Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Pioneers, part 1: Modes of Transportation

part 1: Modes of Transportation 

Monday: Timeline

Have your student begin a timeline that spans from 1803-1869. Have him complete the first entry on it by writing 1803: The Louisiana Purchase: The United States bought the land between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains from France. This can be kept in the back of the notebook or on as a separate item.

Tuesday: Research: Photographs and Pictures

Have your student locate photographs and pictures of westward movement. Encourage your student to write in their notebooks their observations and any questions that might arise as they study the photographs and pictures. These questions can later serve as a basis for a research paper. (More step-by-step directions can be found here: Hands On History: Old Photographs.)

Wednesday: Research: The Prairie Schooner

Have your student research the Prairie Schooner. Have them sketch it in their notebooks and include it's dimensions. Have your student brainstorm what the pioneer families would take with them in order to live for six months, keeping in mind the size of the schooner.

Thursday: Research: The Steamer

Some pioneers took steamships  (or "Steamers") and traveled west by sea. Have your student research steamships of the mid-1800's. Have him sketch a cabin on a Steamer with the typical dimensions of 7 feet by 10 feet. How many passengers would travel in this space?
Have your student research the sea routes to California from the east coast.  What were the advantages and disadvantages of each route? What were some of the dangers?

Friday: The Role-Play Scenario: Creating a Wagon Party

The first decisions about the role-play need to be made by the Games-Master/Teacher. Do you want to run an overland scenario or a sea voyage. I will be giving you the events within a overland scenario,  but many of the same things happened on sea voyages. I will give some suggestions for different events for a sea voyage at the end of this unit for those who would rather do this type of scenario with their students. The sea voyage is particularly good for older students who have already learned about the more traditional Oregon Trail.

Once the Games-Master/Teacher has made his decision, then the student(s) can begin character creation (specifics on how to do this can be found here; scroll down to the purple section). Appropriate skills for the character could be:
Brute Force (pushing, lifting or dragging) STRENGTH + SIZE
Drive horse drawn vehicle over treacherous terrain, etc. DEXTERITY + INTELLIGENCE
Evaluate the market value of an item INTELLIGENCE + CHARISMA
First Aide to heal minor wounds, 1d6 hit points DEXTERITY + INTELLIGENCE
Influence the ability to persuade another to change his mind CHARISMA × 2
Insight the ability to figure out another character 's motivations by listening to their voice, watching their body movements, body language,  etc. INTELLIGENCE + POWER
Perception  ability character has to detect objects or other characters.  It covers such situations as listening for something creeping about, listening for sounds in a distance,  etc. INTELLIGENCE + POWER
Persistence covers situations when trying to concentrate in the face of distractions such as reloading a gun when bullets are flying all around. POWER × 2
Resilience is the ability to handle adverse physical conditions such as weathering a storm, surviving a drought or overcoming the effects of disease. CONSTITUTION × 2
Sing audience being pleased by the character's performance POWER + CHARISMA
Commerce when characters trade, barter or otherwise negotiate over the sale of goods INTELLIGENCE + CHARISMA
Craft such as basket-weaver, butcher, candle-maker, carpenter, mason, etc. DEXTERITY + INTELLIGENCE
Oratory a dressing large groups of people POWER +CHARISMA
Survival test required every day that a character lacks food, water or a safe place to sleep Failure means he will go without, which, over several days, could result in serious consequences POWER +CONSTITUTION
Track locate the tracks of a specific creature and follow them INTELLIGENCE +CONSTITUTION

Have your student imagine a background for his character. Is he moving to Oregon because of failed crops in Illinois and there is land available in Oregon for anyone who wants to work it? How has he heard about Oregon? Perhaps a brother is already there and has written to his character about the wonderful growing conditions for crops there?
Or, perhaps the character wants to go to California because he read an advertisement in the newspaper about an inexhaustible supply of gold that has been discovered in California?
Or, perhaps the character is a Mormon who had settled along the Mississippi River in the southern part of Illinois in 1839? Now it is the 1840's and the Mormons are being persecuted, including the character's leader, Joseph Smith,  who was already killed by a mob of people. The character's new Mormon leader is Brigham Young and he has decided that the Mormons have to move to Utah.

