Lesson: Getting Around

Grade Levels
One or two class periods
Associated Entries
Getting Around
Mass Transit
Getting Around Milwaukee Worksheet
James K. Nelsen
A side view of a man sitting on an early 20th-century motorcycle with an exterior wall of a structure as the background. He poses next to the building's window, on a pathway that separates the building with a lawn in the foreground. While his body facing to the left, his face gazes at the camera lens.
Students learn how getting to and from school, work, and play spaces has changed in Milwaukee. They use "Who, What, Where, When, and How" strategies to analyze photographs from the past. Students compare and contrast the modes of transportation they find in these photographs to determine changes and continuities with transportation they are familiar with today. Advanced readers construct and analyze a timeline.


SS.Hist2.a.i Describe patterns of continuity over time in the community, state, and the United States
SS.Hist2.b.i Describe patterns of change over time in the community, state, and the United States.

Introductory Activities

  1. Use the “Getting Around” entry to display the image of the children on the bicycle for the class. Click on the image to get the source information. Ask the following questions (5 minutes):

    • Who is in the picture? (two boys)
    • What are they doing? (riding a bicycle)
    • Where are they doing it? (on a sidewalk in Milwaukee)
    • When are they doing it? (1943)
    • How are the boys performing this activity in a way that is similar to how you might perform it today? (Answers will vary)
    • How is this activity different from how you might perform it today? (Answers will vary, but students might bring up issues of safety, style of clothing, or differences between the bicycle in the photograph and modern bicycles)
  2. Follow-up questions: Ask students how they get from place to place in Milwaukee today. Answers might include walking, riding a bicycle, riding in a car, or taking a bus. Then ask students how they would get from Milwaukee to another city in southeastern Wisconsin (3 minutes).

  3. Finally, ask students how people may have gotten from place to place in the 1940s. They probably used many of the same forms of transportation we use today. However, instead of buses, they probably used streetcars to get from place to place in the city and interurban trains to get from city to city. Display the other images in the “Getting Around” entry, which includes a train, and the “Mass Transit” entry, which includes a TMER&L streetcar image (2 minutes).

Developmental Exercises

  1. Ask students to complete the worksheet and share their answers. Discuss similarities and differences with the past.


  1. For average and below average readers: Have the students draw one of their modern forms of transportation from the worksheet and label two similarities and two differences between their drawing and its corresponding historical mode of transportation.

  2. For advanced readers: Pass out copies of the “Getting Around” entry. Have students underline the following key dates. Then have them construct a timeline. Note: Depending on ability levels, teachers could chose to postpone the timelines by a day and complete a more involved assignment on timelines.

    • Construction of the Milwaukee-Watertown road (1837)
    • Four daily stagecoach runs (1845)
    • Milwaukee-Watertown road covered in wooden planks (1853)
    • Horse-drawn streetcars (1860)
    • First trollies in Milwaukee (1890)
    • First interurban train (1900)
    • First bicycle riders in Milwaukee (1869)
    • First automobile produced in Racine (1903)
    • Harley and Davidson built their first motorcycle (1901)
    • Wisconsin’s highway system began (1918)
    • Milwaukee’s first airport opened (1919)
    • General Mitchell Field opened (1941)

    Possible timeline questions:

    1. What segment on the timeline is the shortest?
    2. What segment on the timeline is the longest?
    3. Which of these developments do you use most often?
    4. Which of these developments do you use least often?
    5. Which of these developments do you think is the most important? Why?