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Driving Down the Highway: Billboards in Nebraska

Lesson Plans

Grade: 9-12

Time: Two 50-minute sessions

Lesson Introduction: The Western Trails Project has photographs from Nebraska. Using the Lincoln Highway Exhibit billboards as examples, students will design a billboard promoting/advertising a city in Nebraska. Proficiency will be demonstrated by the 11x17 billboard which will be created and by the presentation of the billboard to the class.

Nebraska Social Studies:

12.1.11 Students will demonstrate historical research and geographical skills by:

  • Identifying, analyzing, and interpreting primary and secondary sources and artifacts.
  • Validating sources as to their authenticity, authority, credibility, and possible bias.

12.3.17 Students will develop skills for historical analysis, such as the ability to:

  • Analyze documents, records, and data, such as artifacts, diaries, letters, photographs, journals, newspapers, and historical accounts.
  • Evaluate the authenticity, authority, and credibility of sources.

AASL/AECT Information Literacy:

1. The student who is information literate accesses information efficiently and effectively

1.2 Formulate questions based on information needs
1.4 Develops and uses successful strategies for locating information

3. The student who is information literate uses information accurately and creatively.

3.1 Organizes information for practical application
3.2 Integrates new information into one’s own knowledge
3.3 Produces and communicates information and ideas in appropriate formats


  • Examine and interpret the map of Nebraska
  • Examine the physical geography of Nebraska
  • Strengthen student inquiry and critical observation skills
  • Gather and analyze data from photos and maps and form generalizations
  • Develop presentation skills, using visual prompts


  • A class set of Nebraska maps
  • 11x17 sheet of white paper for each student
  • Computer for each student to research the towns in Nebraska


  1. Show the students the billboard photographs from the David H. Trail Lincoln Highway Collection of the Western Trails Project. To locate the Collection, go to the Western Trails Project. Click on Exhibits. Scroll down and click on Lincoln Highway. Scroll down and click on David Traill Album.
  2. Look through the David Traill Album of billboards. Show the students a variety of the billboards, especially those with indicators of where the towns may be located.
  3. Each student will locate a town in Nebraska from their Nebraska map. Make sure the town located has a web site by looking at Nebraska's Department of Economic Development site. Look at the map to determine relative location, land features, latitude and longitude. Click on the town to look through the town's web site to determine the important services and/or tourist attractions that one would want to emphasis when creating an advertising billboard for the town. Why would anyone want to visit this community? You will be trying to convince us to visit this community. What makes this town/community special?
  4. Create a billboard advertising the town/community. Include the characteristics of the town/community which make it special and inviting.
  5. On the billboard, the student will also describe the location of their community. (Use the billboards from the David Traill Album to show examples). Example: 63 miles north to Grand Island, 23 miles west to Franklin, with the Republican River flowing past = Red Cloud.
  6. Students will use note cards to take notes about the important qualities and highlights of their communities.
  7. Each student will then present their billboard to the rest of the class, describing the location and having the others in class locate the town on their own maps.


  • The final product will be a billboard design.
  • Proficiency will be demonstrated by the student’s presentation to the class after creating the design. The billboard rubric will be used to guide the students to include the elements needed for a successful presentation.

Extension Activities:

  1. Students will be asked to write a one-page description of this process, including why they selected the town and what characteristics they looked for in describing it.

    Billboard Rubric

Citation Information Available through Search:

 On any Nebraska Western Trails page, click on "Search" in the banner to access the database search screen. The student should type billboards in the box and click on the Search button.  At the next screen the student should click on the link David H. Traill Lincoln Highway Photograph Album to bring up the record, which includes citation and rights information.    

Please send comments to Mary Reiman.

For more information, contact Devra Dragos.