Second Step: Nellie Bly ~Exploring~


There are so many great opportunities for learning when it comes to Nellie Bly! I’ve had to narrow down some of my ideas quite a bit! Nellie Bly’s life and career lend themselves to many fantastic themes that activities can be planned around, but in keeping with our photo shoot I’ve chosen ‘around the world’ as our theme. It opens up so many doors to learn about so much with the kids and is easy to make age appropriate since my girlies are still quite little! I’m also kind of cheating a little since Big Sister and Brother are in the midst of an international unit at preschool! They’re already doing half of my work for me! 😉

So, to kick off Nellie Bly we started with a game. We played the game Round the World With Nellie Bly. It’s a 300 piece puzzle, that when complete, is a remake of a board game released in 1890. The puzzle comes with rules, game pieces and a die as well. I let the kids attempt to help with the puzzle but it was a little beyond them.  I ended up putting the puzzle together and was happy to have a quiet activity to do by myself after the kids went to bed. 🙂 When they discovered it finished the next morning they were excited to take a look and play a round. I let them have some time to look at the game first and just play with the pieces a bit. The game board is very picture heavy and some of the pictures sparked some conversations about Nellie’s trip and travel in general which was a great start! The real fun came when we started to play though(fun is a debatable adjective here if you ask the kids, lol)! Nearly every single space on the board sends you somewhere else. You could be sent back to port, back 2, 5, or even 10 spaces. You might get lucky on a rare occasion and land on a spot that is ‘safe’ and let you be or you could actually be propelled forward a few spots. The kids found this incredibly frustrating. They never knew what would happen next and the idea that they could be sent back so often and so far was galling! It was a perfect segue into a chat about what travel was like back in the 1890’s and why it was such an accomplishment for Nellie to go around the world in 72 days!

That evening I began reading ‘It Can’t Be Done Nellie Bly,’ by Bonnie Christensen to the kids. It’s a telling of Nellie’s journey as she circumnavigated the globe and the adventures she encountered along the way. With some of her stops in the book we will also stop and complete an activity to go with that country. Her first stop is in London, England.

In honor of London we attempted to paint peg people to look like the Queen’s Guard and discussed some ways that England is similar and different from the US. This is where that international unit at school is really helping out! They’re making all kinds of connections and are familiar with some of the places we’ll be talking and reading about already. I tried to paint a peg person as well. I was nearly done when I left it to dry and put Little Sister to bed, and upon returning to finish it up, I found my son had taken the liberty of finishing it for me. See the pictures below for the result, lol!  After painting our peg people I took out some passport sticker books that I ordered from Oriental Trading Co. and we put a sticker in our passport for London. Next up is France, then Italy, Egypt, Hong Kong and Singapore. We’ll see if I’m crafty enough and find the time to do an activity for each!

I’ve created a Pinterest board with links to all the things mentioned above for your reference! 🙂

Second Step: Nellie Bly ~Introduction~


Nellie Bly! I was so excited for this step! Big Sister’s personality reminds me a bit of this famous reporter and globetrotting record breaker. Nellie Bly is the pen name of a journalist born Elizabeth Cochrane. She is known for her edgy stunt-style reporting which included a trip around the world inspired by Jules Verne’s ‘Around the World in 80 Days.’ This feat made her a household name in 1889-1990. It was this trip that inspired our photo shoot and the activities during our study of Nellie Bly.

Though Jules Verne’s fictional character Phileas Fogg completed his journey in 80 days, Nellie Bly circumnavigated the globe in 72. She did it with only two days notice from her employer, with only one handbag measuring 16″x7,” and was basically unchaperoned(unheard of in her day). These were all feats for her day and some still would be today. On her journey she traveled from New Jersey through England, France(with a pit stop to meet with Jules Verne himself), Egypt, Italy, Singapore, Hong Kong, and San Francisco before arriving back at New Jersey. She encountered many obstacles along the way, but beat even her own personal goal of 75 days by 3 days. Through writing about her experiences and having them published as she went, she became a household name and the most well-known woman in the world at the time. She inspired songs, fashion, and games created in her name as a result.

Nellie Bly’s trip around the world brought her through Joliet and Chicago, IL on her way back home. Nellie arrived in Illinois on the The Miss Nellie Bly Special, a train for the express purpose of getting Nellie on her way to break a world’s record for traveling around the world. It was a passenger train comprised of one passenger car and an engine that set new speed records during its trip. Nellie passed through Joliet and Chicago on the morning of January 24th, 1890, 114 years ago.

At that time the current stations in Joliet(Joliet Union Station) and Chicago(Chicago Union Station), did not exist. Both locations had overhauls and new stations built just a few short years after Nellie’s trip. They were, however, in the same basic locations. I had hoped to have our photo shoot on the anniversary of Nellie’s stop in Joliet, but the weather around here this year did not cooperate! But, we did get to shoot at Joliet Union Station and on the same tracks she rode on her legendary journey! It really was an incredible experience. The whole family had fun exploring the station and its history.

We are really looking forward to learning more about this amazing woman in the coming weeks! I have created a Pinterest board for all things Nellie that I used as inspiration while researching her and planning our activities, you can check it out here!