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Transportation: Selecting, Ordering, Reasoning | Activity

Wayne Thiebaud, Freeway Curve, 1979

Wayne Thiebaud, Freeway Curve, 1979, color sugarlift aquatint and drypoint on wove paper, Corcoran Collection (Gift of the Women's Committee of the Corcoran Gallery of Art), 2015.19.3164

Frances Flora Bond Palmer, A Midnight Race on the Mississippi, 1860

Frances Flora Bond Palmer, A Midnight Race on the Mississippi, 1860, color lithograph with hand-coloring on wove paper, Donald and Nancy deLaski Fund, 2012.16.1

Fred Becker, Rapid Transit, c. 1937

Fred Becker, Rapid Transit, c. 1937, woodcut in black on wove paper, Reba and Dave Williams Collection, Gift of Reba and Dave Williams, 2008.115.819

Select 3–5 works of art from this module that feature different modes of transportation, such as boats, trains, planes, cars, and bikes. Using the following prompts, ask students to work together in small groups to identify modes of transportation and arrange images along a continuum. These questions may have a range of correct answers, but students should provide support for their choices, using prior knowledge and evidence found in the images.

  • Which form of transportation do you think is the fastest? Which one might be the slowest? Arrange the images in order from fastest to slowest transportation.
  • Which form of transportation might use the most fuel? Which one might use the least?
  • Which form of transportation might go the longest distance? Which one might go the shortest distance?

Ask students to think about how grownups in their lives get around. Where do they go? What modes of transportation do they use? How much time do they spend getting from one place to another?

Transportation: Bikes—Past, Present, Future | Activity

John Cutting, Bicycle, 1935/1942

John Cutting, Bicycle, 1935/1942, watercolor, graphite, pen and ink, and gouache on paper, Index of American Design, 1943.8.8655

Collect your students’ current knowledge, experiences, and questions about bikes. What do your students know about bicycles? What does it feel like to ride one? What questions do they have about bikes? Document their responses publicly in the classroom. Ask them to draw what they think a bike looks like.

Next, share images of bikes from the works of art in this module with students. Ask them to look closely and describe the bikes. What do they notice about these bikes? How would it feel to ride the bikes in the artworks, especially the historic bikes? What do they wonder about these bikes?

Then, bring in an age-appropriate bike for them to study. Invite students to draw it, try riding it, and ask more questions about how it works. Ask students to compare the real-life bike to the bikes featured in the works of art. What is similar, and what is different? Deepen their learning by inviting a bike advocate, rider, or mechanic to visit your classroom and share more information about bike design and use. If possible, visit a local bike path or bike store, or observe a bike race.

Finally, invite students to design a bike for the future. What features would their new bike include? Ask them to think about the materials, tires, seat, safety features, and overall appearance. Show them Ellen Lanyon’s Ostricart for inspiration. Where would they like to travel on this new bike? Students may work individually or in groups; their final product might be a drawing or painting, or they can use recyclable materials to construct a three-dimensional model.

Assess their individual learning by asking them to draw a bike again and share what they think is most important for other people to know about bikes.