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Levi Coffin House
Activities: Upper Elementary, Grades 3 - 5

A visit to the Levi Coffin House State Historic Site and the use of this packet will, in part, fulfill the following requirements from the Indiana Curriculum Proficiency Guide:

Language Arts:

Exhibit a positive attitude toward language and learning through writing for personal satisfaction and enjoyment. Write for different purposes and audiences producing a variety of forms, including logs of ideas and information; and lists and charts. Communicate orally with people of all ages by contributing to class discussions.


The Human Organism: Learning

Social Studies:

Grade 4 - Civil Ideals and Practice: Consider problems that would result without rules, laws and ways to resolve conflicts. Grade 5 - Individuals and Society: Identify and explain perspectives on human rights held by various groups before and after the Civil War.


Whole number computation and estimation. Recognize, describe, draw, classify, and compare geometric objects.


Realize that relationships are influenced by social, economic and cultural factors.


Artists create art with a variety of two and three dimensional media.


Language Arts
  1. Write a short story describing how you would hide ten people in your house. How do you think the Coffin family hid people? What might they have done to keep the people safe? When you visit the house, compare your ideas to the secret things that the Coffin family did.
  2. After your visit to the Levi Coffin House State Historic Site, decide what was your favorite part. Was it a story you heard, a room, or an item in a room? Write a short summary describing it in detail. As a group, take turns discussing your favorite parts of the site. Did anyone enjoy the same part?
  3. Write a one-week diary describing your life as a runaway slave during 1840. You are trying to get to the Levi Coffin house where Levi and Catharine will help you find freedom. You have reached Kentucky and want to go through Madison to Newport and then to Canada where you will remain. Describe your journey. How did you travel? Were you pursued? What was your stay like at the Coffin house?
  4. Go to the public library or school media center. Find and read books or articles about the struggle for equal rights in the 20th century. Make a list of five examples of human inequality in the United States. Prepare and deliver a presentation that identifies one example of inequality and how you think this situation might be handled differently today. Which situation would most likely not change, even today.
  5. If you were trying to hide people in your house, what precautions would you take to ensure their safety? Think about everyday activities that would need to change: amount of food bought at the grocery store; supplies at the drug store; or the increased water bill. Make a list or web chart describing these precautions.
  6. Discussion: Free Labor Goods
    Free Labor Goods are things that are made without using slaves. Why was it important to only buy Free Labor Goods? Would buying Free Labor Goods help to end slavery?
  1. Levi Coffin realized that all humans are basically the same and therefore equal. Differences in appearance or background didn't matter to him. This is why he worked to abolish slavery. Prove or disprove the following hypothesis: All humans are similar even if they have different appearances or behaviors. Gather research on your way to school (on the bus, walking, or in the car) by observing human behavior. Note the similarities and differences. Conclude your research by writing a paper on your findings.
Social Studies
  1. Discussion: The Need for Laws
    Levi Coffin went against the laws of his time by helping slaves escape to freedom. He broke the law for what he felt was a good reason. He believed that the moral issues of basic human rights were more important than laws. Laws are supposed to keep things fair and just and are supposed to protect everyone. They are made so conflicts may be resolved in a court rather than in a fight on the street.
    1. Think about the laws that govern traffic, theft and violence. What problems would result without any laws or ways to resolve conflicts?
    2. Are laws today fair to everyone?
  2. Write a short essay to express your opinions on breaking the law for what you consider to be a good reason.
  3. The Civil War occurred between 1861 and 1865. Find a copy of the amendments to the Constitution and answer the following questions:
    1. What amendments were written before the Civil Ware and what ones were added after the Civil War?
    2. What effect did the Civil War have on the amendments?
  1. A runaway slave traveled 46 miles from Madison to Greensburg and hid there for 2 days. Then the slave traveled 40 miles over 4 days to Richmond. Finally, the slave went 9 more miles to the Levi Coffin house. How many miles did the runaway slave travel from Madison to the Levi Coffin House?
  2. The Coffins helped over 2,000 runaway slaves escape during the 20 years they were in Newport.
    1. What is the average number of slaves they helped per year?
    2. About how many slaves, on the average, did they help per week?
      (52 weeks in one year - round to the nearest whole number.)
  3. If there are 8 runaway slaves staying at the home and each slave eats 3/4 of a loaf of bread per day, how many loaves of bread do the Coffins need to feed the runaway slaves for 5 days?
  4. If Catharine Coffin and her friends, together, could sew 4 shirts in one day, how many days would it take them to sew 18 shirts? 24 shirts? 30 shirts?
  5. Using three-dimensional shapes, make a model of a house that would be perfect for hiding people. Would you have secret passageways or rooms? Use paper, index cards, cardboard, toothpicks, craft sticks or other supplies to create your house. Present your house to the class; compare all the houses that were designed.
  1. Discussion: Society's Rules of Acceptability
    Sometimes relationships are influenced by social, economic, and cultural factors. Because of society's laws at the time, Levi Coffin had to hide his relationship with the runaway slaves.
    1. What relationships are still hidden today due to society's laws?
    2. Are society's laws based on legal guidelines?
    3. Why does society view the relationships as being harmful?
  1. Before your visit to the Levi Coffin House State Historic Site, draw a picture of what you think a house that housed runaway slaves would look like.
    1. Would it have secret doors or passageways?
    2. How big would the house be?
    3. Where would the runaway slaves stay inside the house?

Visit the Levi Coffin House.

    1. Does your house design look like the Levi Coffin house?
    2. List the similarities and differences between your design and the Levi Coffin house.
    3. Write a summary paragraph to compare your ideas to the actual house.
    4. Were you surprised at your findings? Was the house exactly what you expected it to be?


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Did You Know?

Originally an isolated oasis for stagecoach riders traveling along the National Road, the circa 1839 Huddleston House in Mt. Auburn, Indiana is now open to visitors thanks to the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana.