Pioneers (Kids Discover)—I

Teacher's Guide Author: Sherri Aragon, 4th & 5th Grade Intermediate Resource, May Elementary School, Clark County School District


This teacher's guide is for the Kids Discover magazine Pioneers. Note that there are two teacher's guides for this periodical (I and II). Additional teacher's guides are available for Patty Reed's Doll, Sallie Fox, Sarah, Plain and Tall, and other exploration children's books.


Book Overview:

This magazine goes into detail about what a pioneer is. Each article explains the determination and the hard work that was provided by them to towns and cities that they helped build. There are articles about the trails that they traveled on and explains the hardships that they had to deal with on these journeys. The housngi and the farming on the plains discussed how everyone would get involved in each family to help one another. There were many obstacles in farming. There were many snow storms, dust storms, tornadoes, and locusts.

Book Themes: Determination, hard workers, survival, explorers, strong, cooperation and work together.

Suggested Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Pretend that You Are a Pioneer
      • Select a destination point. It could be where you live today or anywhere in North America. Then pretend that you are one of the first settlers traveling to that location. Write several diary entries. (At least ten daily entries) about your experiences as a pioneer.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 3.5.2 Make inferences about characters' traits; predict conflicts and resolutions.
        • 4.5.3 Read to evaluate new information comparing them to known information and ideas.
        • 9.5.3 Give organized reports that demonstrate a clear point of view.
    • Compare and Contrast Pioneer's Lives
      • Visit several websites with choices provided by teacher. Pick two pioneer experiences in different locations. Analyze their experiences and chart the similarities and differences that you find.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 3.5.4 Compare stated and implied themes in a variety of works.
        • 4.5.1 Use format, graphics, sequence, diagrams, charts and maps to comprehend text.
        • 5.5.4 Write responses to literature that support judgments with examples.
  • Mathematics
    • Plan An Oregon Trail Trip
      • Plan a family trip across the Great Plains that follows as closely as possible one of the Oregon Trail routes. Decide what modes of transportation you are going to use and all provisions needed. Identify the stops that you will make; make sure to include the significant landmarks that early pioneers noted on their journey. Map out your route. Itemize costs for all items and find out the total cost of your trip.

      • Standards Addressed
        • 3.5.4 Determine totals and change due for monetary amounts in problem-solving situations.
        • 6.5.5 Verify, interpret and evaluate results determining an efficient strategy for the given situation.
    • Chart Farm Products
      • Select an animal, fruit, or other plant crop. Pick a specific product group like soybeans, cotton, poultry, apples, rice, sunflowers, corn, etc. Diagram and label the production process from the farm to the market, identifying as many different products as possible. Show different varieties. Include a bar graph and a line graph to show results.

      • Standards Addressed
        • 8.5.4 Use patterns, relationships to analyze problems; draw logical conclusions about problems.
        • 5.5.4 Collect read and interpret data using a variety of graphic representations: tables, graphs. Use data to draw and explain conclusions and predictions.
  • Social Studies
    • Uncover An Old Map
      • Locate the earliest map of the town, city or area where you live. Use the resources of your local public library or a regional historical society. If you are unable to find a historical map, create a map that you think might have been accurate years ago. Write a fictional story about someone who might have used the historical map
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)4.2 Record and interpret events on a graphic organizer or map.
        • (5)4.28 Read, interpret, and analyze historical passages.
    • Making A Picture Book with Time-line of Events.
      • Students will pair-share ideas by collecting books and magazines from the library. Each group will provide a time-line of early pioneers. Students will be creating a picture book that corresponds to the time-line event that is being presented.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)4.27 Organize chronologically major events and people of United States history.
        • (5)4.9 Identify and describe the reasons for the early exploration of the New World.
  • Science
    • Create a Covered Wagon
      • Read Pioneer How long would it take you to reach Oregon? Stock your wagon with provisions enough for your family to reach Oregon. You might be able to get a few things at some of the forts on the route, but supplies there would be expensive. You can also count on a little food gained by hunting, but you don't have time to hunt for fresh meat daily. Make an itemized list of the wagon, livestock, and needed supplies and find there cost in the 1840s. Are you overloaded, do you need another wagon or do you need to lighten the load? Display your 'prairie schooner' project.

      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)1.5 Create and use labeled illustrations and charts to convey ideas, record observations and make predictions.
        • (5)1.7 Use models to explain how something works or how something is constructed.
    • Pioneers/Hardships/Determination
      • Students will use reciprocal teaching by dividing groups into each section of text. Collaborate with other students to discuss what was learned at first group. Note-taking will be involved. Students will present to class what each group learned.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)1.1 Use evidence recorded in a science notebook to develop descriptions, models, explanations and predictions.
        • (4)1.10 Cooperate and contribute ideas within a group.

