No thematic unit on westward expansion and Manifest Destiny is complete without an Oregon Trail journal!
This project utilizes PowerPoint to provide an overview of the mountain era and the fur trade. Subsequent slides include "reasons fer goin", "what we bringin' with us," and "might be there's trouble." Students are even encouraged to brainstorm items they might bring along the trail. Once the presentation is complete, viola! Students have a user-friendly reference sheet for their journey.
Students will then be presented with the guidelines for the project. Each group (ideally, groups of 4) will create a pioneer family, complete with names, ages, origins, occupations, and reasons for heading west. Completed journals will include 15 separate journal entries, a map, and at least 4 pictures of landmarks observed along the way.
Once the guidelines have been presented, students will use the "Oregon Trail Notes" sheet provided to create their family. The At this point, the instructor should encourage students to build their story. Why is the family headed west? What happened? Students should be able to make connections to other units (Panic of 1837, desire for land, adventure, trades needed out west, etc.).
One of the major parts of the project is to create a list of supplies the "families" will bring with them along the Trail. By now, students should have an understanding of what items were brought and why (likewise, what items were not brought and why). Groups can use the accompanying "List of Provisions and Prices" to build their list (each group should choose an occupation and corresponding salary to purchase supplies - be careful not to go over!). This portion of the project may require more than one period, so it is best to have two members of the group work on this part while the remaining members work on the journal entries.
To assist students with writing the journal entries, the guidelines include brief descriptions of the major landmarks observed along the Trail. Students can also refer to the distance chart provided to help them determine how many miles they have traveled (generally 15-20 miles per day) and where along the Trail they should be at any given time. Finally, as students work on their journals, I generally run the "Oregon Trail Pics" ppt (on repeat) to provide students with ideas as to what life might be like along the Trail.
The project also includes a rubric for students to follow, as well as a critique sheet that will allow students to critique both themselves and their group members.
Of course, this project would not be complete without offering students the opportunity to sample some "genuine" pioneer recipes - I generally offer this as extra credit. The recipes include beef jerky, Mormon johnnycake, dried apple pie, and soda bread. The directions are easy to follow - very do-able! I usually offer this as extra credit. Side note: I always explain to the students that the recipes are not what we would be used to in terms of cuisine - but the pioneers could not be picky...for them, it was a matter or survival!
Presenting the project usually requires one class period (organizing into groups, creating names, etc.). After that, groups should be able to finish 2 journal entries per day. I provide them with benchmarks (i.e.: by the end of the period, they should have finished...). In total, I provide 12 class periods (not necessarily consecutive). After that, everything else is done outside of class.
I have used this presentation and project for years with my own students. They thoroughly enjoy the presentation and examples, and have done a WONDERFUL job with the project. I know you will love it, too!
The PowerPoint presentation is saved in Office 97-2003. The guidelines and student critique sheet are saved in Word 97-2003. This will allow instructors to modify due dates, points available, and criteria as needed.
Project: The Oregon Trail by Brian Hook is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.