How Geography Can Shape History

Grade Level: 4th

Overview: Using class discussion and a power point presentation, students will explore how geography influences history through a case study of Harrods Creek, a community on the Ohio River north of Lexington. They will use analytical skills in analyzing maps and primary resources including artwork and a document.

Optional extension 1 allow students to apply the essential questions to their own community and includes the opportunity to explore maps and map reading in more detail, conduct short research projects, write informational pieces, and/or report on a topic to present information.

Optional extension 2 reinforces the concept that advances in technology can modify the way that humans interact with their physical environment and connects to STEM curricular concepts. Optional extension 3 introduces careers in Transportation Planning (Practical Living/Career Awareness).

This lesson plan can be used alone or as part of a unit including Kentucky Government in Action. You could also include the power point from the fifth grade lesson, An Education for Our Children. As a unit, the lessons provide a case study of a rural, African American community in Kentucky and provide a springboard for exploring your local community through the lens of the Big Ideas in Social Studies. As an individual lesson, this can be used to provide an example of how geography impacted the early settlement and history of Kentucky and continues to influence development today.

The lesson can be enhanced by inviting a presenter from the Kentucky Cabinet for Transportation’s Kentucky Engineering Exposure Network (K.E.E.N.) to make a presentation to your class. Please see attached description (KEEN Bridge Building Description). See below for a list of district offices.

Standards Addressed (detailed bullets in lesson plan):

  • Kentucky Core Academic Standards – Big Ideas in Geography
  • Common Core in English Language Arts
  • C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards, National Council for the Social Studies

Essential Questions:
What information do different types of maps provide?
How does the physical environment restrict or promote human activities?
How do humans modify the environment to meet their needs?
How can primary sources help us understand the past?


For each student

Handouts for Optional Activity 1

For a comprehensive analysis of the Harrods Creek community, see the African American Heritage Interpretive Plan for Jefferson Jacob School, Jacob School Road, James Taylor Subdivision & Harrods Creek Village at

Helpful websites for Optional Activity 1 are:

    • Kentucky Digital Library has a database of primary sources that can be searched by county, publication date, and format.
    • The Kentuckiana Digital Library
    • Download or order Geologic County Map from the Kentucky. They are available here.

Helpful websites for Optional Activity 2 are:
Use the interactive Bridge Basics from the PBS program Building Big to introduce different bridge types and explore the forces that act upon each bridge type.
Be sure to include the cable-stayed bridge.

Also check with your local historical society and local tourism offices for materials.
If you plan to use Optional Activities, contact your district KEEN coordinator from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. S/he can tell you if there are any current or planned highway projects in your community or any identified needs. You might also want to arrange a classroom visit. KEEN coordinators can discuss transportation planning and careers in transportation and provide a grade level appropriate, hands-on engineering activity.

Kentucky Highway Districts
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet divides the state into 12 highway districts to optimize building, accountability, & maintenance of the transportation systems within.

District 1
Ballard, Calloway, Carlisle, Crittenden, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Livingston, Lyon, McCracken, Marshall, and Trigg Email District 1
Phone: (270) 898-2431

District 2
Caldwell, Christian, Daviess, Hancock, Henderson, Hopkins, McLean, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Union and Webster Email District 2
Phone: (270) 824-7080

District 3
Allen, Barren, Butler, Edmonson, Logan, Metcalfe, Monroe, Simpson, Todd, and Warren Email District 3
Phone: (270) 746-7898

District 4
Breckinridge, Grayson, Green, Hardin, Hart, Larue, Marion, Meade, Nelson, Taylor, and Washington Email District 4
Phone: (270) 766-5066

District 5
Bullitt, Franklin, Henry, Jefferson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer, and Trimble Email District 5
Phone: (270) 766-5066

District 6
Boone, Kenton, Campbell, Bracken, Pendleton, Grant, Owen, Gallatin, Carroll, Harrison and Robertson Email District 6
Phone: (859) 341-2700

District 7
Anderson, Bourbon, Boyle, Clark, Fayette, Garrard, Jessamine, Madison, Montgomery, Mercer, Scott, and Woodford Email District 7
Phone: (859) 246-2355

District 8
Adair, Casey, Clinton, Cumberland, Lincoln, McCreary, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Russell, and Wayne Email District 8
Phone: (606) 677-4017

District 9
Bath, Boyd, Carter, Elliott, Fleming, Greenup, Lewis, Mason, Nicholas, and Rowan Email District 9
Phone: (606) 677-4017

District 10
Breathitt, Estill, Lee, Magoffin, Menifee, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Powell, and Wolfe Email District 10
Phone: (606) 677-4017

District 11
Bell, Clay, Harlan, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Leslie, and Whitley
Email District 11
Phone: (606) 598-2145

District 12
Floyd, Johnson, Knott, Lawrence, Letcher, Martin, and Pike
Email District 12
Phone: (606) 433-7791

This lesson plan was developed as part of the African American Heritage Interpretive Plan for Jefferson Jacob School, Jacob School Road, James Taylor Subdivision & Harrods Creek Village Jefferson County, Kentucky