Teachers Notes

Westward Ho!

You have just signed on with a wagon train, for the arduous trip to California to start a new life in what you have heard is a wonderful land. You are gathering provisions for the long journey that lies ahead, and essentials you will need in California. You will need to be prepared for everything that could happen along the way, as the wilderness along the trail is dangerous. You will need many supplies, but they are expensive, and must fit into your wagon. You will also need to pick the best route by which to travel, and a date for departure that ensures you will arrive at your final destination before the winter arrives. You will need to choose wisely, to ensure your survival.

Settlers emigrating west along the California/ Oregon Trail experienced incredible hardships, and survived many perils with the help of careful planning, cooperation, and a great deal of luck.

Task:

Teamwork along the California/Oregon trail was very important. To ensure their survival settlers had to work together. You will also be working with other pioneers in your own wagon train (groups of 4-6). Using the Internet, your wagon train will research the items on this list.

  • Your destination
  • Departure date
  • The route you will follow to your destination
  • A set of "rules for the road"
  • A list of provisions that you can pay for with the money you have

Process:

1. Choose one of the emigrant parties:

  • The Stevens/Townsend Party
  • The Lansford Hasting
  • The Bidwell/Bartleson Party
  • The Donner Party
  • The Edwin Bryant Party 

2. Decide which members of your wagon train will assume the following roles

Trail Boss - The taskmaster who keeps the group aware of when the project needs to be completed. The trail boss decides when the train will depart, and arrive at its destination,

Scribe - Records all of the wagon train's decisions.

Banker- Purchases all supplies that the wagon will carry, and makes sure that he/she has enough money to pay for all the necessary supplies

Cartographer- creates a map of the route the wagon train will take, labels & marks mountains, rivers, and points of interest.

Reporter - Lead's the presentation to the class.

 

3. As a group, draw up a list of the provisions the group will need to take for their trip westward. Those items that are essential are to be highlighted.   Weights of various staple foods will need to be researched (flour, sugar, coffee, corn meal etc.)

In planning which supplies to take with you, remember that you may only take what you can carry in your wagon. Make sure that you have enough room in your wagon to carry your supplies. The wagon dimensions are 4 feet x 10 feet, and at least 1000 lbs. of food is needed for a four person family. Be careful not to over pack your wagon, as an overburdened wagon cannot keep up with the rest of the train.

You also need decide which animals you want to pull your wagon, and plan to bring supplies for them as well. You may choose from the following animals.

  • Mules, sure footed most expensive
  • Horses, pull wagon faster
  • Oxen, slowest, strongest and can handel most endurance, but can handel less load (Oxen drink 20 - 30 gallons of water a day. Each wagon is pulled by eight oxen)

4. Each group will submit a:

  • Departure and expected arrival date, and location.
  • List of rules and regulations the party will follow on the trail, signed by all party members
  • List of provisions to be loaded in the wagon
  • Map showing route the party will be taking

Internet Resources:

 

Tying it All Together

In your presentation, describe your chosen route to the class. Explain why yours was the best route to take. Use a poster for projecion of your map while describing your route.

Also explain the rules that your wagon train agreed to travel and live by and why you chose them.

Tell the class which supplies your wagon train chose to bring.

Evaluation

You will be evulated based on

  1. Qualty of map
  2. Plausabitly of route
  3. Clarity of effectiveness of rules
  4. Choice of supplies
  5. Delivery of report

Here is the Scoring Rubric

Conclusion

Many people died along the jouney West or had to abandon the endeaver. After this experience, what do you think was the major cause for failure of whole wagon trains and of individuals riding the trail?

Reflection

Your group planning and implimentation of this activity is similar in some ways to the processes followed by the pioneers.

  1. What did you learn from this process about the things you are best at contributing to a group presentation?

  2. What websites were most useful and why?

  3. What information did you need that you could not find? What did you do?

Extension Activity

Go to the computer lab and play Oregon Trail. This is a computerized game with many components of this lesson. The game forces you to make additional decisions, such as food rations, pace of travel, ways to cross rivers, family members, and ways to manage various illnesses that commonly afflicted persons traveling along the trail.