The Oregon Trail is a part of American history that lives in the shared imagination of the country. It’s an interesting era in the nation’s history because it was full of both immense hope and intense hardship. Pioneer families that set out to brave the Oregon Trail have become part of the history and lore of America- and their trailblazing continues to impact the United States to this day.
Teaching about the Oregon Trail doesn’t have to be daunting! In fact, your Oregon Trail unit can be a fun and engaging period in your class! We’ve collected fourteen of the best resources to help you bring the Oregon Trail to life in your classroom.
1. Oregon Trail Education Resource Guide
This is a set of comprehensive lesson plans that include pretty much everything that you’d ever want to teach about the Oregon Trail and Westward Expansion! The materials are written at a middle school level, although they could easily be adapted for upper elementary or lower high school social studies classes. There are many discussion prompts and classroom activities that keep this unit captivating from start to finish!
Learn More: BLM
2. Put Yourself in Their Shoes
In this lesson plan, social studies students get to imagine what life was really like in the 19th-century pioneering scene. Students will learn about traveling West and all of the adventures and hardships that those first pioneers faced.
Learn More: Edsitement
3. Intro to the Oregon Trail Video
This lesson plan features a high-quality video that introduces the definitions and concepts surrounding the Oregon Trail. It also offers comprehension questions about the video lesson that the whole class can participate in. Social studies students will be able to express their ideas about the wagon trails and days of Westward Expansion.
Learn More: Study.com
4. Oregon Trail Map Labeling Activity
With this activity, students will learn about the early days of the Oregon Trail and Westward Expansion, and how those first explorers impacted the history of the West. Then, social studies students complete a map of the end of the trail; labeling the compass directions, the neighboring states, and other important landmarks and points.
Learn More: PBS Learning Media
5. Oregon Trail Teaching Pack
This is a comprehensive activity book that covers everything from the first introduction to the Oregon Trail to a more in-depth analysis of its historical significance. There are several activities that are great for the classroom, or you can even assign them as homework!
Learn More: Twinkl
6. The Oregon Trail for Kids and Teachers
This website features materials that are great for kids. These games and activities are related to pioneer life on the trail in a covered wagon. It also has plenty of lesson plans which include hands-on activities that your social studies students will love!
Learn More: Western Expansion
7. Oregon Trail Classroom Simulation
This is the ultimate resource for teaching the Oregon Trail and Westward Expansion! It starts with an engaging Oregon Trail PowerPoint and continues with an interactive activity that will have your social studies students shouting “Westward Ho”! It also features several Oregon Trail activities that require creative writing and problem-solving. It’s a holistic Oregon Trail unit study!
Learn More: Mister Harms
8. The Classic Video Game: The Oregon Trail
This is a video game that tackles the hardships of Westward Expansion and lets players think through the everyday scenarios that pioneers faced during the 19th century. It mentions all of the common diseases and difficulties that the settlers faced, and the old-school video game style brings a touch of nostalgia. It’s a great way to wrap up the unit and get kids thinking critically about all that they’ve learned.
Learn More: Archive
9. Premade Oregon Trail Powerpoint
This is an engaging PowerPoint presentation that will get kids interested in learning more about the Oregon Trail. It covers the foundations, along with key places and dates during the age of Westward Expansion. Plus, the best part is that you simply have to load the presentation on your projector and start the lecture! There’s no slide prep required, yet it gives a solid foundation for the concepts for students.
Learn More: Prezi
10. Raised Salt Dough Map of the Oregon Trail
A 3-D is one of the Oregon Trail activities that will really help social studies students understand and retain the main geographical features that shaped Westward Expansion. They’ll be able to see the rivers and mountains of the actual trail, and then see the full benefit of this creative project. Plus, they’ll have a colorful and hands-on Oregon Trail map to refer to once they’re done!
Learn More: A Class of One
11. Turning Your Classroom into a Wagon Train
With this creative activity, you’ll get to turn each of your classroom tables into a 3D Oregon Trail wagon. From there, you can encourage each “team” to explore the American trails of Westward Expansion. It’s a great way to bring the social studies classroom to life, and you can incorporate these “teams” into group activities such as relevant activity mats and Oregon Trail task cards.
Learn More: Learning is Messy
12. Westward Expansion Pioneers Journaling Activity
This creative writing project is a book writing project, where each student will write and “publish” a “journal” detailing their experiences of pioneering. This is one of those hands-on Westward Expansion activities that will have students thinking from new perspectives. Plus, it’s easily differentiated for all levels of social studies or literature classes.
Learn More: Literacy Loves Company
13. Oregon Trail Game Board
With this Oregon Trail game board, social studies students will be able to walk through the struggles of the pioneers during the Westward Expansion. It combines critical thinking with social studies knowledge; helping bind learning to memory! Students will come into contact with Native American tribes, rushing rivers, and beautiful vistas in this wagon simulation game.
Learn More: Pressmantoy
14. Will You Survive the Oregon Trail?
This is a comprehensive resource that starts things off with a captivating Oregon Trail PowerPoint. Then, there’s a list of questions to help activate schemata, Then, there are several Oregon Trail activities to help bring these American history activities to life. Students will learn all about the different hardships and social aspects of life with these enrichment resources.
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