Minnesota Road Trip
A Minnesota Geography Lesson Plan
(Updated 12-7-2015)

Summary : This intermediate to middle-grade lesson plan is designed to explore four of the five themes of geography (location, place, movement, and regions) as they relate to Minnesota through planning a seven-day trip around the state. Though this activity can be done individually, it works best if students complete it in groups of three or four. Suggested time for the project is about five hours (five one-hour class periods).

Objectives : 1) Students will plan a week-long trip around the state of Minnesota which includes all five regions of the state.
2) Students will write a detailed itinerary for their trip which consists of descriptions of each day's agenda including both places visited and routes traveled to get from place to place.
3) Students will fill in a blank map of Minnesota with the places and routes listed in their itinerary.

Materials : Good Minnesota road maps, line drawings of Minnesota (have students draw basic Minnesota maps, or go to Minnesota Map Outline or Printable Minnesota Map Collection to print a basic map), and Internet access.

The Task : A favorite aunt and her two children (one is your age and the other a year younger) from another state will be visiting your family for a two-week vacation. They want to spend one full week of their visit exploring Minnesota. It is your (the student's) job to prepare a one-week (seven-day) travel itinerary that will show off the best and most interesting places in our state. The written itinerary must provide a day-by-day plan detailing the cities, attractions, activities, and landmarks (with brief descriptions) to be visited as well as travel times, routes, and mileage (Click here for an example). Students must also locate and label all cities and places visited on a blank Minnesota map and draw in and label the roads they would need to travel in order to reach them.

Guidelines : Travel itineraries must include visits to at least 15 different places (attractions, activities, or landmarks). See Explore Minnesota - Things to Do in  Minnesota for ideas. You must include at least two places from each of the five regions of Minnesota as described by the Explore Minnesota Tourism (Metro, Northeast, Northwest, Central, Southern), and no more than three days can be spent in any one of the regions. No more than six hours can be spent in the car (driving) in any one day.

Assumptions : Your trip will take place during the summer, so assume the weather will be wonderful. You will be traveling by car. Use a Minnesota map or a web page such as MapQuest or freetrip.com for distances between cities/towns. For estimated driving times, assume an average of 70 mph when driving on I-94, I-90, or I-35. Assume an average speed of 55 mph for all other roads. Your visit to an attraction, landmark, or your activity will take at least the amount of time indicated next to it in the list. Travel time between places in the same town is 10 minutes in Greater Minnesota (out of the Twin Cities) and 30 minutes in Minneapolis or St. Paul. Your day can start as early as 7:00 am with breakfast (allow at least 30 minutes for breakfast); however, assume that no attractions open before 9:00 am unless you find an earlier opening time on their web page or brochure. You must figure in times for lunch (at least 45 minutes) and supper (at least 60 minutes). Also, allow 15 minutes for checking into a hotel and 10 minutes for checking out. You cannot start a visit to an attraction after 6:00 pm unless you are attending an event that you know occurs during the evening (such as a Minnesota Twins' or St. Paul Saints' night baseball game). You must start your supper no later than 8:00 pm.

Click here for a more printable version of the task, guidelines, and assumptions.

Click here for a sample itinerary.

Closure: Have students or groups share with the rest of the class what they believe will be the highlights of their trip.

Suggested Extensions: 1) Include the fifth theme of geography, human/environmental interaction, by having students choose at least one place (attraction, activity, landmark) from each region that they believe illustrates human/environmental interactions. Have students describe in a short paper how each of these destinations shows these interactions; 2) Require students to include a more detailed description (at least a paragraph) of each of the places listed in their itineraries; 3) Have students research and estimate the cost of the week-long trip.

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Permission is granted to anyone wishing to use this activity for instructional purposes.

Edmund J. Sass, Ed.D.
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