Rivers, Roads and Rails: How Communities Came to Be (H)


Pick a community and trace the history of how specific transportation paths – road, rail, airway, river, canal – shaped and impacted the development of that community. This Challenge will ask student teams to deliver their narratives in a traditional documentary format.


The Project: Throughout our nation’s history, transportation corridors have been a conduit for economic growth and population expansion. Settlements grew into towns and towns into cities because their specific location afforded a means of connecting them to the greater world. Simply put, access to transportation offered security and prosperity. For example, when the Erie Canal was completed in 1825 it connected the Great Lakes to New York City. Cities along its path – Syracuse, Buffalo, Albany all experienced rapid growth. Cities with the luck or foresight to be sited where transportation modes intersected grew the fastest. In this challenge you will pick a specific city or town in the United States. It could be your hometown or in another region of the country you are studying in class. Study how the decision to settle and build a community there was influenced by a specific transportation opportunity and then fast forward to the present day: given modern transport and communications, do you think the city is in an optimal location? The resulting video is a short documentary.