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Home New York State Education Department Curriculum Instruction and Instructional Technology Virtual Learning System

Classroom Activities 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Activity 1

Students will explain that although technological effects are complex and difficult to predict accurately, humans can control the development and implementation of technology.

Highlands of the Hudson River
Thomas Chambers, 1874
Highlands of the Hudson River, Thomas Chambers 1874

Source: New York Historical Society

Identify two different transportation technologies that are portrayed in this painting.

State one advantage and one disadvantage of each technology portrayed in Chambers’ painting.

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Activity 2

Students will explain how technological change affects people, places, and regions.

Clermont: Three-Part Study
Richard Varick De Witt, 1858
Clermont: Three-Part Study

Source: New York Historical Society

What technology powered the Clermont?

How was this technology an improvement over sail technology?

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Activity 3

Students will analyze historical narratives about key events in New York State and United States history to identify the facts and evaluate the author's perspective.

New York, August 20

     I arrived this afternoon at 4 o'clock, in the steam boat, from Albany. As the success of my experiment gives me great hope that each such boats may be rendered of much importance to my country, to prevent erroneous opinions, and to give some satisfaction to the fiends of useful improvements, you will have the goodness to publish the following statement of facts:

     I left New York on Monday at 1 o'clock, and arrived at Clermont, the seat of Chancellor Livingston, at 1 o'clock on Tuesday, time 24 hours, distance 110 miles; on Wednesday I departed from the Chancellor's at 9 in the morning, and arrived at Albany at 5 in the afternoon, distance; 40 miles, time 8 hours; the sum of this is 150 miles in 32 hours, equal near 5 miles an hour.

On Thursday, at 9 o'clock in the morning, I left Albany, and arrived at the Chancellor's at 6 in the evening; I started from thence at 7, and arrived at New -York on Friday at 4 in the afternoon; time 30 hours, space run through 150 miles, equal 5 miles an hour. Throughout the whole way my going and returning the wind was ahead; no advantage could be drawn from my sails-the whole has, therefore, been performed by the power of the steam engine.

Letter to the Editor of the American Citizen
Source: New York State Library

What speed did Fulton travel at on the maiden voyage of the Clermont?

Why did the Clermont also have sails?

How were steamboats an improvement over sail technology?

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Activity 4

Students will interpret and analyze documents and artifacts related to significant developments and events in world history.

Harper's Weekly Illustration of Bridge over the Hudson River
Harpers Illustration of a Bridge over the Hudson

Source: New York State Library

What transportation technologies are shown in this image?

What overall impression does this image provide regarding the economy of the Hudson River Valley region?

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Activity 5

Students will explain how technological change affects people, places, and regions.

new york ferry boats

Source: “New York Ferry Boats,” American Heritage, October 1959, v. X6, pp. 30-31

What technological changes were possible on a steamboat that made them better ferries than sailboats?

How much more efficient were Fulton's steamboats than Vanderbilt's sailboats?

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Activity 6

Students will understand the nature of scarcity and how nations of the world make choices that involve economic and social costs and benefits.

Heyday of the Floating Palace
Leonard V. Huber

hey day of the floating palace

Source: American Heritage, October 1957, v. VIII6, pp. 24-25

What two types of boats are visible in this image of the St. Louis shoreline?

What advantage does steam have over those other kinds of boats?

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Activity 7

Students will explain how economic decision making has become global as a result of an interdependent world economy.

steam ship in eureka

Source: David Divine, “Steamship,” in Eureka! An Illustrated History of Inventions from the Wheel to the Computer, ed. Edward De Bono. 1974.

How did steamships “shrink the world”?

What proof does the author provide to support his thesis?

Why was it possible to “shrink the world” with steam, but not with sails?

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Activity 8

Students will investigate key events and developments and major turning points in world history to identify the factors that brought about change, and they will discuss the long-term effects of these changes.

Frigates, Port of Harfleur (ca. 1852-1853)
Oil Canvas

oil canvas

Source: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Have students analyze John Barthold Jongkind's Frigates, Port of Harfleur and write down their observations on the Venn diagram below.

Port of Rouen: Unloading Wood (1898)
Oil Canvas

Port of Rouen: Unloading Wood (1898)

Source: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Students will analyze Camille Pissarro's Port of Rouen: Unloading Wood (1898) and write down their observations on the Venn diagram below.

venn diagram

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Activity 9

Students will understand the dynamic relationship between federalism and states' rights.

Gibbons v. Ogden

Citation: U.S. 1 (1824)
Concepts: Interstate Commerce Federal Supremacy v. State Rights


Robert Livingston secured from the New York State Legislature an exclusive twenty-year grant to navigate the rivers and other waters of the State. The grant further provided that no one should be allowed to navigate New York waters by steam without a license from Livingston, and his partner, Robert Fulton, and any unlicensed vessel should be forfeited to them. Aaron Ogden had secured a license for steam navigation from Fulton and Livingston. Thomas Gibbons originally had been partners with Ogden but was now his rival. Gibbons was operating steamboats between New York and New Jersey under the authority of a license obtained from the United States. Ogden petitioned the New York court and obtained an injunction ordering Gibbons to stop operating his boats in New York waters


Whether the New York statute that prohibited vessels licensed by the United States from navigating the waters of New York was unconstitutional and, therefore, void.


Writing for the Supreme Court of the United States, Justice Marshall said that the injunction against Gibbons was invalid because the monopoly granted by the New York statute conflicted with a valid federal law. The Court used this case to put forth the position that Congress can legislate and regulate all matters of interstate commerce as long as there is some commercial connection with another state. While Congress regulates interstate commerce, power to regulate “completely internal” commerce (trade carried on in a state that does not affect other states) is reserved to the state.


Judgment of the New York courts was reversed.

Supreme Court Membership
Chief Justice: John Marshall
Associate Justices: Bushrod Washington, William Johnson, Thomas Todd, Gabriel Duvall, Joseph Story
Argued February 4, 1824
Decided March 2, 1824

Why is Gibbons v. Ogden considered a landmark Supreme Court decision?

Which constitutional principles were the basis for the Gibbons v. Ogden Supreme Court decision?

What is the relationship between the McCulloch v. Maryland and Gibbons v. Ogden Supreme Court decisions?

- Students will understand the dynamic relationship between federalism and states' rights.

- Students will present reasons, examples, and details from primary and secondary sources to defend opinions and judgments

Provide students with a list of arguments used in Gibbons v. Ogden:

  • Preamble of the United States Constitution
  • Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution
  • Article 1, Section 10 of the U.S, Constitution
  • The Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
  • Division of powers arguments
  • McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) decision

Ask the class to create a graphic organizer in which each student classifies whether the argument supports:
     – Gibbons's position in favor of Congress's regulation of commerce (G)
     – Ogden's position in favor of New York's regulation of commerce (O)
     – Both sides (B)
     – Neither side (N)

Have the class create a chart based on their discussion of individual student evaluations. Post the chart in the classroom.

Class Debate:

     • Have the class debate how well the historic Supreme Court case Gibbons v. Ogden reflects the intent and spirit of the Constitution in 1824 and today.

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