Inspiring through Experience

Mount Vernon – Colonial Slavery


LILI Unit: Mount Vernon, Colonial Slavery

Essential Question:

What was life like for slaves in early America?

Pre-trip lesson:  Students explore the history of slavery, with a focus on slavery in colonial America. Students study the journey slaves made on the Middle Passage, as well as what awaited them once they reached the shores of the new land. Students also discuss daily life for slaves, the Underground Railroad, and motivations for escape. Finally, students work with tangrams to develop a conceptual understanding of fractions.


Level of Difficulty:


Trip:  During the trip to Mount Vernon, students explore first-hand what daily life was like for slaves.  They view period objects and tools, such as toys and a spinning loom. Students explore various work houses on the plantation. Students use the work houses and the slave quarters to analyze the life of people today and compare it to the life of the slaves.  Finally, students visit an exhibit about slavery in the education center at Mount Vernon.
Academic Standards:

  • English Language Arts (CC.4.RI.2, CC.4.L.4.a)
  • Mathematics (CC.4.NF.3)
  • Social Studies (4.4.7)
Post-trip lesson:  As a culminating activity, students learn about the role of Freedom Quilts on the Underground Railroad.  They each select a specific quilt pattern to design, and then reflect in writing on their choice.  Students also test their knowledge of early American slavery as they compete in a collaborative review game and take written assessments.