Elementary Programs Chapter

By Laura Douglas and Stacey Irish-Keffer

Section 7: Baggage Car: Stories about Travel

Section 7: Baggage Car: Stories about Travel

Check your bag, and stow your trunk in the baggage car, and join us for exciting stories about travel.

Bulletin Board

Clipart - Text on side of Engine says 'Stories about travel' top and the botom says 'The Reading Express'. Several travel clipart images shown through windows

Featured Book

Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller.

Books to Display:

Celebrate the 50 States by Loreen Leedy.

Go, Go America by Dan Yaccarino.

If America Were a Village: A Book About the People of the United States by David J. Smith.

Kansas by W. Scott Ingram.

Tulip Sees America by Cynthia Rylant and Lisa Desimini.

Introduction of Featured Book

Show the cover of the book, and ask the children what they think the story is about. Ask if they can name the states shown on the cover. Kansas is the state that is unhappy in the story. He is tired of being in the middle of the United States and wants a change. He also doesn’t like to listen to North Dakota and South Dakota bickering all the time. Since Kansas starts the grumbling about not being happy in the middle of the United States, ask the children if they know where Kansas is located. Point out Kansas on the map on the inside of the cover. What would happen if Kansas got bored and wanted to move? What would happen if all the states decided to move around?


The Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller.


Ask questions about the story, such as the ones below, to start a short discussion of the book.

“Why is Kansas unhappy?”

“What great idea does Kansas have?”

“What happens after the states all switch places?”

“What would happen if the states did not switch back to their original locations?”

Nonfiction Topic: Kansas

Use the World Book Encyclopedia, nonfiction books, and web sites to find facts about the nonfiction connections.

Show a map of the United States to the group. Share factual information with the children. Have books on hand to refer to during the discussion. Let the children respond with their own experiences or insights. Discussion starters might include the following. “Has anyone ever been to Kansas?” “What state do you travel through to get there from Texas?” “Kansas’ nickname is the Sunflower State and the state flower is the Sunflower. What do you know about Kansas?”


Serve sunflower seeds. For the adventurous, add a seed spitting contest as an activity. See who can spit the farthest!


United States Puzzle

  • Blank maps of the United States
  • Markers and crayons
  • Cardstock or construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Wooden U.S. puzzle map (optional)

In advance, copy a map of the United States onto cardstock paper, providing two copies for each child. Blank maps can be found at Free Printable Coloring Pages, www.freeprintablecoloringpages.net/category/US_Maps. Distribute the copies of the blank maps. Show the children a wooden puzzle as an example, if possible. Use markers or crayons to color one map of the United States. Cut out puzzle pieces. Stress to the children that they should cut the U.S. map into large sections, rather than cutting out each individual state. It will be easier to put together if the pieces are in larger sections. Glue the other copy of the map onto construction paper to create the outline of the puzzle. Put the puzzle together.

Celebration Sunflower

Follow the instructions provided by the Kansas City Public Library, http://www.kckpl.lib.ks.us/ys/CRAFTS/SUNFLOWE.htm, to create a celebration sunflower.

Games and Activities

The Scrambled States of America

Purchase a copy of the game based on this book. Produced by Gamewright, http://www.gamewright.com, the card game is fast-paced and can be played in 20 minutes.

Web Sites

Kansas Kids


The Secretary of State’s web site provides facts about Kansas, along with coloring pages and games.

Professional Resources

If America Were a Village


This downloadable teacher guide provides activities to use with the book or to inspire discussion about the United States and its people.

Featured Book

The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman by Darcy Pattison.

Books to Display:

Get Up and Go!: The History of American Road Travel by Sylvia Whitman.

How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the USA by Marjorie Priceman.

License Plates by Tracy Maurer.

Introduction of Featured Book

Show the cover of the book, and ask the children what they think the story is about. The girl in this story writes a letter to her uncle, inviting him to visit her. He can’t make it so he sends Oliver K. Woodman instead. The story of his travels is told though postcards and letters.


