On the Oregon Trail
Social Studies and Language Arts Activity
Students apply the experience of traveling the Oregon Trail to a subject-area
WHAT YOU NEED
- Reference materials on the Oregon Trail and other westward trails.
WHAT TO DO
- Ask students to share experiences of times they taught a younger child how
to do something or helped one understand a school lesson. Then ask students to
think of the families with young children who crossed the continent on the
Oregon Trail or used other routes. Have them consider and discuss what kind of
learning might have gone on during the time those school-age youngsters were
migrating westward. Encourage a variety of ideas.
- Point out that without schools and probably texts, boards, or other
materials, any learning that went on may have been difficult. Explain that
though this was true, there was much going on in terms of real-life
experiences. Adults and older children could have used those circumstances to
teach the youngest some of their school skills. Have students suggest
possibilities. Use the following examples to stimulate discussion.
- Math: calculating how many supplies to buy
- Geography: making and reading maps of the trail
- Art: drawing features of the land they passed
- Science: studying the plants and animals they saw
- Language Arts: writing and reading about what they experienced
- Tell students to think of themselves as pioneers on the Oregon Trail. Divide
the class into teams. Have each team think of something from their experience
crossing the continent that they could use to teach younger children a lesson
in one of the content areas. Have them draw up a lesson plan. Share with
students the format you use for a lesson plan. Have students follow that
format. Or, after presenting it, ask students to adapt it for their "students."
Before students write their lesson plans, encourage half of them to generate as
long a list as they can of possibilities. For comparison's sake, have other
students generate a similar list based on a modern-day trip across the country.
Encourage students to compare the lists.
Instead of having every team use the Oregon Trail as a source of study
material, have some groups use the experience of other trails. Encourage
students to compare the experiences they were able to apply to their lessons.
Have students create a dramatized version of the activity, in which they act
out the lessons as they might have occurred on the trail.
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