This past week my class celebrated the 120th day of school as pioneers. Over the years, I've celebrated the 100th day of school disguised as an elderly person, incorporated 100th day stem activities, and even celebrated the 101st day as dalmatians. This year I decided to work with our benchmark, knowing numbers through 120, and what that value meant on a timeline.
To set the stage, I prepared my desk groupings as wagon trains. Each team worked within their own covered wagon on the Oregon Trail.
I bought pvc pipes, eyelets, twin sheets and zip ties. To ensure the pipes stay in place, I drilled a hole to secure with zip ties. I drilled a second hole near the arch of the pipe for eyelets. The eyelets will help secure the fitted twin sheets.
The theme wouldn't be complete without a little dress up. I found a cute little pioneer outfit on Etsy that was perfect for our day.
The 120th day was set up as STEAM centers. To build background leading up to the centers, I exposed the kids to the topic through rich stories. I shared a variety of books, each providing a different perspective.
Covered Wagons Bumpy Trails is an basic rhyming tale of a family traveling to California in wagon trains. The trip is exciting and spirits are high but as the voyage presses on, prize possessions are abandoned out of necessity. The family arrives in the Sacramento Valley with only the bare essentials.
Nine for California is a light hearted picture book that puts a face to the Gold Rush. A family travels 21 days by stage coach to California to work the Gold Fields. The passengers encounter Native Americans, a buffalo stampede, robbers and boredom along the way. You'll receive a bounty of factual information of the westward travels during the mid 1800s.
Boom Town is a charming companion to Nine for California and shows how a California Gold Mining Town begins to grow and prosper thanks to one little girl. As her father pans for gold each day, Amanda prepares Gooseberry Pies to sell which encourages other travelers to settle and share their skills.
Elsie's Bird provides a stark contrast within the book of a Boston City Girl who boards the transcontinental railroad. She is leaving the comforts of city life to live on the prairie. This story is a long text that would be better for intermediate students.
Apples to Oregon is a rich, vocabulary filled story about a family moving west along the Oregon Trail. The story is loosely based on a real life Pioneer, Henderson Leulling, who really transported apple trees to Oregon in 1947. The family experiences many hardships along the trail but arrive safely at their new home.
Gold Fever is a rhyming text of a pioneer named Jacob that leaves the safety of his family farm to travel west for the Gold Rush of 1849. It's a wild and dangerous voyage, often fighting the elements and the challenges of prospecting the mines and steams.
Each of the above stories were shared over the week to help develop schema and build background on the topic. My kids at this point are unsuspecting of our themed day.
Once the background knowledge was in place, we prepared for STEAM centers. My students rotated in groups developing a basic understanding of a Pioneer's life using a freebie I created for this day.
Here's the breakdown...
Science: Students learned how the gold was found in the mines and streams. I introduced the tools used for mining. Each of the tools are featured in story Gold Rush. I also incorporated a few new vocabulary words; sifting, prospecting and pay dirt. Following, students work to sift gold from sand. I gave my kids 10 minutes to explore and 10 minutes to write how they were prospecting for pay dirt.
Technology: Students used several borrowed ipads to read a nonfiction text on Pioneers. This story is found on Epic, an interactive collection of stories for each grade level. Following the text, students wrote about the Life of a Pioneer.
Engineering: Students were given a set of Lincoln Logs. I just so happened to find a Shady Pine Homestead with 120 pieces. Perfect, right? Students used the diagram, a nonfiction text feature, to assemble one of the two log homes. We set a timer of 10 minutes for building and 10 minutes for writing steps.
Art: Students worked to assemble the cover to their pioneer journal and an art/activity on the back cover of the journal. The sort provided kids with a selection of goods from this era and goods from a modern day era. The objective was to determine what was found in a covered wagon.
Math: My class was previously exposed to the Western Expansion and the belief of the Manifest Destiny. I used Beyond the History Classroom's chart to help expose the kids. To follow up, my students were given the different territories in which they're to incorporate non standard measurement, using gold nuggets. You can modify this by having the kids add or multiply quantities from the different territories.
In conclusion to our day, my students created their own quilt by stitching the edges and patterning their designs. I used the color paper called recollections from Michaels. They have fun color schemes perfect for pattern the quilt colors.
I hope you take away a fun activity from our STEAM day. The Pioneer Journal will remain as a forever freebie for you.
Click the image above to snag your copy.