Kids Discover: Pioneers II

  • Teacher's Guide Author: Jennifer Bonilla, 3rd Grade Teacher, Hollingsworth 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:

    Kids Discover Pioneers is a magazine for children. It is broken down into sections with the first section being an introduction to the theme of the magazine. It starts by defining what a pioneer is and providing examples of types of pioneers, not only from the 17th century, but from different time periods. The next section, Early Pioneers, is divided into three movements over 100 years. The first was in the 1760s when pioneers moved around the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. The next movement was in the 1840s when pioneers crossed all the way to Oregon and California. The final movement in the 1860s was when the pioneers settled in the Great Plains. The next section of the magazine describes in detail the wagons used by pioneers as they traveled hundreds of miles to their new homes. The next part describes life on the trail, how the wagons crossed the terrain, and include an aerial picture of the ruts from wagon wheels that are visible today. The sections are about the sod houses the pioneers built when they moved into the Great Plains and farming on the plains. The last section is on what the pioneers did for entertainment. Finally, at the end of the magazine, there are some puzzles for the reader to solve and a recipe on how to make Johnnycake.

    Book Themes:

    Early pioneers, Oregon and California pioneers, the Great Plains, Daniel Boone, Conestoga wagons, prairie schooners, log cabins/sod houses, corn, farming the plains, weather on the plains, entertainment, windmills.

Suggested Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Conestoga Wagons vs. Prairie Schooners
      • Students will read the two sections, Early Pioneers and The Ships of the Plains, in the Kids Discover Pioneers. In small groups, they will discuss and draft information on the two types of wagons. They will complete a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the two types of wagons the pioneers used when traveling in the 17th century.
      • Standards Addressed
          • After-Reading Strategies: It is expected that students will:

            (3) 2.3 A. select after-reading strategies based on text and purpose to

            1. Recall details/facts [PS/NS 2.3.3]

            3. Organize information (e.g., graphic organizer [PS/NS 2.3.3]

            4. Record information [PS/NS 2.3.3]

            6. Evaluate text (e.g., draw conclusions, make inferences) [PS/NS 2.3.3]

            8. Connect, compare, and contrast story elements

          • Responding to Text: It is expected that students will:

            (3) 3.E. evaluates text (e.g., draw conclusions and make inferences) [PS/NS 2.3.3]

            F. recall details/facts [PS/NS 2.3.3]

            H. organizes information (e.g., graphic organizer) [PS/NS 2.3.3]

            J. connects, compare, and contrast story elements

      • How to Build a Log Cabin or Sod House
        • Students will read the two sections, Early Pioneers and Sodbusters, in the Kids Discover Pioneers. In small groups, they will discuss and draft information on the two types of pioneer homes. Students will write directions on how to build either a log cabin or a sod house. For additional information, refer to these links:

          Life in a Log Cabin from Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area

          Learn about building a log cabin and living in one.

          Shelter on the Western Frontier

          This site links to information about sod houses and dugouts, root cellars, log homes, barns, shanties, and even outhouses, .
        • Standards Addressed
          • Directions: It is expected that students will: (3) 6.8 A. write directions to complete tasks [NS 6.3.8]
          • Reading Fluency and Comprehension: It is expected that students will:
          • (3) 1.5 B. read aloud with a focus on accuracy
          • D. participate actively in reading from a variety of literary genres and expository selections (e.g., stories, plays, poetry, biographies, articles, encyclopedia, realistic fiction, electronic resources) 1. Read silently daily 2. Read assigned and self-selected text appropriate to purpose and reading ability.3. Read to locate information and solve problems.
    • Mathematics
      • Calculations on the Oregon Trail
        • Students will read the two sections, The Ships of the Plains and On the Trail, in the Kids Discover Pioneers. Small groups will be given different jumping off points and destinations. They need to map their journey and calculate how long it would take them to travel. They will also need to determine the quantity of supplies needed. They will use the following link for this information.

