Travel The Oregon Trail

I was in my wife’s classroom on Saturday helping her turn her tables into “Covered Wagons.” She is reading the book- Patty Reed’s Doll: The Story of the Donner Party by Rachel K. Laurgaard in her 4th grade class. In a few weeks they will go on a trip to Donner State Park and visit the actual site where theDonner Party spent that horrible winter in 1846-47. I actually got this idea from an old friend Hal Resnik. We figured out today that we bought the PVC pipes 14 years ago and they still work great. The PVC has to be half inch (three-quarter inch is too thick). We use twin bed sheets we bought at K-Mart for $3 each, and clothespins to hold the sheets on.













Note clothespin:














Each class period when you read the book the students attach the cover and read “inside” their wagons. I’ve also used the covered wagons when reading Tree in the Trail by Holling C. Holling.












WE attach the “hoops” (PVC) with duct tape. Like us, you’ll want to error on the heavy side with the tape to make sure they are very secure.

One fun activity we always include is having the students put up the covers as fast as they can. They get very good at it. I designed an art project as a prep for doing the covered wagons. We research what was brought along in the wagons. Supplies, foods, etc. Then the students make folded paper wagons and “stock” their wagons with all their provisions.


It’s a great MESSY project.


I show scenes of covered wagons traveling the trail from the movie “How The West Was Won” to build the students’ schema.


My wife clothespinning the cover with her recovering broken wrist.

Learning is messy!

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8 thoughts on “Travel The Oregon Trail

  1. Does your wife know about the wonderful online collaborative project called westward Ho that usually begins in January and simulates a trip on the Oregon Trail. Leni Dolan from California started thias project many years ago and so sadly passed a way a few years ago. Someone else has taken the project and hopefully will continue to do it.

  2. Covered Wagons, also known as Conestoga Wagons were made in Lancaster County PA. We have a Conestoga Valley School District, and a town named Conestoga. Did you know these wagons were made to be water tight while crossing rivers? Students may think of them as the original SUV. Enjoy the studies!

  3. I was trolling around and hit the link to this. What a cool idea! I love that your wife makes the tables covered wagons. This type of thing would not just be cool to erect to read under, but to do learning centers as well. Even the eighth graders I teach would love something like this.