The unit explores the reasons that led early Americans from their homes in the east to the west via the Oregon Trail. The students will discover that the emigrants headed west for various reasons, such as cheap land, jobs, and a better life. The unit simulates life on the Oregon Trail through a series of hands-on activities and inquiry. The students will travel back in time to the 1840s to travel west on the Oregon trail in a covered wagon. The students will return to 2009, with artifacts they collected on their journey. The artifacts will be created by the students throughout the unit. The students will display their artifacts at the end of the unit in an Oregon Trail Museum.


  • Arts > General
  • Language Arts > General
  • Science > General
  • Social Studies > General

Education Levels:

  • Grade 3
  • Grade 4
  • Grade 5


Oregon Trail



Access Privileges:

Public - Available to anyone

License Deed:

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0


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Curriki Rating
On a scale of 0 to 3
On a scale of 0 to 3

This resource was reviewed using the Curriki Review rubric and received an overall Curriki Review System rating of 3, as of 2009-07-30.

Component Ratings:

Technical Completeness: 3
Content Accuracy: 3
Appropriate Pedagogy: 3

Reviewer Comments:

This unit on the Oregon Trail and westward migration is organized, detailed, standards-based, and engages multiple intelligences. Major themes for investigation are human migration, the mechanics of the wheel and axle and their role in westward migration, and the geography of the Oregon Trail. Over the course of 7 lessons (slated as 30 days of instruction), students participate in several creative and meaningful activities such as creating a map of their route, evaluating wagon supplies, writing a wagon constitution, creating an authentic looking class travel diary, and producing an Oregon Trail play. This unit is rich in primary documents, historical fiction, and visual references. Each lesson contains objectives, standards, key vocabulary, step-by-step directions, and helpful accommodations and suggestions. Great as a full unit of study or as a resource for individual lessons to highlight key concepts. Most lessons will require material gathering and practice runs to gauge timing and anticipate student challenges. If time is an issue, consider using excerpts from the play instead of a full production.

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