Teacher Resources

Teacher Resources

Google Maps

Students might use the Crew List(s) to identify the geographical location in which each crew member lived.  The geographical/location information might then be used to create a Google Map to provide a visual reference. 

Google Map Maker

What Does the Song Really Say/Mean?

Gordon Lightfoot's song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", brings to light the impact of the tragedy.  What do the lines in the song really mean?  Follow the link below, and scroll down once you're in the link.  Scroll until you see a bullseye icon with Mike's name & "Clownfish" attached.  He provides a line-by-line explanation of the song's lyrics.  In doing so, fascinating facts about the ship, the Great Lakes, and related information are shared. 

You might wish to have students view the You Tube video presented in the "Journeys" tab.  As they view it, they'll listen to the song.  They can then decide, in their own minds, what the messages are, and what the lyrics mean.  Then, they can compare their thinking to the information presented in the link.

Complete Lyrics

Line-by-Line Explanation of Gordon Lightfoot's Song

Books for Your Classroom

Are you looking for more information that your students can explore? Check out these books on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Edmund Fitzgerald: The Legendary Great Lakes Shipwreck

This publication includes a chronology of events and genealogical table of the six Fitzgerald brothers who sailed the Great Lakes.

Edmund Fitzgerald: The Ship and the Man

This source is a biography of both the ship and its namesake--Mr. Edmund Fitzgerald.

Edmund Fitzgerald: Lost with All Hands: A True Story for Young Readers

A book for young people that discusses the events involved in the shipwreck of the iron-ore freighter S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald in the icy waters of Lake Superior on November 10, 1975, and subsequent expeditions to the wreck site to uncover clues to the mysterious disappearance.

For Whom the Bells Toll: The Unexplained Losses of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, M.V. Derbyshire, and Other Vessels of the Buld-Cargo Silent Service

For Whome the Bells Toll addresses the sinkings of famous cargo ships, including the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Edmund Fitzgerald: Song of the Bell

This source describes the voyage and sinking of the giant transport ship, the Edmund Fitzgerald, which was caught in a raging storm while crossing Lake Superior in November, 1975.

29 Missing: The True and Tragic Story of the Disapearance of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald

29 Missing recounts the sinking of the huge freighter the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald in the icy waters of Lake Superior in 1975 and describes subsequent expeditions to the wreck site to uncover clues to her mysterious disappearance.

Lesson Plans

From the Great Lakes Maritime Museum comes a 4-day lesson plan for sixth graders.  Note:  The lesson plan is set up to meet Minnesota State Standards.  One might need to compare to Wisconsin's State Standards and make minor adjustments. 

After this lesson, students will be able to:
1. Define new terms related to shipping (examples: taconite/iron ore, aft, stern, ballast, listing, broach).

2. Recognize the difference between the two major theories (Open Hatch and Shoaling) that support the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

3. Create a map of the Great Lakes shipping route used by the Edmund Fitzgerald.

4. Determine & analyze one significant event from the story of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and construct a brief presentation to the class that demonstrates this event.

PDF Lesson Plan


Found in the ERIC database, the Oceanic Education Activities for Great Lakes Schools provides lesson plans that cover the following:

1.  The Great Lakes Triangle

2.  Bathymetric charts

3.  How weather information is mapped

4.  Characteristics of a Great Lakes freighter

5.  At least two explanations for the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald

PDF Lesson Plan from Oceanic Education Activities for Great Lakes Schools

Lesson Plans from Lesson Planet

To Dredge or Not to Dredge:  A 2-day Cross-Curricular Lesson Plan

Promote Your Laker:  A Collaborative Process

Shipping vs. Rail vs. Trucking

Additional Resources

LakeFury.com is a website dedicated to the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald.  It provides numerous links to multi-media sources.  Some seemingly useful links are unfortunately dead, but the active ones provide some phenomenal sources of information.

Ric Mixter    Ric Mixter is a certified S.C.U.B.A. diver and is a former marine deputy/diver.  He was also a diver and videographer for expeditions to the Edmund Fitzgerald.  Visit the link to learn of additional, potentially available educational opportunities, some of which are interactive.

The Building of the Edmund Fitzgerald  This site provides spectacular views of and information relating to the building/birth of the freighter. 

Soo Locks Web Cam

Working Boats of the Great Lakes  This is a PDF of various kinds of categorized working boats on the Great Lakes.  Photos include ferries, excursion boats, tug boats, freighters, research boats, fishing boats, and Coast Guard boats.

Great Lakes Shipping  This document provides quick facts about such categories as the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway, Shipping Routes, U.S. Laker Size Evolution, Transportation Efficiency (pictorial comparison of ship vs. rail vs. truck), the Economic Impact of Maritime Transportation, and the Challenge of Controlling Invasive Species, including the impact of such unwanted "cargo".

Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute  This is an interactive site that includes a few basic sounds of the Great Lakes, information regarding the Commodities of the Heartland, Travel, Marine Transport:  A Team Sport, Benefits of Maritime Transportation, Niagra Falls, Lake Elevations, Construction and Operation of Locks, a game about "From Field to Table", and a Glossary. 

Debate Opportunities

After providing students with the opportunities to read, discuss, listen to videos, etc. regarding the reason for the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a few debate opportunities might be presented.  Below are some suggested opportunities.  Feel free to create your own, as well.

1.  Based on what you have learned, should Gordon Lightfoot change the lyrics to his popular song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", or not? 

2.  Based on what you have learned about Captain McSorley, what kind of captain do you think he was?  Was he instrumental in saving the ship and its crew as long as possible, or was he responsible for the tragedy?

3.  The Lake Superior grave--the site of the Edmund Fitzgerald's sinking--was consecrated at a special ceremony for families left behind.  Dive expeditions to the site are controversial since the site serves as the grave of the 29 crew men and their beloved freighter.  What is your opinion?  Should further research and explorations be prohibited, or should they be allowed?

SS Edmund Fitzgerald Trivia

Whether looking for a quick review or a pre-reading strategy, the below link will motivate students yearning to test their knowledge about the Edmund Fitzgerald and its demise. 

Interesting Information and Trivia