Silicon Valley History Online  

Plane, Trains, Automobiles …and Airships

10th or 11th Grade Social Studies


Various modes of transportation in Santa Clara County

Develop an understanding of the benefits of transportation

8.12.1, 8.12.5, 11.5.7

3 days

I-Search and Role Play

1. SVHO pictures
“John J. Montgomery by his glider,”
“John J. Montgomery ’s glider,”
“Pumping Gas from a Barrel,”
“Highway 17,”
“Airship Akron at Moffett Field,”
“Alviso Boat Landing,”
“Johnny Johnson, ”
“Southern Pacific Depot.”

2. Hand-outs
“Recording Chart” and “I-Search”


Day One:

  1. As an introduction, show the students the SVHO picture “John J. Montgomery’s Glider.” Ask the students why there are so many people? What is the crowd looking at? What is drawing so much interest? After the students try to guess, show them “John J. Montgomery by his glider.” The students will be surprised because in the first picture, the glider is not clearly identified whereas in the second, it is clearly identified. Discuss a glider and how it would be beneficial in Santa Clara County.

  2. Divide the class into groups of five to analyze the recommended pictures of transportation in Santa Clara County. Each group will be given a picture and a Recording Chart. On the Recording Chart, the students will record simple observations under the first column, under the second column record the information of which they are already knowledgeable with, and under the third column students will deduce possible conclusions. Finally, in reviewing these three forms of information in their groups, the students will have discussed and recorded the questions they had, which went unanswered.

  3. After all the groups are finished, hold a discussion in which one student from each group shows the picture to the class and explains their findings. Review the three topics on the worksheet with each picture. Be sure to address the “Brain Freeze” Question. Maybe someone in the class knows the answer.

  4. After the class is familiar with the pictures discuss how these forms of transportation have evolved until today. Discuss the technology, training, and availability of these forms of transportation today.

  5. For homework: Pass out the I-Search.


Day 2

  1. Review the I-Searches. Discuss how transportation has evolved over time in the valley due to population increases.

  2. Divide into groups and assign each group a form of transportation listed in this lesson plan. Each group will be responsible for representing one form of transportation:

    • Automobiles (“Pumping Gas from a Barrel”)

    • Trucking (“Highway 17”)

    • Airship (“Airship Akron at Moffett Field”)

    • Boat (“Alviso Boat Landing”)

    • Airplane (“Johnny Johnson”)

    • Train (“Southern Pacific Depot.”)

  3. Each group of five students will be asked to serve as a marketer or an engineer. Each group will create the following:

    • A Commercial Advertisement that clearly describes the form of transportation, the various models, and price as well as states the benefits and advantages of the form of transportation. The Advertisement should be approximately one page in length. These students will be marketers.

    • An Owner’s Manual in which you have prepared an explanation on the mechanics of how the form of transportation functions and instructions on how the form of transportation operates. Pictures, diagrams, and charts are essential. These students will be Engineers.

  4. Students will present their Advertisement and Owner’s Manual to the class. Note the overall usefulness of the forms of transportation. (Optional: Students may dress in appropriate uniforms the correspond to their form of transportation for presentation).

Debrief: Discuss with students which transportation products were the most desired? Which were least desired? How did the benefits compare to each other? Which forms of transportation continue to be used today? Which forms of transportation have been discontinued? Why?

Recording Chart

Print Recording Chart Handout



Name of Picture:




Briefly describe what you see in the photo

  • What people do you see?

  • What objects are in the picture?

Thoroughly summarize what you already know about this photo?

  • What time period is it?

  • Where is the picture taken?

  • What are the people doing?






Say what you conclude from what you see.

  • What is going on in the picture?

  • How does this picture relate to transportation?

Brain-Freeze: (What follow-up questions does the group have?)







Print I-Search Handout

Directions: Use the Internet to try to determine the following answers regarding transportation questions in Santa Clara Valley. Each question is referencing a SVHO picture discussed today in class.

  1. How much did gasoline cost in 1930’s? (“Pumping Gas from a Barrel”)

  2. From an online map, identify what two zip codes Highway 17 connects. (“Highway 17”)

  3. What is dangerous about flying an airship? (“Airship Akron at Moffett Field”)

  4. Why was there a boat landing in Alviso? (“Alviso Boat Landing”)

  5. How did Airplanes change mail delivery? (“Johnny Johnson”)

  6. What is the main function of Cal Trans in Santa Clara Valley?