K-12 Lessons

These K-12 lesson plans are available from teaching and transportation organizations around the country.


Chair Lift Challenge. This lesson focuses on unique challenges in transportation engineering, such as devising a method for skiers or hikers to get to the top of a mountain. Students work in teams to design a “chair lift” out of everyday items that can transport a ping pong ball in a chair of their own design from the bottom of a “valley” to the top of a “mountain” along a clothes line or wire without the ball falling out. Students design their chairlift and chair on paper, execute their design, test it, reflect on the challenge, and share their experiences with the class.

Ship the Chip. This lesson focuses on engineering package designs that meet the needs of safely shipping a product. Students work in teams of “engineers” to design a package using standard materials that will safely ship a single chip through the mail to the school address.

Critical Load. Students learn about how to test structures for maximum load by designing prototypes of buildings out of cards. Topics examined include problem solving, teamwork, and the engineering design process. Students work first individually to build a structure, then combine materials in student teams to design the strongest structure, evaluate the load capacity and critical load, and discuss why the strongest design worked best. Students also learn about famous failed and successful building structures.

Bridge Builder – Building Math Skills. Algebra, geometry and physics are applied to the design and construction of bridges.

City Planning- Building Fun in Social Studies. Use SIMCITY to show concepts of design, problem solving, critical thinking and group decision making.

Motion and the Transportation Engineer – Physics. Momentum and impulse are brought to life for high school or middle school science classes.

Take a Boat or Take a Train: Pre-K Transportation Lesson.  Students identify the shapes of at least 4 signs, recognize print in their environment and explain what print/picture means (example: stores, bank, post office, etc.). Students will explain the purpose of a map, list 8 modes of transportation, such as: cars, buses, planes, taxis, trolley, bicycles, horse & buggy, trains, boat/ship, and define these transportation vocabulary words by singing a song and making a map.

Wheels on the Bus: Kindergarten Transportation Lesson. Students explore different modes of transportation (air, land, water), read a transportation story and sing a transportation song. Next, they compare and contrast past and present transportation vehicles and sort pictures of vehicles by mode: air, land, water.


Wheels and Things: Transporting Goods. Students examine the role of transportation in getting goods to market by designing suitable packaging and preparing an export report. Students should understand that transport is a service that is an essential component in the exchange of goods and services.
One the Road Again: Moving People, Products, Ideas. In this lesson students learn to identify modes of transportation and communication for moving people, products, and ideas from place to place. Students also learn the advantages and disadvantages of different modes of transportation. This lesson investigates ways in which global interdependence is altering traditional trade patterns, and encourages students to speculate on future world economic development.

Highway Development and the Environment. Social studies and the sciences come together as students consider the environmental issues an science involved with highway planning.

The Physics of Highway Safety.

Roadway Design and Construction. Showcases the wide range of disciplines (including math, social studies and technology) involved in taking a road from design to construction.

Traffic Technology – Physics and Computers. Linear motion, basic circuits and Boolean logic for high school students.

Traffic Safety & Service Learning in Our Community. Students will be introduced to traffic signs and traffic operations. They will observe a damaged stop sign near their school and collect data to determine the number of cars that stop safely and unsafely. Students’ data will be converted to ratios and fractions, and incorporated into a persuasive letter to be written to the person in charge of Traffic Engineering at the City Public Works Department, asking the city to fix the damaged stop sign.

Analyzing Transportation Data. Students will collect and analyze data and create graphs using computer technology. The will then read and interpret the graphs and present the information to the class.


The Attraction is Obvious: Designing Maglev Systems. In this unit, student understanding will rise to new heights as they explore transportation engineering, magnetism, and the technological innovation of the Magnetic Levitation train. Following the lead of the storybook characters–who need to attract customers to a family-owned toy store before the business fails–students engineer a way to design a levitating vehicle system that will carry packages without them touching the ground.

Magnetic Levitation. Students put magnetic levitation cars through their paces while learning Newton’s First and Second Laws of Motion.


Why Is Salinity Value Important in Ballast Water Management? In this lesson, the students will research  ballast water management and the necessity of achieving a salinity of 30 ppt (parts per thousand) during mid-ocean ballast exchange.  The students will be asked to discuss why a difference of salinity can cause organisms to fail.

Using Great Lake Maritime Facts in Dimensional Analysis. In this lesson, the use of maritime values and facts will make this exercise in dimensional analysis unique while exposing the students some interesting Great Lakes information.

Great Lakes Shipping…In Our Backyard. Through this lesson, students will become more knowledgeable about the Great Lakes Navigation System (GLNS).  Environmental Science and Maritime Transportation go hand in hand as society works to improve fuel economy, congested roadways and emissions issues.  This lesson will provide a general overview as to the advantages of maintaining and improving this complex system in our backyard.

Converting Nautical Units. Students will practice converting units using a method known as factor label or dimensional analysis.  The examples will emphasize nautical units of measure.  Converting units is an important skill in math and science.  This activity will allow students to practice this skill while being introduced to some new units/vocabulary that relate to maritime transportation.

Freighters and the Great Lakes. Children will explore texts that depict Great Lake freighters and learn how they travel the Great Lakes carrying different cargoes and what the cargo is used for. Next, students experiment with different objects to see what sinks and floats, and design their own miniature Great Lakes freighter.


None listed.

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