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Road to Independence

Road to Independence Activity

based on 660 ratings
See more activities in: Middle School, July 4th/Independence Day

In the summer of 1776, American delegates famously traveled from all over the Thirteen Colonies to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to draft and sign the great words of our Declaration of Independence, a statement of democracy that we celebrate every 4th of July. In today's fast-paced age, it's easy for kids to imagine patriots getting to Philadelphia in a few hours or even a day, thanks to trains and planes. But for colonists, the trip itself was a long and difficult journey. This 4th of July, celebrate by having your child figure out the amount of time it took our founding fathers to reach Philadelphia from their home city in order to sign the Declaration of Independence. This activity can help your child extend historical knowledge while giving math skills a boost!

What You Need:

  • Continental Congress Travel Sheet: "Get Me to Philadelphia!" (download here)
  • Pen or pencil
  • Calculator (optional)

What You Do:

  1. To get ready, start by reviewing the colonial map. Find Philadelphia, and mark it with a star. Then find the home cities of three famous Declaration signers. For example, you could pick Roger Sherman (New Haven, CT), John Hancock (Boston, MA), and Thomas Jefferson (Charlottesville, VA).
  2. Have your kids draw a straight line from each man's home city to Philadelphia. For this activity, we'll assume that each of our three statesmen traveled on land to arrive in Philadelphia by July 4th. Help your child to figure out how long this trip would have taken for each statesman.
  3. Use the math formula, Rate x Time = Distance. The formula works in several different ways and you can use the following to make the activity a little more difficult: Rate = Distance/Time, and Time = Distance/Rate.
  4. Assume that the men were traveling 7 miles per hour, 8 hours a day by horse-drawn carriage. Take into consideration the horses needed time to rest and could not travel 24 hours a day.
  5. Using all this information, work with your child on our downloadable worksheet.

By the way, here are our answers: (Remember: we don't have a completely accurate map of all colonial roads, so for this worksheet, kids will just draw a straight line from each man's home city to the Philadelphia destination). Sherman would have needed to travel 200 miles, taking 3.5 days, moving eight hours a day with no days off. At the same rate, Jefferson would have traveled 300 miles, taking 5.3 days, and Hancock would have traveled the furthest: 350 miles, 6.25 days. These are the math calculations, of course; the surprises of road washouts, weather, carriage wheel breakage, and horse injuries would have added a whole additional level of uncertainty. Makes the achievements of our Founding Fathers all that much more impressive, doesn't it?

Julie Williams, M.A. Education, taught middle and high school history and English for seventeen years. Since then, she has volunteered in elementary classrooms while raising her two sons and earning a master's in school administration. She has also been a leader in her local PTA.

Updated on Sep 6, 2013
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