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 7: Meeting the Elephant

part 7: Meeting the Elephant 

Monday: Timeline

1846: War with Mexico begins. 4th Parallel becomes border between US and  Canada. The slogan, "fifty-four, forty  or fight" is popular. (Have your student research what this meant, if he is unfamiliar with the slogan.)

"Meeting the Elephant was a term emigrants used to describe encountering the worst conditions possible as they made their way west." - Westward Migrations, Doris Roettger

Meeting the Elephant

It was estimated that there was one grave dug every 80 yards. Have your student determine the distance between Independence, Missouri and the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and then approximately how many Graves there would have been in that distance.

Tuesday: Research: Hazards and Illnesses

Have your student research one or more of the following illnesses that were prevalent at the time. Do they still exist today? Are they still fatal?
Scarlet Fever
Optionally, he could learn about dentistry of the time, and the fact people died from toothaches sometimes. He could also learn about the dangers of snake bites.

Optional Field Trip

Take a field trip to a pharmacy and talk to the pharmacist about the effectiveness of medicines used in the 10's as compared to the medicines used today.

Wednesday: Research


Have your student brainstorm how accidents could have occurred along the trail.

As he reads, have him jot down in his notebook the type of accidents that occurred in the book he is reading.

How did pioneers repair wagons when they broke down?


Water supply was a constant problem as the pioneers made their way westward. Have your student research about the pioneers' use of water and answer the following questions in his notebook. Where did they get the water they needed? What were the many uses of water they required? How did they carry the water? How much water could they carry at one time on their wagons? How much water does your family use? How does this compare to the amount the pioneers used?

Have your student research about where along the trails did the pioneers face the problems of lack of water,  polluted water or alkaline water. What causes the water to be alkaline or polluted? Can alkaline or polluted water be treated and if so, how? Were these methods available to the pioneers?

Thursday: Research

Dangers of Sea Travel

Have your student research about the types of accidents that occurred at sea on steamers. How were they repaired?

Were there problems with the weather?

What illnesses did pioneers get while aboard ships? What other problems could occur?

The Donner Party

The Donner Party is probably the most famous example of what terrible things could happen as pioneers moved west. Have your student research the Donner Party. How many people were in this wagon train when it started?  Who were they? What happened to the group?  What hardships did they encounter?  How many made it to California? Have your student find Donner Pass on a current map of California  (you might have to use a road map).

Friday: The Role-Play

(If they take the Massacre Bluff Trail) You find that the trail wanders through a vast, water-less desert. The guide tells you that you must back track and choose another trail. You lose the time it takes you do do this. On the way back, animals start falling dead due to the extreme heat and lack of water. Each wagon rolls a 6-sided die. 1=your animals are not affected,  2=1 oxen, 3=1 goat, 4=1 cow, 5=1 mule, 6=1 horse.  If the wagon does not have the animal called for, substitute another animal.

As they reach the halfway point through the canyon, a large band of Indians begin firing on them from the surrounding hills. The guide instructs everyone to put the wagons in a circle. The battle begins. If anyone is in danger of dying, take them out of the battle and kill off an animal instead.

(If they choose the Prairie Trail)
Roll a 6-sided die.  For the wagon that is rolled, you tell them that earlier this evening a wagon member went looking for water for the members of your train and the animals and never returned. If anyone goes to investigate, they find signs of a struggle. What do they do? If they decide to go on without the missing person, the wagon train loses 3 EFs. If they decide to go after the missing person, roll a die and50%, they meet up with the Indians. 800 DP's for the delay, 50 % the search was in vain and subtract 800 DP's for the search.

50 % chance of this happening: You are passing through a very narrow gorge, a huge bolder comes crashing down. Roll a 6-sided die and that person has the bolder crash into his right front wagon wheel, overturning the wagon. The guide will not let other wagons proceed until your wagon is turned upright and the wheel repaired. 300 DPs for the wait.

(If they take the Long Trail.) Roll a 6-sided die.  A 1 means that the driver on your wagon has come down with dysentery. Write a research paragraph about what dysentery is, it's cause and treatment.  100 DP's for a good paragraph,  200 DPs for an acceptable paragraph and 400 DP's and you are too sick and weak to drive your wagon for several days (roll a 4-sided die) if no paragraph is turned in.

You have now reached the South Pass and the Continental Divide.

1 comment:

  1. Huh, I hadn't heard the phrase meeting the elephant before.


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