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Chronological Reasoning and Causation

The Untold Voices of the Erie Canal

  1. Load Engraving showing excavation of the "deep cut" near Lockport, New York, 1825 in Main Image Viewer
  2. Load Photograph of Ely Samuel Parker in Main Image Viewer
  3. Load Erie Canal Celebration, New York, 1825 in Main Image Viewer
  4. Load Sagoyewatha (Seneca Chief Red Jacket) in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

This activity can be completed on Consider the Source or by using the attached Google Documents and Slides.

Google Slide: The Untold Voices of the Erie Canal

Erie Canal Student.Group Facing Templates:

Group Work Rubric:


Title: The Untold Voices of the Erie Canal 

  • Who was there? Who is missing from the story?


  • Students follow the 1.3.6 protocol using accountable talk stems to think about and analyze documents and videos that connect to the Erie Canal.  Often, we can find images, and videos of prominent landowners who claim to have built or who claim to have been a significant contributor in the building of the Erie Canal, and yet we don’t often see or hear about previously marginalized groups at all. This lesson will begin the journey of digging deeper with the goal of finding some of those untold voices.

Goal: To find the untold voices behind the Erie Canal. 


Students will think as individuals, in small groups, and share out to the entire group. 

Students will build upon their thinking as they analyze primary and secondary sources.

Students will have a better understanding of the various individuals who contributed to the building of the Erie Canal as well as who was impacted by the Erie Canal.

Investigative (Compelling) Question: 

Who is missing from the story of how the Erie Canal came to be?

Time Required

  • 40-45 min.

Recommended Grade Range

  • (Grades 3-6) 4th Grade is NYS History

Subject: Social Studies

Standards: Practices- 4th Grade: Gathering, Interpreting and Using Evidence: Recognize, use, and analyze different forms of evidence to make meaning in social studies (including primary and secondary sources, such as art and photographs, artifacts, oral histories, maps, and graphs)

Framework- 4.6 Westward Movement & Industrialization: New York State played an important role in the growth of the United States. During the 1800s, people traveled west looking for opportunity. Economic activities have changed over time and there have been advancements in transportation and technology. (Standards: 1,3,4 Themes: MOV,TCC,GEO,ECO,TECH)

4.6b The Erie Canal was built in order to connect the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean.  New towns were built and existing towns expanded. New York City became the busiest port in the country.

*Students will examine the physical features of New York State and create a hypothesis about the best place to build a canal then compare that to where the Erie Canal is. 

*Students will examine how the building of the canal affected the Haudenosaunee people.

*Students will locate and name; five towns, four cities, and major products shipped along the canal.

Credits: Tricia Lynn González (RCSD - AMTNYS - NYSED)


Materials Used:  Erie Canal Student JournalGoogle Slide Deck, print out slides to place around the room or to put at tables.

Resources Used: 

Listed below but also on slides


  1. Video Hook - play video.

  2. Individual think time

Students jot down their initial thoughts in their Erie Canal Student Journal. (5min.)

What did they notice? What do they wonder? What’s Missing? Who is missing?

  1. Gallery Walk- Student Discussion Group (1.3.6 protocol)

  1. First, students silently walk around the room looking at the pictures (or pictures can be at the tables) they then add to their (notice/wonder erie canal journal) (5min.)

  2. Students work in groups of three to share initial thoughts and then add additional noticings and wondering as well as what/who is missing? (5 min.)

  3. Two groups of three join together in order to create a new group of six. They all continue to add to their ‘notice/wonder/who/what is missing?’ (10 min.)

  1. Whole Group Share Out of Discoveries (Charted) (10 min.)

Students share the group’s thoughts.

      5)  Video - play video

           Students turn and talk then jot down their thoughts.   (5 min.)     

          Song & Video - play song/video

          Students turn and talk then jot down their thoughts.   (5 min.)   

     6) Digging Deeper - Reflections

          (Who else was there and may be missing from our history  books?)

           What did you learn? What do you still wonder? What/who should we investigate next?


Next lessons could go into each marginalized group who may be missing from the story.

African American Voices


Local Voices 

Jobs you didn’t know existed

Bring in Haudenosaunee experts to give even more information.


15. Evaluation: Look at student journals and assess learning that took place. Did they participate and add to their notes? Did they work well  in groups? Group Work Rubric