This is a simulation we did with our fourth graders. We divided them up into families based on real life pioneers. We have them fake money and fake jobs. They were given the goal of successfully making in to the West. Each day a dice was rolled and their fates were changed. The first family to make it West was celebrated.
We also integrated this with writing as each family would journal about their experience and why they were traveling West. We even made an iMovie as our final product to show how the pioneers faced advertsity-similar to what families face today in light of hurricanes, loss of jobs, etc.