Have your student create his own character that has a historically accurate reason for migrating west, a destination in mind and a background to go with it. Next, he needs to create the party of 4-6 people that will be in his prairie schooner. Is the character the head of the family?  If so, what are the ages and sex of the family members? Or, perhaps he is a single man traveling with his brother and/or friends? Or, perhaps he is bringing his brother's family.


Survival in the wilderness depends on careful planning. Stocking and packing a wagon is serious work. In the mid-1800's covered wagon pioneers took with them some or all of the following 90 items. Your student cannot hold every item on the list, so he will need to select them carefully. He will need to consider the usefulness and importance of each item both on the trail and once he gets to his destination.  Your student's character's fate, even survival, may depend on how wisely your student selects his supplies.
Each item on the list has a number behind it. This is the item's bulk weight (or BW), which is a combination of the item's size and weight. The capacity of the covered wagon is 1000 bulk weight units, so your student will have to keep track of this as he picks his items. The final list must be kept in his notebook with the BW units listed and totaled, as it will be referred to from time to time as the role-play unfolds.

Household Items

Baby cradle  (15)
Bed frame (30)
Bedding (5)
Bible, family heirloom  (2)
Blanket  (3)
Butter churn (10)
Butter mold (2)
Candle sticks, 1 pair (2)
Candles, 5 (1)
Chest, for clothing  (35)
Clock  (5)
Coal oil, 1 gallon (12)
Coffee grinder (3)
Coffee pot (3)
Cooking and serving utensils  (6)
Cooking stove (75)
Dishes, family set (20)
Dutch oven (6)
Fabric, 15 yards  (12)
Family heirlooms (20)
Flint and steel  (2)
Frying pan  (6)
Lantern  (3)
Loom (35)
Mirror  (10)
Sewing kit (2)
Piano or small organ (100)
Pitcher and bowl, for bathing (10)
Plants (10)
Rocking chair  (15)
Rug  (25)
Spinning wheel  (25)
Stool (8)
Table and 4 chairs  (50)
Trunk, for storage (20)
Wooden bucket (5)
Woven basket  (4)

Personal Items

Boots, extra pair (4)
Clothing,  1 person (20)
Children's toys (8)
Eating utensils, 1 person  (1)
Fiddle (5)
First aid kit, enough for a family (10)
Guitar  (6)
Hunting knife  (3)
Pistol (4)
Powder horn (4)
Rifle (10)
Snow shoes (4)


Anvil (40)
Axe (7)
Axle grease  (13)
Bellows for fire (10)
Corn seller (25)
Crosscut saw, two-man (7)
Grain cradle  (10)
Grind stone, large (20)
Hammer (2)
Hatchet  (4)
Hoe (4)
Metal plow (40)
Oxen yolk repair kit (15)
Pick axe (5)
Pitch fork, 3 prong (6)
Rope, 100 feet (6)
Scythe (7)
Shovel  (7)
Steel animal traps, 4 (20)
Tool Assortment  (10)
Twine, 100 feet (1)
Vise (5)


Bacon, 25 pounds (25)
Coffee, 10 pounds  (10)
Dried beef, 25 pounds  (25)
Dried fruit, 10 pounds  (10)
Dried beans, 25 pounds  (25)
Flour, 50 pounds  (50)
Salt, 25 pounds  (25)
Spices, assorted  (1)
Sugar, 20 pounds  (20)
Vegetables, 25 pounds (25)
Vinegar, 3 gallons (24)

Miscellaneous Supplies

Animal feed, for 2 animals (30)
Chicken coop (12)
Gun powder, keg (20)
Olive press (25)
Saddle (25)
Seeds, 50 pound bag (50)
Water barrel,  20 gallon  (160)
Wood box, full of wood (25)

In addition to this list, students may also bring with them up to 6 animals from this list:

In addition, your student can roll for the amount of dollars he has with him to buy items along the way and to start his new life once the trip is complete.
First, roll one six-sided die.
Next, roll that number of six-sided dice.
That is the amount of dollars your student's wagon has with him.
For example, if he rolled a 4 on his first roll, then he rolls 4-six-sided dice. Suppose he then rolled a 3, a 4, a 2 and another 3. Add those up and you get 12, and so he has $12 with him to buy things with.

Next week we research about the geography on the trail and watch videos about pioneers. 

1 comment:

  1. You know, I've looked at pictures of pioneers, but I hadn't really thought about how it's the first big age of American history we have pictures of.


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. It means so much.