April 21, 2021 | Cindy Kuperus
Third graders are studying the pioneers’ journey from Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon. They are learning about the reasons for traveling westward, and the adversities and challenges pioneers faced in traveling 2000 miles in a covered wagon: how to cross a river safely, how to climb or descend the Rocky Mountains, how disease could sweep through a wagon train.
Most days, students view some slides about a topic in the life of a pioneer. They hear a short read – aloud that describes the topic further. They write in a “pioneer journal” about the day’s topic – in the voice and through the perspective of a pioneer. They also add landmarks on a paper map of the Oregon Trail.
In project time that day or the next, students build a wagon or scene out of hollow blocks and then act out the topic for the day.
Some days, Mr. Johnson “Zooms in” and helps children make decisions about their role-play of pioneers.
Recently, our topic of study was the impact the westward expansion had on those already living in the region: Native Americans. Students also considered how the environment changed as more people moved and settled, including felling timber to build homes, creating roads, and farming the land.
Students heard one another read from scripts of Native American voices. They then wrote from the perspective of a Native American. Here are a few student’s words:
I’m a Native American, and my family just encountered some pioneers. We traded and went our separate ways.
I feel sad because pioneers are taking over and it’s not their land – it’s all of our land. We need to share the land so we can stay alive.
A few students wrote poetry, and here is one “voice.”
We will be finishing pioneer studies this week. Next week, we’ll begin to learn about the Cherokee nation and the trail they followed – The Trail of Tears.