          For an extended lesson on the Oregon Trail, please visit:

          EDSITEment - Lesson Plan

          After completing the lessons in this unit, students will learn about the pioneer experience on the Oregon Trail. Compared and contrasted modern day
        • Standards Addressed

        • (3)3.1 estimate and use measuring devices with standard (customary and metric) and non-standard units to measure area, volume/capacity, and weight

          (3)3.3 compare, order, and describe objects by various measurable attributes for area and volume/capacity

        • Problem Solving: It is expected that students will:

          (3)A.1 select, modify, develop, apply, and justify strategies to solve a variety of mathematical and practical problems and to investigate and understand mathematical concepts

          (3)D.6 identify, explain, and use mathematics in everyday life

    • Creating a Pioneer Quilt
      • Students will read the section, Time for Fun, in the Kids Discover Pioneers. They will create a classroom quilt from geometric shapes and patterns. For complete thematic units, please visit these sites:

        Quilt and math lesson

        Free Pioneer Quilt Patterns with Their History

        There are quilts with names that had a special meaning to pioneer women. Here you will find free patterns and history for some them.

        Pioneer Quilts: Women's Quilting Brings Comfort through Hardship

        The role of pioneer quilts in preparing for the journey, on the overland trail an quilting after pioneers settled in their new homes.

        Grade 3 Pioneer Quilting Bees Lesson Plan

        File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
        Grade 3 Pioneer Quilting Bees Lesson Plan. By Karen Prowse Clysdale. Subject: Social Studies; Heritage and Citizenship Strand. Unit: Adapted from: ...

      • Standards Addressed

        • It is expected that students will:

          (3)4.1 describe, sketch, compare, and contrast plane geometric figures [NS/PS 4.3.1]

          (3)4.2 demonstrate and describe the transformational motion of geometric figures (translation/slide, reflection/flip, and rotation/turn) [NS/PS 4.3.2]

          (3)4.3 identify a figure after transformation (flips, turns, slides)

          (3)4.4 identify lines of symmetry

          (3)4.5 create two-dimensional designs that contain a line of symmetry [NS 4.3.3.]

    • Social Studies
      • Pioneer Quest

        • After reading the Kids Discover Pioneers, students will continue to learn about the prairie by completing a Pioneer quest. They will choose one of the following internet quests and journal their responses.

          Pioneer Life in America (2000 ThinkQuest Junior Project)

          Have you ever wondered how you would have survived if you were a pioneer traveling to a new, wild, undiscovered land?

          Pioneer Webquest

          Once pioneers traveled to a new territory, they needed to build homes and a pioneer village. This webquest will help you design your own town as you learn ...


          educational page about the pioneers of the 1800s in the United States and how they traveled to the frontiers and began new lives.

          Wisconsin Long Ago

          This site is made to help you learn about Wisconsin pioneers. You will learn about the pioneers' clothing, toys, foods, and games. There are also activities ...

          Little House on the Prairie

          Little House on the Prairie. This site was created for the Thinkquest Junior Competition located at ...

        • Standards Addressed

          • Geography: It is expected that students will:

            (3)3.14 compare visual images of the same place over time [NS 2.3.6]

            (3)3.15 identify neighborhoods and communities as places where people live, work, and play

            (3)3.34 use visual clues to determine when and where an event took place in the past

          • History: It is expected that students will:

            (3)4.3 use charts, graphs, and tables to interpret historical information

            (3)4.4 ask history-related questions [NS 2.3.1]

            (3)4.10 describe the lives of pioneers from diverse groups [NS 6.3.17]

            (3)4.15 read and interpret historical passages

      • Prairie Weather

        • Students will read the section, The Perils of the Plains, in the Kids Discover Pioneers. Students will be divided into small groups and assigned one of the perilous weather conditions as described in the Kids Discover magazine. They will research more information on their weather condition using the following links and then create a Weather alert broadcast. They will need to describe the weather event, tell viewers what precautions they need to take, and what happens afterward.

        • Standards Addressed

          • Geography: It is expected that students will:

            (3)3.17 identify various natural hazards (e.g., floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions)

            (3)3.36 recognize a geographic issue or theme that affects home, school, or community

            (3)3.37 predict possible geographic changes that could take place in the neighborhood or community

    • Science
      • Prairie Ecosystems

        • Students will read the section, Sodbusters, in the Kids Discover Pioneers. They will research the prairie ecosystem and create a visual representation of the system. They may use a shoebox, poster board, or slideshow for their project. Each project must show at least 3 types of plant life and 5 animals found in the prairie. Students need to include a 2-3 sentence narrative on each item. For reference information on prairie ecosystems, visit:

          Grasslands from the Evergreen Project, Missouri Botanical Gardens

          By exploring this virtual biome, you will learn about the grasslands types and the plants and animals found there.

