hold more passengers
• place toy vehicles or pictures in a bag and have students take turns selecting one, and while keeping it hidden from the class, give clues for others to try and guess the vehicle
- I Like to Ride…
Have students draw a picture of their favorite type of transportation to travel in and then write a few words or a sentence to describe it. Completed pictures can also be used for sorting and classifying activities.
- This is the Way We Go to School
How do children get to school? Do they walk, or do they ride in a car, on a bus, or take the subway? Create a picto-graph to represent the various modes of travel. Discuss the results.
- The ABCs of Travel
Help students compile an alphabet list of various modes of transport. For example, A = airplane, B = bus, C = car, D = donkey, E = elevator, etc. See how many words students can generate for each letter. Create a class alphabet book, with each student illustrating a page or two using drawings, collage materials, or digital means.
Before Visiting the Museum
- Our Journeys
Ask students to share thoughts about journeys they have made on buses and subways. Compile a list of words describing the sights, sounds, and feelings of their experiences. Then have students interview parents or grandparents about their memories of travel on public transportation when they were children. How do their parents’ or grandparents’ remembrances compare to the students’ own experiences?
- Picture the Past: Using Primary Sources
Show students photographs of the crowded streets of Lower Manhattan in the late 1800s. What problems do they see? What do they notice about transportation and traffic conditions? How could these problems be solved? As a class, create a list of reasons why New York City needed an underground rapid transportation system.
- Tunnel Vision
Use a book such as Dig a Tunnel to introduce students to tunnels and to begin a discussion about underground subway tunnels. Allow students to share what they know about tunnels based on their experiences of riding the subway. Give students an opportunity to construct tunnels in a sand tray or box. Provide a variety of “construction” materials and ask them to create subway tunnels in the sand. How can they keep the tunnels from collapsing? Share photographs of tunnel workers and discuss what it might have been like to work on constructing New York City’s subway tunnels.
- On the Job
If possible, invite an MTA employee (such as a bus driver or train operator) to come speak to your students. Have students prepare questions for the guest speaker in advance, focusing on particular information they want to learn. If arranging a visit isn’t possible, read books such as Bus Driver or explore Day in the Life of a Bus on our website.
- Mosaic Makers
Ornamentation has always been a part of subway station construction. Show students images of mosaics and plaques from various stations, or if possible, arrange a visit to a subway station in your neighborhood to see the artwork in person. Ask students why they think subway stations have ceramic ornamentation. How might the artwork be helpful, in addition to being pretty and colorful? Provide students with small squares of paper to use in making their own mosaics. What pictures or words will their artwork convey? See our Online Gallery Talk entitled "Subway Style" for an in-depth look at subway mosaics with museum experts and curators.
When the subway opened in 1904, a ride cost a nickel. Today, fare for subways and buses is $2. Use these amounts to do a little metro-math. Determine how much it would cost for your entire class to travel on pubic transportation in both 1904 and today, assuming that fare is paid for everyone. Have students count by twos (for today’s fare) and by fives (for 1904 fare). You may want to offer manipulatives to help students calculate the dollar amount of the sum of the nickels. Discuss the results.
- Map It: Using Primary Sources
Read aloud It’s My City! A Singing Map, the story of two children describing the sights of their neighborhood. Take a walk around your school neighborhood, identifying places of interest as you go. How are the sights of your neighborhood similar to or different from the sights mentioned in the book? Find your school neighborhood on a subway map. Use a magic marker or stickers to mark your school and some of the places or landmarks you noticed on your walk. Help students find the local subway station. Can they identify the color and name of the train line, and where the line starts and finishes? Trace the subway route you will/could take to get from your school to the Transit Museum. Count the number of stations you would pass through along the way.
- I Spy
If you travel by subway to reach the museum, ask students to notice features of the subway station(s) and the train car(s) on the way: signs & advertisements; turnstiles; train seats; lights; and station architecture and decorations, such as mosaics and plaques. Students will be comparing what they notice about today’s stations and subway trains with the vintage trains and objects they
see in the Museum.
After Your Visit to the Museum
- Our Visit
Ask students to think about a vehicle they saw at the museum that they found interesting. Have them draw a picture of it and write a few words or phrases describing it. Ask what they think it might have been like to travel on this vehicle.
- NYC on the Move: Using Primary Sources
Use photographs of the modes of transportation seen at the Transit Museum for various sorting and classifying activities:
• which ones were pulled by horses?
• which ones ran/run on tracks?
• which are still used today?
• arrange the pictures in chronological order, from the oldest vehicle to the most recent
- Then and Now: Using Primary Sources
Look at photographs of neighborhoods before the elevated train/subway reached the neighborhoods, and then look at photographs of the same neighborhoods today. How are they similar/different? Discuss changes that have been made over time. Why do students think these changes have occurred?
- All Aboard!
Attach several feet of white bulletin-board paper to the wall, either in the classroom or hallway, about a foot from the floor. Draw large rectangles on the paper to distinguish each window on an elevated train or bus. Arrange a carpet square next to each window to provide the seats for the train or bus. Then collect each child’s fare and let the passengers board. Give the children crayons or markers to draw the scenes they see from their windows as they take their imaginary ride.
- Station Construction
Provide students with boxes and collage materials or blocks to create a model of a subway train and station. Based on what they have learned about the subway system, have separate groups construct the station, its signals, train cars, and tracks.
- Stop and Go Signaling
Demonstrate stop and go signaling in the classroom with large cardboard circles representing the signals and children as trains.
- Bus Route
Write a story or play entitled “Day in the Life of a Bus.” Begin and end with the bus in the depot. Include information about the day’s routes, passengers, busy and slow times, the driver, and various happenings throughout the day.
- Stand Clear of the Closing Doors
Help students compile a list of rules for safe travel on subways and buses. What warning signs and safety announcements have they seen and heard on public transportation? Have them design their own signs and posters for safe travel.
- Tomorrow’s Travelers
Provide a variety of “construction” materials (such as plastic bottles, tissue rolls, buttons, lids from plastic containers, margarine tubs, foam meat trays, egg cartons, straws, craft sticks, toothpicks, yarn, string, construction paper, glue, tape, scissors) for students to use in creating original forms of transportation. Label each child’s creation with his/her name and the name of his/her vehicle. Create a classroom display of the imaginative modes of transport.
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