Westward Expansion can be a fascinating subject for children to learn, but one that presents and equal number of challenges. In presenting the subject matter to children ages 10-12 in Grade 6, I found the most difficult part of the lesson was reliability (something that is hard for most history subjects prior to the post-war era). As with most subject matter for children in schools, anything that is does not relate to the child or is uninteresting to causes them to fall out of the subject and drift off. With such experience and background in teaching the subject, I found a great way to incorporate some very fun and challenging elements into the unit on Westward Expansion that keeps students engaged, and eager to learn more about the subject matter.
While many people (myself included) have played The Oregon Trail as a child as a lesson on the migration out west, this lesson plan take it a step further and introduces a background to western migration via primary sources, and provides better methods of closure than simply completing the game. In this lesson children will be able to compete for the best voyage out west based on information learned in class, and will be required to use their writing and critical thinking skills to provide background information to the events that occur along the treacherous Oregon Trail by constructing their own mock primary source documents.