CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Planes and Trains

History, Business Studies
3 to 4 lessons
To compare types of businesses, to evaluate the impact of businesses on communities
Using a variety of web-based resources, students will compare and contrast Air Canada and Canadian National Railways and present their findings in a medium of their choice.

Lesson Plan


Transportation played and continues to play a significant role in our lives as Canadians. For instance, the railroad connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific was instrumental in bringing new provinces into Confederation. When technology advanced, airplanes opened the skies to travel and our doors to the world. The histories of both the Canadian National Railways and Air Canada have influenced and been influenced by the history of Canada.

The Task

Students will prepare a paper or presentation in a medium of their choice that compares and contrasts Air Canada and CNR as both national entities and businesses. Students will examine the link between the two businesses and choose a topic for further exploration. Topics might include the development of these national businesses, government involvement in the creation and operation of these businesses, the impact of these businesses on employment or employment trends in Canada, the glory days and struggles of these businesses, business practices in the two industries, and so on. Students will begin by taking point-form notes and then will use the download sheet Planes and Trains to draft their product, including a thesis statement. Provide students with enough time to complete their work and make any necessary revisions.

The Process

Students can begin their research on the topic Turbulent Skies: The Air Canada Story on the CBC Digital Archives website. After reviewing the site for information on the links between CNR and Air Canada, students will select a topic that explores this historical relationship. They may wish to do additional research to further refine their topic. When they have chosen a topic, students should expand their research to include other internet resources. Direct students to websites such as Transportation Canada and Canadian National Railways. Students must cite all resources used.


Have students submit or orally present their work to the class. Before presentations, ask students to describe the topics they chose and explain what interested them about those topics. Discuss as a class the similarities and differences among topics, and what the students might be able to learn about the businesses or about business practices from examining Air Canada and CNR.

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