Historical Overview of Book Themes

Pioneers were the people that settled their region. This also provided opportunities for others to settle also. Pioneers faced many hardships and dangers as they struggled to build new lives away from the civilization they had known in the east region. Everyone wanted a better life. Many pioneers traveled through forests, this was because they believed that farming could only take place where plants and trees could grow. They usually settled near water and lakes. Because they traveled through forests they had access to trees and made sod houses. These houses kept them warm and provided them with a safe place. The pioneers stayed close to bodies of water for their transportation and trade.

The pioneers ran into many problems as they traveled west. If they were not prepared for these problems, it could mean a life or death situation. Pioneers main source of travel was the covered wagon. On the trail there were many dangers which included bad weather, animals such as horses or oxen’s die. Many died from Native American Attacks. Pioneers had to make sure and only take what was necessary for them to survive. Sometimes the hot, dry weather caused the wagon wheels to crack in two or even shrink. Iron rims would loosen and fall off. Some pioneers had blacksmith’s travel with them and they could make repairs quickly so the wagons could keep on moving.

Farming was very important for the early pioneers. Indians taught them how to grow farms. Farming provided food for them. They also kept animals on the farm so that meat could be provided as well. There were many disasters that the Pioneers endured. This included Locusts, Tornadoes, snow-storms, dust storms and fires.

As an American I am fortunate to the pioneers for the settlements that they made to form the United States. The pioneers had to work hard during the settlement period. Many towns and cities show the determination and hard work that was put out by the early pioneers.

Additional Resources

  • Go West Across America with Lewis and Clark by National Geographic Society. Gives students an idea of journey the pioneers had to deal with during their hardship. Students have to make decisions as to what is needed for their own journey.
  • Quick Facts by David VanderstelProvides students with fact about early Pioneers.
  • Shelter on the Western Front by Elizabeth Larson. Provides detailed information on how early pioneers lived in different types of homes.
  • Laura Ingall's Story by Laura Ingall's. Helpful information on early pioneers. Great website to show the different aspects on the early pioneers hardships.


Note: This teacher's guide was developed as part of one of the Clark County School District'sgrant module, teachers focused on using children's historical literature to teach cross-curricular concepts relating to 19th century westward movement. For more information about this blog, related teacher's guides, or the grant module, please contact Dr. Christy Keeler. Teaching American History grants. In this


Stacey Seiden said...


I absolutely loved all your ideas and can't wait to use them in my fifth grade classroom. I read through quite a few lessons and felt that my students could really benefit from yours.

We use thinking maps in our school, so I loved how you had your students compare and contrast pioneers' lives.

For an extension for that assignment, students could pair share.

afontes said...

Having students find an old map and write about it sounds like a really fun activity and would certainly get their creative juices flowing. What a great way to use primary sources. Regarding the diary entries, what would you have them do with them? Would they share them, compare them, or use them to springboard into another activity? Also, how would the students get information about the costs involved in traveling along The Oregon Trail route. Would they do websearches, use newspapers, would you give more guidance such as a list of items they would need? Possibly breaking this up by groups would be a good idea. One group being responsible for pricing food and supplies, another transportation (including gas if that's a factor), another group doing lodging, might make this a good group share activity.

Christy G. Keeler, Ph.D. said...

I really like the "Pretend You Are a Pioneer Activity." It would be quite interesting to read how the students moved from the trail to Las Vegas. When reading Sallie Fox, I can't imagine why anyone would have headed this direction!

Your "Comapre and Contrast Pioneers" activity would make the basis for a great webquest.

"Uncover and Old Map" truly encourages studnets to think like historians. They seek primary sources from authentic locations and draw conclusions from their reviews of the sources. I think I would add a requirement that they read some early letters sent from citizens of the early communities and they view photographs from the era if available.

Great "Additional Resources." Thank you!

rnicolis said...

I loved the many activities that you generated from the pioneer magazine. The one I found most exciting for my fourth grade class was to create a Covered Wagon. My thoughts went wild when I read this one. My student will have the opportunity to estimate time, calculate distance, and, map a route. Your idea of itemizing a list of the necessary items will be very interesting because my fourth graders believe that a video game is a necessity. Also trapping and storing food for the trip is a huge consideration. I wish there were a template for a covered wagon project also a map with terrain conditions so the students can get a realistic adventure.