Transportation Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about transportation. The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Transportation. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

People get to different places in the community, state, province, country, or world? This movie will explore different forms of transportation and introduce a wide range of vehicles that children may encounter in their communities. We encourage you to pause the movie and have children contribute their own ideas about transportation or give more examples. You may want to use the Rural, Suburban, and Urban movie together with this unit.

Review with children that different ways of getting from one place to another are called transportation. People use different forms of transportation (such as a car, bus, ferry, or airplane) to get from place to place. People also depend on transportation to help them do their jobs. Discuss different examples together. Firefighters use fire engines, emergency medical technicians use ambulances, and letter carriers use mail trucks. Construction, public safety, and sanitation workers use a variety of different vehicles to help them, including cranes, cement trucks, sanitation trucks, and tow trucks. What vehicles do people you know use for specific jobs? Discuss together.

Explain to children that goods are things that are made or grown. Fruit, vegetables, clothing, books, and pencils are all examples of goods. Trucks carry goods throughout the country and bring goods to our communities. A piece of clothing that was manufactured in one state or province or manufactured overseas has been brought to our communities through different forms of transportation. Invite children to find out where an item was made and locate it on a map. Have them think about how the item might have arrived in their community.

Together, brainstorm different modes of transportation that travel over land, such as cars, buses, vans, motorcycles, scooters, trains, subways, and trolleys. You may want to ask how students get to school. Kids might take the school bus, a car or van, walk, or even ride a bike. Some kids might take the subway or a community bus to get to school. If possible, you can make a bar graph, tally chart, or pictograph to organize the data. Children can use the Activity page to help them organize, show, and share their data. This is a good opportunity to extend the lesson using movies in our Data and Probability unit.

You may want to compare and contrast trains and subways. We recommend using a Venn diagram to record children’s ideas. For example, both trains and subways travel along tracks, but trains travel farther distances while subways travel within a city’s or community’s limits. Some children may notice that subways travel mostly underground while trains travel above ground. Which would you take to go to a different state or province?

Have children think of modes of transportation that travel through water, such as boats or ships. You may want to come up with a list of water vessels you can sort by size or by use. You may also want to point out vessels that have motors and those that do not. You may want to add forms of water transportation that children may not be familiar with, such as ferries or carriers, and explore how ships are vital to the transportation of goods. Cargo ships carry goods from one place to another, crossing thousands of miles of ocean, and tankers transport oil from far away places.

Ask children to share their experiences with flying. Where did they go? How long did it take? Point the departure and arrival destinations out on a map and have children imagine what it would be like to ride the bus for that distance. Which would be faster, taking a bus, train, or plane? What is the best way to go from your community to Tokyo, Japan? Could you take a car or bus? Why or why not? This is a good opportunity to develop map-reading skills. You may want to screen the Reading Maps movie.

How has transportation changed over time? Discuss with children. Explain that hundreds of years ago, people traveled or transported goods with the help of animals. They rode horses or carriages to travel. A journey across the country could take months of travel in uncertain weather conditions. After the steam engine was developed in the 1700s, people could travel faster and more easily with locomotives. Goods could be transported beyond just the local areas. The steam engine is one of the inventions that was a key player in the Industrial Revolution and helped develop economic growth. In the 1800s and 1900s, people began using gas-powered automobiles for transportation and soon cars were mass-produced for consumers, changing the way people traveled forever. Have children think about how cars from fifty years ago compare to cars today. Some children may point out that today’s cars might run on electricity, solar power, or on both gas and electricity. Some cars even run on biodiesel, which can be made from vegetable oil.

Explain that for hundreds of years, people were developing ways to fly. Even Leonard da Vinci had developed experiments and designs for a flying machine. Over the course of history, many people tried building flying contraptions with varying degrees of success. Finally in 1903, the Wright brothers made the first controlled, sustained, and powered flight. How does the Wright brother’s plane compare to modern planes? Have children compare and contrast using images. Explain that over time, transportation has gotten faster or easier because of changes in technology. People have sent probes into space and are developing machines that will land on other planets. Maybe one day people will be able to fly into space as easily as we can fly across the country!

Learning about transportation is a great way to incorporate other subjects or topics. You may want to explore safety and watch our Safety Signs movie or use transportation as a way to discuss pollution and how we can decrease our impact on the environment. You can add global studies elements by researching public transportation systems in places all around the world or do social studies tie-ins by learning about the history of the automobile or aviation.