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McREL Standards Activity

Westward Ho

Purpose:As a result of this activity, students will be able to understand elements of Western migration.
Related Standard & Benchmarks:
United States History
 Standard 10.Understands how the industrial revolution, increasing immigration, the rapid expansion of slavery, and the westward movement changed American lives and led to regional tensions
   Level III [Grade 7-8]
   Benchmark 6. Understands characteristics of life on the western frontier in the 19th century (e.g., cultural interactions between diverse groups in the trans-Mississippi region, how the Mormons established the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and their communities)
 Standard 4.Understands the nature of technological design
   Level III [Grade 6-8]
   Benchmark 5. Implements a proposed design (e.g., organizes materials and other resources, plans one’s work, makes use of group collaboration when appropriate, chooses suitable tools and techniques, works with appropriate measurement methods to ensure accuracy)
Student Product:Script and/or video-tape
Material & Resources:Watching portions of the PBS documentary, The West, may give students some ideas for creating their newscasts.

Many regional museums have on-line exhibits and documents.  Some good sites include:
The Oregon Trail
The End of the Oregon Trail Center
Interactive Santa Fe Trail

Teacher's Note:This activity is based on a lesson plan developed by Darla Mallein, Kansas Teacher of the Year (1997).
Teachers ask small groups of students to use primary sources (e.g., newspaper articles, journals, diaries, photographs, maps) to write the script for a news show on Western migration.  The newscasts focus on particular elements of Western migration (e.g., the Oregon, Santa Fe, Mormon Trails). The length of the newscast is up to the teacher, but as the length increases more planning and effort will be required on the part of the instructor and the class if students are to produce a coherent product.

In their scripts, the student-reporters describe the various reasons settlers had for moving to the West and their interaction with Native Americans and/or Mexicans. They may focus on the experiences of a single family, or a particular year.  Students may even read excerpts from journals, and diaries to help give viewers a sense of the experience in the participants’ words.

If time, interest and equipment are available, students can produce and video-tape their newscasts, addressing the technology standard/benchmark.