Tacoma Narrows Bridge Lesson Plans
Language Arts and Social Studies
Crossing the Narrows: Idea & Dream,…to 1937
Pacific Northwest History
Building the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was a long and complicated process.
It began with the vision of one man, who was considered “crazy”
at the time. The Northern Pacific Railroad also considered building
a trestle across the Narrows. But it wasn’t until the 1920s
and 1930s that the idea of a bridge spanning the Narrows was seriously
contemplated. In this lesson students will research one of the organizations
that were involved in the discussion regarding building a bridge
across the Tacoma Narrows during the 1920s and 1930s.
As a result of this lesson, students will be able
- Understand the political forces that led to the building of
the Tacoma Narrows Bridge;
- Participate in a democratic process to determine whether or
not the Tacoma Narrows Bridge should be built;
- Construct a clear argument either for or against building a
bridge across the Tacoma Narrows.
Time: 3 days or class periods, including
one day of research, one day preparing persuasive paper, and one
day to argue/discuss with the other students.
Materials Needed: Textbooks and books
of other types for research and Internet access.
1. Ask students to choose from among the following
- The “Narrows Bridge Gang,” a coalition of Tacoma
community groups and businessmen;
- Tacoma Chamber of Commerce;
- Tacoma Newspapers;
- U.S. Army and Navy Departments;
- Peninsula residents;
- WA Navigation Co.; or
2. Then, have them research the following questions:
- What was your group’s position regarding the building
of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge?
- Why did they take that position?
- What evidence can you find that will support their argument?
3. After completing their research, have students
write a persuasive essay either for or against building the
bridge using the information they found to support their arguments.
4. Have students translate their essays into
an oral argument, and put them into groups to argue their
positions among one another.
5. Ask the students to vote within their groups
on whether or not to build the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
6. Come back together in a large group for further
discussion and to tally the votes of each group.
7. How many groups agreed to build the bridge?
Related links on this site
After the students have been working on their projects for a day
or two, bring them together in a large group and ask them to help
create a grading rubric. Ask them what attributes a top-quality
persuasive essay might have, and list those attributes on an overhead
projector or white board. Possibilities might include:
- Information is historically accurate;
- Contains compelling arguments either for or against building
- Arguments are well-supported by evidence;
- Shows investment of time and effort;
- Oral argument well presented.
Evaluate each attribute on an appropriate scale based on your own
school’s grading system, for example giving points or letter
grades, or ask students to evaluate the projects that they observe.