Harriet Tubman

K, 1, 2

The concept of freedom as a Core Democratic Value will be described through the story of Harriet Tubman. Learners will understand why unselfish people risk their lives to help others and serve the common good.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Forty Minute Class Period

The learners will:

  • define and use the vocabulary of related to enslaved people and abolitionism.
  • explain how the common good is benefited when all people are free.
  • describe trust and explain its importance in the family, community and school.
  • describe how Harriet Tubman was a “conductor” on the “Underground Railroad. ”
  • Adler, David. A. A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman. New York: Holiday House, 1992. ISBN: 0-8234-1065-X
  • Benjamin, Anne. Young Harriet Tubman, Freedom Fighter. Mahwah, N.J.: Troll Associates, 1992. ISBN: 0-8167-2539-X
  • Harris, Kim and Reggie Harris. Steal Away, Songs of the Underground Railroad. West Chester, Pa: Appleseed Recordings, 1999. CD ASIN: B000005BPI 
  • McGovern, Ann. “Wanted Dead or Alive”: The True Story of Harriet Tubman. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1965. ISBN: 0-590-44212-0


  1. Anticipatory Set: Ask the students to describe what freedom means. (being free) Then ask, “Are you free?” Encourage a short discussion on how American citizens are free. (We are not owned by anyone.) Explain that there was a time in America when some people did not have their freedom. They were enslaved people.

  2. Ask, “What was a person who was enslaved?” (a person who was owned by another person) Explain that enslaved people could not do what they wanted to do. They were not allowed to learn to read. It was against the law. Tell the class that the following is a true story about a woman who wanted her freedom. Set the listening purpose: Listen to find out if and how she gets her freedom.

  3. Read A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman (see Bibliographic References) to the class. Pause for understanding of the words:

    • plantation: a large farm
    • abolitionist: a person who was against slavery
    • liberty: freedom
  4. After reading the story, discuss what it meant to be a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Harriet was a conductor. She led over 300 people to freedom. Make sure the children understand that the Underground Railroad was not literally a railroad. It was a trail that people followed to reach freedom in the North. It was not really underground either. It was a secret.

  5. Ask, “Why do you think Harriet Tubman wanted to risk her life to help free all those people?” Allow the children time to respond. Conclude that she was not selfish. She cared for the common good of her people. Ask: What does common good mean? (for the good of all) Explain that freedom is a core democratic value which is important for everyone. Equality is another democratic value that Harriet Tubman was supporting by her actions.

  6. Ask, “What is something that you could do that would be for the common good?” Lead children to give examples of acts that they could actually do, ie. befriend a lonely classmate on the playground.

  7. Ask, “What is trust?” (to rely on someone to care for you in a safe and positive manner) The people that Harriet Tubman led to freedom had to trust her very much. Ask, “Who do you trust?” (family, teachers, police) “Why is it important to have people you can trust?”


Assessment will be made on the teacher’s observation of the learner’s participation in the discussion and singing.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Define and give examples of selfishness and selflessness.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Identify ways that trust is important in all communities.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define the word <em>trust</em> and its role in all communities.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate listening skills.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.
      2. Benchmark E.5 Give examples of actions students can take to improve the common good and list or describe responsibilities that go with those actions.