One of the best ways to get older kids interested in history is to make it interactive. A great way to learn about Pioneer history is to study their journey west through their mode of transportation.
By the mid-1800s the United States was a growing nation that extended from “sea to shining sea”. Early adventurers explored the new western territories and returned with stories of wide open spaces, fertile farm lands and even gold. Many families made the decision to pack-up their belongings and “go west”. Some were looking for religious freedom, others thought they would strike it rich, and others were looking for land where they could build homes and farms. Their travels were difficult – they didn’t have cars or airplanes like we do today, instead they traveled over land by foot, horse and covered wagon.
As your family explores the United States’ westward expansion movement, use these fun activities to help bring your learning to life.
Covered Wagon Learning Activities
Watch a video about the Oregon Trail – Learn about the size, shape and type of wagons that carried people thousands of miles and go along on a modern day wagon train trip.
Pack your wagon – The body of a covered wagon was about 4 feet wide x 10 feet long. Using those dimensions, draw a chalk outline of a wagon body on your driveway (to be more specific, check out Social Studies Actual Size – they offer “blueprints” for a Conestoga Wagon and Prairie Schooner). Gather supplies from around your home that you think you would need to take with you on your journey (clothes, food, pots & pans, tools, etc.) and decide how you would fit everything into your wagon. You will probably find that you have to make some difficult decisions and leave a few things behind!
Examine daily life – Follow the Larkin family as they pack their wagon and share information about Daily Life in a Covered Wagon. Learn about landmarks on the trail, hunting, children’s activities and how they celebrated special days.
Make a pioneer meal – What did they eat on the trail? It was difficult to carry a lot of ingredients and keep food fresh so some of the food choices were limited. Pancakes were filling and easy as they only required a few ingredients. Try Cooking Up Some American History to make Journey Potatoes, Peach Leather and Hardtack.
Craft with quilts – Quilts were more than a bedcovering to pioneer families. They became a way for families to tell stories and preserve their memories. Create interesting crafts with Quilt Block History of Pioneer Days.
Build a covered wagon model – Using supplies you can easily find around your house, build your own covered wagon. Use your wagon to create your own stories and adventures – photograph or video tape the stories you create.
More Early American History Fun for Middle School
- Studying History While Visiting the Magic Kingdom
- How to Use American Girl to Study History
- Historical Cooking: Native American Corn Recipes
- Lewis and Clark Animal Discovery Activities
- Benjamin Franklin: Inventions and Hands-on History
- 5 Easy Colonial America Map Activities for Kids
- Discover the 13 Colonies Study Guide
- Using Videos to Teach Early American History
What fun and easy activities have you used to study this period of American history?