Friday, January 28, 2022

Westward Ho!

When I was in the classroom, the 4th grade immigration unit was one of my favorites. Exploring the impact of other cultures and histories on our life and community fascinated me, and my students.

Every year, as part of their studies on the great state of Michigan, our 4th graders dive into Westward Expansion. They explore the concepts of movement, immigration and emigration, and challenges people faced as they ventured into their new lives.  There are many tech components to this unit that I love, one of my favorites being what the kids got to (finally) explore - The Oregon Trail! No, we're not talking the new fangled version, we're talking the Trail of the good ole' days. And thanks to a MECC simulator on the Internet Archive, they're playing just like I played when I was in 4th grade!

You get to go through the same experience - choosing your profession, the time to travel, and setting up your wagon party. Decisions must be made about items to purchase, how fast to travel, and how satisfying to make the meals. Fred broke a leg? Harry has dysentery? Whatever will you do?  

This year, though, the teachers found an addition to the experience - an Oregon Trail pre-game simulation, where the kids had to talk through their options and make a decision on each of the choices they would be exposed to in the game. They were then awarded points based on their answers. This activity prepared them for the game on a new level - they knew what they were getting into, they were able to make more informed choices, and both of those things only enhanced the fun of the play!

Well? What are you waiting for? Go waste some time revisiting childhood on The Oregon Trail!

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