Teacher's Spot




The San Diego Automotive Museum's Educational Programming offers the children of San Diego an opportunity for a number of educational experiences. The automobile represents a wide range of subject matter, from Social Studies (including local-national history), to science and physics along with technology and art.

The impact of the automobile on American society is large and has been long lasting. At the Museum, a child can begin to understand how important the industry is and how it has helped to shape our national identity.

The museum also participate in San Diego Unified School District's award-wining Balboa Park program.  5th grade students spend an entire week in the park visiting many of the cultural institutions.


Teacher’s Spot

The museum offers curriculum for specialty exhibits throughout the year.  One of our most historically significant displays is the Old Plank Road that ran from Yuma, Arizona to Holtville, California.  The following lesson is an excellent pre-visit experience for students grades 4-6.

Curriculum Guide

The Old Plank Road

Edition 2  

 This Informal Curriculum Experience (ICE) is geared for high school students grades 10-12.  The California Standards-based areas covered and suggested teaching elements are:

History (history of transportation and how it built cities, communities, and culture)

Geography (the history and topography of the California desert)

Critical Thinking (how one might navigate a plank road today)

English/Writing & Composition (imaginary diary of a plank road traveler)

Math (calculating time and expense to drive the Old Plank Road in 1922)

Goals:  Students will learn about plank roads as early highway systems in the United States.  Of particular interest is the Old Plank Road that ran from Yuma, Arizona to Holtville, California.  The students will study the history of the development of the road that eventually became Interstate 8 and its importance to the Imperial Valley.


Students will be able to identify Yuma, Arizona and Holtville, California on a map.

Students will be able to name the key developers of the Old Plank Road.

Students will be able to list at least three challenges the Old Plank Road presented to designers and those who traveled the road.

Students will be able to identify the progressions in the Old Plank Road until it became today’s Interstate 8.

Students will correctly identify the location and discuss the importance of Gray’s Well to the development of the roadway.

Students will correctly list three reasons for building the Old Plank Road and the impact that had on the development of San Diego as a West Coast city of importance.

Writing Assignment

Most information you need to give your students is included in the pre-visit materials.  It is also covered extensively in the interpretive exhibit on the museum floor.  A writing assignment is a good way to tie all the curricular elements together.  After watching the oral histories on the exhibit video, your students will have a better idea of what it was like for early users of the road.

Have your students prepare a “diary” entry of an imaginary trip on the Old Plank Road.  Encourage them to use everything they have learned about the challenges along the way, Gray’s Well as a stopping point, sand storms, etc.  What is their reason for traveling the road?  Are there any surprises?  How has San Diego changed since they made the trip?