Learning About the Oregon Trail

Wagons at sunrise

Breaking up Camp at Sunrise by Alfred Jacob Miller (Wikimedia.org)

All fourth graders in the state of Oregon study about the Oregon Trail as part of their Social Studies curriculum. Anna’s only in the second grade, but she’s getting a head start thanks to her mixed-level Girl Scout Troop. Since half of her troop mates are Juniors (4th and 5th grade) and are learning the material at school, the whole troop is working together to earn their respective Junior and Brownie badges.

Oregon Trail Badge

Brownie Badge

As with all Girl Scout badges, there are a series of steps the girls need to complete to earn the badge. The steps are open-ended with enough options offered to allow each girl to explore the topics she finds most interesting.

So far, Anna’s troop has made butter and biscuits (an Oregon Trail food), and each girl has handcrafted her own set of marbles (twelve plus a shooter) out of clay (an Oregon Trail toy). Here I include some directions for these projects I found online. If you want to do any of these projects with your kids, these links will take you through each step-by-step.

Next week, they’ll play with the baked marbles and learn about Oregon Trail jobs.

Roughing it on the Oregon Trail

In the meantime, Anna is learning about the trail on her own. We went to the library on Sunday and checked out Roughing it on the Oregon Trail by Diane Stanley. Here’s the publisher’s description via Amazon.com.

What if you could close your eyes and open them to find you were amongst hundreds of pioneers in 1843, packing up your covered wagon to travel the 2,000 miles of the Oregon Trail? Meet twins Liz and Lenny and their unique grandmother, who, with the help of her magic hat, can transport the twins to any time in history. In their first journey, the twins spend eight months crossing the country on foot and by covered wagon, braving the mountain ranges and river valleys, battling floods and droughts, and cooking slam-johns and sowbellies over buffalo chips.

Diane Stanley’s spirited, humorous, and historically accurate depiction of day-to-day life on the Oregon Trail is brought to life with Holly Berry’s energetic illustrations. Overflowing with fun, informative details, and word balloons that capture each piece of dialogue, young readers will be transported into an exciting page in American history alongside the adventurous Time-Traveling Twins.

Children’s Pick of the Lists 2000 (ABA) and Children’s Books 2000-NY Public Lib.

Oregon Trail Game

Julia also bought a copy of the classic computer game Oregon Trail and installed it on her PC to play with Anna. On her first try, Anna got her whole party—people and animals—from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City without a single loss of life. Despite two accidental gunshot wounds, a near-drowning during a river-crossing, and multiple illnesses, everyone made it.

Anna’s character—also named Anna—went on to settle in the Washington Territory and be the matron of a large brood. Her good reputation was thankfully not sullied by the nefarious exploits of her descendants.

Good to know!

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