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Oregon Trail

Compiled By: Mrs. G

These are fun activities and books to read while studying about the Oregon Trail.

Oregon Trail Ideas
Posted by: Donna Grossarth

I have taken the Interact of Hacker Trail and altered the locations to fit with the Oregon Trail. It is a wonderful simulation although mathematically challenging for some students. I have worked out my own methods of "score keeping" for miles on the trail. I am currently writing my own Oregon Trail classroom simulation and plan to use it next spring. I will be writing it as we "hit the trail" this spring. There are lots of sites if you do a search. They're hit and miss depending on the type of information you're looking for. As a culmination activity, my class builds covered wagons out of red wagons (I've had PVC pipe frames made for our covers). We dress up in period costumes and walk a couple of miles through a local park where we stop for lunch and "campfire activities" that the children have researched and share with the rest of the group.
Good luck!

Oregon Trail computer game
Posted by: Cindy

There is a computer game called Oregon Trail. We used to play it when I was in school. The object of the game is to try and travel cross country to Oregon in a covered wagon. Along the way the player loses family members, oxen, food and supplies. The player has to buy new items or go hunting for food.

I'm pretty sure they sell it in stores if the school does not have it already.

Posted by: Kathy

We just finished a unit on pioneers. Here's some of the activities my youngsters (3-4) enjoyed:

1. I had a parent come in and help them make covered wagons. She used big rectangular boxes cut lenghtwise, pvc piping, and old sheets. The students painted them and attached wheels. They turned out darling. Some of them are actually big enough to sit in! (They love to read in them during SSR.)

2. We did an art project making "block quilt squares" out of construction paper. That was a great reading/math activity as well since it involved following directions and measuring. They made a stunning display.

3. I got "project boards" and had each group do research on the internet to answer a specific question and create a display:
Reasons for Going West
Preparing for the Trip
A Typical Day
Dangers along the Way

4. I had students write individual compositions on what they would/would not like about traveling along the Oregon Trail. I displayed these around a poster of a covered wagon.

5. I made a transparency of a map of the US at the time of the Oregon Trail and also one of the trail itself. I had students use the overhead projector to trace this onto butcher paper and color it in. (They absolutely love this activity!)

6. I had each child make a poster "advertising" reasons why people would want to go West. (We hung them all around the room.)

7. I divided the students into teams and let them earn points so their team could move along the Oregon Trail. (A great motivator to keep them on their toes this time of year!)

8. We churned butter using individual jars.

9. We took a couple of great field trips--The End of the Oregon Trail in Oregon City and Pioneer Farm Museum in Eatonville. The first was a great launch into the unit and the second is an experience worth every penny they charge as the children actually get to "become pioneers" for 24 hours--we sat in the one room schoolhouse, did chores, cooked over the open fire, slept in a log cabin, used the outhouses. Even though not every part was fun, the youngsters LOVED the trip and you could never get those experiences in a book or video. This trip is very well organized and they have a very structured program--keep the kids going the whole time from one activity to another.

10. We saw two videos--one entitled "United States Expansion" (Schlessinger--part of their American History for Children)--right on primary age level. The other was on the Oregon Trail that I got from the upper grade teacher. It was a lot more informational--and a bit above their heads, but I showed about 10 minutes a day and they seemed interested and learned a lot.

11. We did literature groups--Sarah, Plain and Tall, Daniel Boone, and Bound for Oregon.

12. Two books I read to them: Westward to Home and Caddie Woodland

Well, that's my "dozen activities." Many of these activities are outlined in Going West (Williamson Publishing Company) and Pioneer Days (Scholastic) I got my maps from "Pioneers" a Scholastic curriculum guide.

Have fun! (I know we did!!)

book suggestion
Posted by: rita

I just finished reading Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen, a wonderful saga about a family who travels west on the Oregon Trail. Great characters and exciting adventure. My teammates & I plan to use this one next year when we study the Oregon Trail and westward expansion. Bonus: it's available in paperback.

Another one is Stout Hearted Seven but I would recommend this as a read aloud to your class, more difficult read. I teach 4th not sure what grade level you are.

Pioneer Unit
Posted by: Kristen

I remember when I was in elementary school, we would always celebrate Kansas Day. (I'm from Kansas). Some activities related to pioneers are:

1) Have the local quilt guild come in and talk about quilt during that period. I especially remember crazy quilts because they only had a little bit of this and a little bit of that material. Quilts can also tie quite nicely into math.

2) Talk about school for pioneer students. Play games such as "Red Rover". We also had a "dunce" student (just a doll) that had to sit in the corner with a dunce cap on.

3) We sang traditional songs and talked about how songs helped time go by much faster on wagon trains.

4) One year we even made dolls out of cornhusks. That was pretty intensive though!

Don't forget about the Oregon Trail game and Little House books!

Hope this helped!

Posted by: Dawn

There is a great website for the Oregon Trail National Park Actually you can tour all the parks that way. For hands on stuff there are several books: Pioneer Crafts and A Pioneer Sampler. There is a Pioneer Quilt Book which gives you the history of quilts for kids with art projects. I have a shelf of books on the subject at school. E-mail me at school and I can type you a list. We are fortunate that the local historical society has a pioneer program called Valley Days where the children step back in time to 1884 for the day and do a variety of projects from making butter and biscuits on a wood-burning stove, woodburning, tin punch, leather craft, rope making, sewing and an hour in a pioneer one room school with slates, quill pens, etc. I have directions for many of these. You can also get supplies for leather, tin, woodburning from Dick Blick Art Supply quick delivery, free shipping for orders $200 and up, no tax for schools, Great Prices. Are you doing literature studies too?

Supply List
Posted by: kasey

I'm in Oregon too. A fun idea I have seen used is after studying manifests of supplies for the Oregon trail, have students make up their own manifest for a prescribed number of people (math extensions!), and share as a group. Teacher "grades" by telling them if they would survive or not.

historical fiction
Posted by: jen

I taught third last year and I found the 'Dear America' series to be a HIT! I read aloud the Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell, (one of the Dear America books), and it was the favorite part of the kids' day. Many of them then independently checked different Dear America's out of the library and just devoured them -- especially the girls. It was great.