The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman by Darcy Pattison.


Ask questions about the story, such as the ones below, to start a short discussion of the book.

“Why do you think Uncle Ray built Oliver K. Woodman to send to Tameka?”

“Who did Oliver meet during his travels?”

“Do you think this story could really happen?”

“Have you ever gotten a postcard from someone?”

Nonfiction Topic: License Plates

Share factual information with the children. Have books available to refer to during the discussion. Let the children respond with their own experiences or insight.

License Plates

The first license plates were issued in Germany in 1896. In 1903 Massachusetts was the first state to issue a license plate. These first plates were made of wood, porcelain, or leather. Today plates are made from metal. Glass-like beads add a reflective quality to the plate, making it easier to see at night. Early license plates did not have graphics. Iowa added a potato to its plates in 1928. States often change the design every so often, making these fun items to collect. In the United States, license plates are rectangular and generally the same size for all states. Other countries have different sizes and shapes; the license plate for Canada’s Northwest Territories is shaped like a polar bear!

Look at the ways Oliver traveled across the states. He traveled mostly by automobile. Ask the children if they have ever gone on a long trip in a car. How did they pass the time? If they do not mention the License Plate game, ask them about it and how it is played. What does the license plate tell you about each state? What pictures and words are on Texas license plates? What is the symbol? What does the “Lone Star State” mean? Keep in mind that the license plates may vary depending on when the car was registered or whether there are vanity or specialized plates on it.

Audio Recordings

Let's Go: Travel, Camp and Car Songs by Susie Tallman.


Design Your Own Car

  • Markers
  • Pencils
  • Scrap paper
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Buttons
  • Construction paper.

Distribute a piece of construction paper and craft supplies to each child. Allow them to design their own cars. Ask them to give their car a name that describes something special about the car.

Design Your Own License Plate

  • License plate pattern
  • Markers and crayons
  • Scissors
  • Card stock

Find the license plate pattern at the end of this program.


In advance, copy the license plate pattern on to card stock. Distribute one piece of card stock to each child. Encourage the children to decorate their license plate with numbers, letters, words, and pictures. Cut out the completed plate.

Build Your Own Oliver K. Woodman

Use the pattern and instructions at the Oliver K. Woodman web site, http://oliverkwoodman.com, to allow the children to make their own Oliver.

Professional Resources

License Plates of the World


This site features pictures of licenses plates from around the world, as well as current and past plates from the 50 states.

The Official Oliver K. Woodman Site


In addition to a pattern to create an Oliver, this web site has links to lesson plans, projects, and activities to use with the book, as well as information about the author and illustrator. There is also an interactive map of Oliver’s travels and a Flickr site to upload photographs of Oliver continuing his journey.

Featured Book

The Buffalo Storm by Katherine Applegate.

Books to Display:

Buffalo by Phyllis J. Perry.

Into the West: From Reconstruction to the Final Days of the American Frontier by James M. McPherson.

The Tragic Tale of Narcissa Whitman and a Faithful History of the Oregon Trail by Cheryl Harness.

Watching Bison in North America by L. Patricia Kite.

Introduction of Featured Book

Show the cover of the book, and ask the children what they think the story is about. When do you think this story takes place? Hallie’s family is going west. They follow the Oregon Trail, which was a 2000 mile journey from Missouri to Oregon. Look at a map of the Oregon Trail. Most people traveled by wagon because there were no cars or airplanes. What problems might the family encounter on their trip? Show a map of the Oregon Trail, such as the one available from History Globe, http://www.historyglobe.com/ot/otmap1.htm, so that the children see where the route went.


The Buffalo Storm by Katherine Applegate.


Ask questions about the story, such as the ones below, to start a short discussion of the book.

“What is the one thing Hallie is afraid of?”

“When the thunder rumbles, what does she see?”

“Why does Hallie write a letter to her grandmother on the day her baby sister was born?”

“How does Hallie feel about Oregon after she has been there?”

