Activity 1


Getting on the road

  1. If you were planning to move to a new home, what would you pack?   
  2. List your items, with number one, being the most important.  
  3. Discuss what you would take today that the children on the wagon train would not take.   Who or what would you miss the most if you were to move to another state.   What would be fun about moving?   What would be sad about moving?  
  4.  When the pioneers departed in their wagon trains, they were thinking of being on the move for about six months. What was the most exciting thing they did? What was the scariest? Do you think your family could have done this?  
  5. Once they left, almost everyone walked. They could cover two-three miles an hour on flat ground. They didn’t have roads like we do today. If it were muddy or up hill, they may have covered a mile. Can you imagine walking for eight to ten hours a day? How much walking do you do in a day?  
  6. The first two-three months the wagon train covered 18-20 miles a day. When they were trying to go up a mountain side, they covered maybe half a mile. Have you tried rock climbing? What could you carry up a rope? How did they get oxen and wagons up a steep slope with ropes?   
  7. Can you draw a map of the journey?  

Activity 2


Food is an important substance

  1. What foods did the pioneers consume?   Do you eat these foods?   
  2. How was cooking different in that day? How did they cook?   
  3. What do you suppose they did about refrigeration?  Have you ever milked a cow? Made butter or ice cream?   
  4. How many of you have cooked over an open fire?   How difficult do you think it would be to make cake over a camp fire?   
  5. How many pounds of meat would one buffalo give you?   What you make of a buffalo hide?   
  6. Once they were snowed in, why didn’t they fish for food in what is now Donner Lake?   
  7. What happens physically when people reduce their calorie intake?   What does the body do when starvation sets in? Good discussion for pre-teens, bring in anorexia, bulimia, obsessive eating and excellent way to discuss the body and brain connection with food.   

Activity 3


President Polk

  1. Who was Old Hickory and who was Young Hickory? 
  2. What does it mean when someone says they are a dark horse?  
  3. What is Manifest Destiny? 
  4. If you were President Polk, how would you encourage people to support your view. If you were against this idea, how would you encourage people to support your ideas? 
  5. What was the Mexican American War? Did all the states fight in this war? 
  6. What was the Oregon Treaty?   Why was California a territory?  
  7. Taking both sides, present why the US needed more territory and why gaining more land was not a good idea.

Activity 4


Indian Territory

  1. The wagon train passed many groups of Indians. Can you name five Indian Tribes?   
  2. What can you say about the different tribes and the way of life they led?   Did they all speak the same language? Were they friendly with each other?   
  3. Do all Indians live in teepees? How many types of housing can you name?   
  4. The children were afraid of Indians, why was that? Should the Indians have been afraid of the immigrants?  

Activity 5


Forts (Part 1)

  1. How important were forts in the mid 1800s?   Were you surprised by the life in and around the forts?   
  2. Can you imagine Indians living outside the fort? Draw a picture of the fort and life around it.   
  3. What were the differences between Fort Laramie and Fort Bridger?   
  4. How do you think all of the dry goods, foods and other items to buy compare to a shopping mall of today? 
  5. Who was Lansford Hastings?   What did you think of his book?  

Activity 6


Forts (Part 2)

  1. What did you think of the men at Fort Bridger promoting Lansford Hasting doctrine?   
  2. Was it a good idea to take the Left Hand turn or the shortcut?
  3. In a group of four, two on each side, argue why they should have or should not have taken the shortcut. Be prepared to present your views to the rest of the class. 
  4. Why do you think they took the shortcut? Do you think they had enough information to make that decision.  

Activity 7


Medicine on the Trail (Part 1)

  1. The incident with Eddie, breaking his leg, is recorded in several pioneer diaries. What did you think of the description of the doctor? 
  2. This was not unusual for that time. In fact, doctors had little or no training. There were training programs in the 1840s but anyone who could stand the blood and had the strength could say they were a doctor.   Were Eddie’s parents right in letting him decide about his leg? 
  3. Do you suppose he would have survived an amputation? 

Activity 8


Medicine on the Trail (Part 2)

  1. What is gangrene and how prevalent was it in that time?   
  2. Have you had a bad sunburn? How did you care for it? How did the pioneers care for their burnt skin?   
  3. Luke Halloran died of suspected Tuberculosis on the trail. What do you know about this respirator disease?  
  4. Have you ever had a fever, been very sick with the flu or had diarrhea? Can you imagine what it would be like to have to walk miles, being that sick? 
  5. What can you find about different diseases that plagued people on the trail?