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Comparing and Contrasting Trails

May 12, 2021 | Cindy Kuperus

I am so thankful for our study of the Cherokee people and the Trail of Tears, even though it is a part of U.S. history that is tragic. My own K-12 education left this piece out of history classes (or I don’t remember it – which is happening more and more as I age!). I don’t remember learning about the many treaties that were made and broken, the Indian Removal Act, the death of 25% of the Cherokees that traveled the trail to Oklahoma.

Your children are empathetic learners. They listened and asked good questions. They are good thinkers. Some did further research to learn more.

Recently, students were paired up and asked to share differences between the Trail of Tears and Oregon Trail. Here are some results:

The next day, students were asked to use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the differences. Most saw that there were difficulties on each of the trails and that both were westward trails, but that was about all the similarities.

Here is a sample of your children’s thinking:

Most students stated that there was a primary difference in the two trails: that of choice and being forced into a move. And when you can choose, you have many more opportunities to be successful.

A few weeks ago, students were asked why we study history. A couple students said it keeps us from making the same mistakes twice and also helps us make better decisions going forward. And if something worked well, we can use that model again.

I wonder what impact this study of the Oregon Trail and the Trail of Tears – and all the history they learn – will have on this group of children in 10, 20, or 50 years from now?  Knowing the hearts of your children, they will likely act and speak in ways that will help their families and communities to make decisions that protect people.

May it be so.



Cindy Kuperus

Teacher, Grades 3&4

Ms. Kuperus attended a small Lutheran grade school and has always been a student in multi-grade classrooms. She became interested in teaching, in fact, when she would assist classmates when the teacher was busy helping others. Her 5th/6th grade teacher, Mrs. Roman, encouraged her to think broadly about the world beyond their small town (population: 500), giving stickers to those who could answer a question from the World News segment from television the night before. She would be thrilled to learn that Ms. Kuperus has taught internationally in Masaya, Nicaragua, and Chengdu,China.

After graduating from Calvin College, Ms. Kuperus taught students in grades two-six for almost 10 years in Kentwood, Michigan. In 1994, Ms. Kuperus sought a teaching position in a school in the Northeast, anywhere but New Jersey. She’s now taught for over 23 years in NEW JERSEY! Two of her former students, Becca Brasser and Sam Martino, are now on staff at MSS.

Ms. Kuperus loves opportunities to travel, interact with the people, and taste the foods of the world. She’s also a person who ‘travels” with the characters in the books she reads!

It’s important to Ms. Kuperus that people’s voices are heard and that their needs for shelter and food are met. To that end, she volunteers for organizations like First Friends and the Sharing Place.

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