Oregon or Bust The year is 1848. You and your covered wagon train family are about to embark on a 2,000 mile journey across North America from Independence, Missouri to Oregon via the fabled Oregon Trail. Awaiting upon your arrival, should you survive the arduous trek, will be 640 acres of free farmland in the fertile Willamette Valley.

A brief overview of the project:

You will be given $600 in “Trail Bucks” to purchase supplies at the General Store. You will stock up on provisions and then begin your journey.

You will roll a die to move along the Oregon Trail. The amount you roll will decide how far you travel between the forts stationed along the trail. You must keep track of your rolls, the location you are at and the amount of food your family is consuming.

Just like the children on the real Oregon Trail, you will be busy along the way! The following is the criteria you will complete along your learning journey.

Before you can "travel the trail" with your "family," you must prepare for the trip.

The Route Map

You will create a map of the historical Oregon Trail. Your map will include a title, a compass rose, a key, major cities and important geographical landmarks.

Your map will include 10 important stops along the trail with a brief description of each stop and why it was important to the pioneers.

Some Examples and Ideas:

This example of a poster with captions typed and printed is neat and creative.
A very ambitious group could create a salt-dough map like the kid in this blog! Click the button below to see details and instructions.

Check out the video below if your group wants to make a map electronically. Visit Mr. Nussbaum's website to create a map with Maptivation!

The Dictionary

You will create a pioneer dictionary. Your pioneer dictionary will include at least 10 terms commonly used by pioneers at this time in history.

You will include the word, part of speech, definition, a sentence using the word and a picture.

An Example and Some Ideas:

This was a cool way to format the final copy of the dictionary!
You could create a graphic organizer like this one...
...or you could make a shared document, slide show, sheets table, etc. using Google.
Perhaps your group wants to make handwritten dictionary to stay true to the times.

However you decide to do it, make sure you all agree! Be creative and learn some new words!

Myvocabulary.com is a crazy-awesome website with a giant list of words which might inspire you.

The Supply list

Before pioneers left Independence, Missouri to travel to Oregon they stopped at a General Store to stock up on supplies for the trail.

You will fill out a General Store Order Form that indicates what your team would like to purchase before making the trip. You will also keep track of the cost of the supplies.

As you travel the trail, your team may have to stop at other General Stores along the trail to restock up on supplies. All purchases will be kept track of and the dollar amount recorded.

Perhaps your final copy will look similar to this one.

The trail journal

As your team travels the trail you will roll a die and pick fate cards. You will keep track of your rolls, the event cards you draw and the amount of food your wagon family consumes in a Trail Journal. Format for the journal will be provided in class.

Perhaps your final copy will look similar to this one.

The wagon diagram

Pioneers traveled the Oregon Trail in covered wagons. You will accurately create a covered wagon diagram with captions describing important features of the wagon.

Some Examples:

Notice how neat this diagram is and that the captions describe the many features of a covered wagon.
This wagon is precisely drawn and labeled. I assume that the captions for the labeled parts are on a separate sheet of paper!

Once you've gotten a good start on the criteria above, then your "wagon family" is ready to "travel the trail!"

Start with a diary entry. Introduce yourself. How are you feeling about this dangerous-crazy-wonderful-exciting adventure? Who are you traveling with? See Pioneer Diary info below.

When your "family" members are ready, roll the die and draw the first fate card! Remember to keep track of your rolls, the event cards you draw and the amount of food your wagon family consumes in a Trail Journal, and to use your experiences to write your diary entries!

The pioneer diary

Many pioneers kept diaries of their adventures on the Oregon Trail. As your team travels the trail, you will keep a diary detailing your pioneer life.

You will record 5 diary entries in a first person narrative which include historically accurate events.

Some Examples, Quotes, and Links:

Here are some writings about supplies that people used on the Oregon Trail. They are primary sources of information, as they were written by people who actually lived during that time, and experienced the Oregon Trail.

These are printed as written by the pioneers, and you may notice the spelling and grammar is sometimes confusing!

“Father built a large box in the home-made wagon and put in a lot of dried buffalo meat and pickled pork. He had made over a hundred pounds of maple sugar which we took along instead of loaf sugar. He also took along plenty of corn meal….He laid in a plentiful supply of home twist tobacco. Father chewed it and Mother smoked it…in an old corn-cob pipe.” --Benjamin Bonney, who traveled the trail at age 7 in 1845, and wrote this memory of the trip years later when he had grown up.
“June 21st, 1852… to day five men direct from oregon they gave us the privelage of writing home last night we had music and dancing it makes it seem quite like home to hear the Accordian which Cecelia plays most every evenings…” --Diary of Parthenia Blank, pioneer to Oregon
This is the back of the book Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie. The book is written in the form of diary entries told in first person by Hattie Campbell. Hattie travels the Oregon Trail with her family and tells an incredible story. We have several copies of this text if you'd like to read it!

Each student is responsible for writing at least 5 diary entries. Your diary entries should be combined and and presented in one "family collection" of diary entries when your final project is due.

The Biography

You will choose a famous person connected to the Oregon Trail. After completing research you will write a biography of the person’s life including key facts and events in his/her life and his/her connection to the Oregon Trail.

We will brainstorm topics and the format for this writing will be discussed in class.

Research Topics

Please choose two or more of the following research topics to summarize:

Children’s games

Occasionally there was time for playing on the trail. Research some of the games pioneer children played.


Research the different chores men, women and children did along the trail.


Pioneers sang a lot of songs. Write a song about the Oregon Trail. Your song should contain at least three verses (4 lines in a verse). It should also include a chorus.


Research food that was cooked on the Oregon Trail. You will need to write up the recipes. You can also cook the food at home and photograph or videotape it for your presentation.


Research diseases that affected the pioneers on the Trail. Include some of the medicines that were used.

Oregon Trail App

What if the pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail had iPhones? What applications (apps) would be helpful to them while they were on the trail? Create one or more apps with instructions, design, and purpose (why it would be beneficial).


Together your team will create a presentation representing your journey. All team members will have a role in the presentation. Your may create your presentation in the media format of your choice (Google Presentation, iMovie, Adobe Spark, etc.)

"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." --Henry Ford


Created with images by mypubliclands - "The Oregon National Historic Trail in Wyoming - Poster" • Photoman - "oregon trail map" • crdotx - "Dictionary" • dok1 - "Gibisonville General Store-2" • Nicholas_T - "Ella C. Ehrhardt General Store" • simpleinsomnia - "Children pulling around a toy covered wagon" • fekaylius - "covered wagons on a steam ship" • ashkyd - "Nexus 7 App Icon Grid" • Misserion - "The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind"

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