Nonfiction Topics: Oregon Trail and American Bison

Share factual information with the children. Display books to refer to during the discussion. Let the children respond with their own experiences or insight.

Oregon Trail

The Oregon Trail was the longest overland trail in North America. It allowed immigrants to make the 2000-mile trip from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon. Settlers began following the trail in 1841. Use of the trail diminished greatly once the first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869. By 1883 another railroad reached Portland, Oregon and the need for the trail vanished. Roads were built over or near much of the trail although today we can still see some of the deeply rutted road cut by wagon wheels on parts of the trail. The journey by covered wagon took six months to complete. Just like in the story, settlers had to cross flooded rivers and food and water was hard to come by.

American Bison

The animal most people call a buffalo is really a bison. Early settlers thought that the bison looked like the buffalo found in Africa and Asia. While the two animals belong to the same family, Bovidae, along with domesticate cattle, the two animals are distinctly different. The American bison is brownish-black with long coarse hair covering its head, neck, and hump. It has horns, a beard, and a tail with a brush-shaped tuft at the end. In the 1700s, as many as 60 million bison lived in North America. By the late 1800s, hunters were killing bison by the thousands. Less than one thousand of them were alive by 1898. The U. S. government passed laws to stop the killing of bison and people began to protect them. Today there are more than 300,000 bison on private ranches in the U.S. Information, photographs and printable materials about the American Bison can be found on the National Geographic web site, http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/american-bison.html


Make Your Own Trail Mix

  • Raisins or Crasins
  • Mixed nuts
  • M&M’s
  • Pretzel Sticks
  • Goldfish
  • Bowls
  • Spoons
  • Snack Sized Baggies

In advance, purchase supplies for the number of children expected to participate in the program. Before the program begins divide the snacks into bowls to set-up workstations for children to create their own trail mix. Let the children choose which items to spoon into their snack bag.


Buffalo Collage

  • Buffalo pattern
  • Markers
  • Brown, black, grey, white, and beige construction or scrap paper
  • Glue
  • Markers
  • Scissors

Find the buffalo collage pattern at the end of this program.

Decorted buffalo with different brown textures


In advance, copy the buffalo pattern onto cardstock. To create the collage, instruct the children to tear the construction or scrap paper into small pieces. Glue pieces of paper onto the buffalo pattern to make “fur.” Use the markers to add eyes, a mouth, and a nose. Either add a background using markers or cut out the buffalo to stand alone.

Paper Binoculars

  • Toilet paper tubes
  • Markers or crayons
  • Stickers (optional)
  • Masking tape
  • Pieces of yarn
  • Hole punch

Paper binocular decorated in blue and held together by an orange string


In advance, place two toilet paper rolls side-by-side and tape them together. Also in advance, cut the yarn into pieces 25-30” in length and punch a hole on the outside of each tube so that a strap can be threaded through later. Distribute a set of binoculars to each child. Let children decorate the binoculars using the crayons or markers. If desired, provide stickers and stars to add to the design. Tie a length of yarn through the holes on the side of the binoculars to make a strap.

Professional Resources

History Globe


This fan created web site provides an interactive look at the Oregon Trail.

The Oregon Trail


Developed by the creators of the PBS documentary, The Oregon Trail, this web site offers historical information and activities related to the Oregon Trail.

Songs from Tales of the Trails


This site for musician Nancy Stewart provides lyrics for songs that were sung by travelers on the Oregon Trail.

Texas Bison Association


Check out this organization for facts about bison and for member ranches in Texas.

Program Materials

Baggage Car: Stories About Travel – License Plate

Printer Friendly PDF Version (13 KB)

License Plate Pattern - one large rectangle with rounded corners on sheet

Baggage Car: Stories About Travel – Buffalo Collage Pattern

Printer Friendly PDF Version (13 KB)

Buffalo Collage Pattern - One large buffalo in landscape view sheet

Texas Reading Club 2010 Programming Manual / Catch the Reading Express!

Published by the Library Development Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Page last modified: June 14, 2011