School Shows

John Henry

by Mad River Theater Works

Grades 2-8

An African American folk hero comes to life on stage! No one could match John Henry’s legendary size and strength laying railroad tracks that crisscrossed the U.S. in the late 19th century—until the invention of the steam-powered driver. Even after winning a contest against the newfangled machine, John Henry realized that ordinary men simply could not compete with machines from the industrial revolution. The days of work for folks like him were numbered. This production uses storytelling, drama, and music to explore humanity in the face of changing technology and illustrate the tale’s relevance today.

Education Programs on sale August 7, 2019 starting at 9:00am.

Set the Stage

Prepare your students for their trip to the theater with these free resource materials. (Coming soon!)

  • Artist’s Study Guide
  • Talking Points for Classroom Discussion
  • Classroom Activity

Common Core Content Standards

Easily apply these content standards in your classroom:

  • 4.RI.3: Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
  • 6.RI.3: Analyze in detail how a key individual, event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and elaborated in a text (e.g., through examples or anecdotes).
  • 8.RI.3: Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).

Lesson Plan Idea

Students plot the trail of the John Henry’s journey on a map of the United States and create short scenes of what happened at each point.

Art Talks: Free Guided Tours of the Sculpture Garden

Extend your field trip by touring our Sculpture Garden with a specially trained docent! Our current exhibition, Harmonies: Kati Casida, Catherine Daley, and Jann Nunn, features three highly acclaimed Bay Area sculptors. Join us with a group of up to 100 people for a a walking tour through these unique works. Tours begin 15 minutes after school shows and last approximately 20 minutes. Advanced registration is required. Sign up using the application available online or email Chrystie Prokopakis for more information.

Or take a self-guided tour using this map.


  • To contact us, email Chrystie Prokopakis, School & Family Coordinator, or call 707.800.7504.
  • Find terms and conditions plus more resources here.
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