Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: Alice Ramsey’s Grand Adventure

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Have you ever heard of Alice Ramsey?  I hadn’t, until I read the book Alice Ramsey’s Grand Adventure, written and illustrated by Don Brown.  This book tells the story of the first woman to drive across the United States!  With its simple text and great illustrations, the book might be used in a geography lesson to teach about different areas of the country, or could also be used as an introduction to a history or biography lesson on Alice Ramsey herself.

The straightforward, informative way this book is written makes it perfect to be read aloud.  The book begins, “On June 9, 1909, Alice Ramsey drove out of New York City and into a grand adventure.  Alice Ramsey wanted to be the first woman to drive across America.”  From there, it goes on to tell, step-by-step, each location Ramsey visited.  The descriptions of each place highlight important things, as well.  For example, Brown describes Chicago’s railway system: “Chicago, Illinois was a railroad center.  The car bounced over mile after mile of rail until the women were dizzy.”   The book ends when the women (Ramsey traveled with her two sisters-in-law and a close friend) reach San Francisco, and goes on to explain that after her first trip, Alice drove across the country more than 30 times by the time she was seventy.  The text provides a lot of information, but presents it in an easy to understand format — this is what makes it great for use in the classroom.

Curriculum Connections

Alice Ramsey’s Grand Adventure could be used to teach a geography lesson about the United States while students also learn about who Alice Ramsey was and what she accomplished.  The states mentioned in the book include New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, and California.  Since Ramsey made her journey in 1909, students could research what the United States was like then and imagine what it might have been like for Ramsey to travel through all of those states.  SOLs USII.1 and USII.2 focus on Social Studies skills and Geograph, and the book could be used to focus on the geography of the states mentioned and to get students thinking about life in the early twentieth century.

Additional Resources

  • AliceRamsey.org is a great resource for more information about our book’s heroine and includes a section just for educators.  The website also contains information about a movie made focusing on Ramsey, as well as more pictures and materials to help students delve deeper into the story.
  • This Digital History website has information about everyday life in the 1900s.  Students can learn how their families and lives today are different from everyday life in the beginning of the 20th century.  Although the information provided is basic, it could serve as a jump-start to a lesson on Geography.
  • MrNussbaum.com contains a huge amount of information about the 50 states in a kid-friendly format.  Each state is featured on his interactive maps, and there are also links to find out more info about the history and traditions of the states.  This site could be useful to collect background information for geography or history lessons, but could also be used by students for individual research!

General Information

Book: Alice Ramsey’s Grand Adventure
Author: Don Brown
Illustrator: Don Brown
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Publication Date: 1997
Pages: 32
Grade Range: 3-6
ISBN-13: 978-0618073160