          Related Site:

          2) Grasslands Biome

          Prairie Ecosystem

          Here you find information about the North American prairie, one of the most endangered ecosystems on earth.

          Related Websites:

          2) North American Prairies

          3) Temperate Grasslands

        • Standards Addressed

          • Life Science: It is expected that students will:

            (3)4.3 investigate and describe the interactions of organisms with each other and their ecosystem.

            (3)4.4 identify and compare needs common to most living things.

            (3)1.6 create and use labeled illustrations, graphs (number lines, pictographs, bar graphs, frequency tables), and charts to convey ideas, record observations, and make predictions.

      • Growing Prairie Grass

        • Students will read the section, Farming the Plains, in the Kids Discover Pioneers. In small groups, students will grow different types of grass. Using the scientific method, they will need to chart observations of growth, describe the growth cycle, and journal explanations and procedures. For an extended lesson in farming, please visit:

          Family Farm

          What is family farming? Where does our food come from? How do farmers relate to their environment? What is life like in a farm community? How has farming changed through history? What will shape farming in the future?

        • Standards Addressed

          • Nature and History of Science: It is expected that students will:

            (3)1.2 cooperate and contribute ideas within a group [N5B3]

            (3)1.3 conduct investigations based on observations and questions raised about the world [N5A5]

            (3)1.4 keep a record, in a science notebook, of observations and measurements taken over time (life cycle and classification) [N5A1]

            (3)1.5 use science notebook entries to develop, communicate, and justify descriptions, explanations, and predictions [N5A1; N5A3; N5A4]

          • Life Science

            (3)4.6 investigate and describe how changes to an environment can be beneficial or harmful to plants and animals [L5C3]

            (3)4.7 investigate, compare, and contrast identifiable structures and characteristics of plants and animals that enable them to grow, reproduce, and survive [L5B1; L5C5; L5D1]

      Historical Overview of Magazine Themes

      The Kids Discover magazine briefly describes the three early pioneer movements. The first was in the 1780s when pioneers moved around the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. In 1785, congress passed the Land Ordinance, which was a method of raising money through the sale of land west of the Appalachian Mountains. There was initial confusion on how this new land would be organized. This led to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which defined the territories around the Great Lakes, Ohio River, and Mississippi River. The first group of pioneers to settle in this area was referred to as the “First Forty-eight”. They were carefully chosen men because of their skills and abilities in establishing a new settlement. With the settlers moving into this new area, it created tension between them and the Native Americans. This led to the Northwest Indian War (1785-1795) where the U.S. defeated the Indians for control of this territory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. The Indians gave up much of their land in the 1795 Treaty of Greenville.

      The next movement was in the 1840s when pioneers crossed all the way to Oregon and California. After the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803-1806, the path to the Pacific Ocean was mapped out. For the next several years, fur trappers and other explorers traveled in this area, but it was not until the 1840s when settlers started migrating towards the Pacific. The first group of men sent to colonize the Oregon Country was referred to as the Peoria Party. Unlike the “First Forty-eight”, this group was disorganized and frequently fought amongst themselves. Out of the original 19 men, only 9 arrived in Oregon. The first organized wagon train left Elm Grove, Missouri on May 16, 1842. It included more than 100 pioneers and was led by Elijah White. One of the initial driving forces for settlement in Oregon was the offer of free land. Married couples could claim up to 640 acres and singles could claim 320 acres. After the Donation Land Act of 1850, settlers had to purchase the land from the government for a very reasonable price. The other driving force for movement west was the California Gold Rush. In 1848, James Marshall discovered gold in Sutter’s Mill. After the news spread, over 300,000 settlers traveled west to strike it rich. This movement again had devastating affects on the Native American population. With the huge increase in foreigner numbers, the Indians became victims to disease, starvation, and genocidal attacks.

      The final movement in the 1860s was when the pioneers settled in the Great Plains. The Homestead Act of 1862 encouraged settlers to claim land in the Great Plains. They were required to live and cultivate the area for five years. Most settlers turned their land into ranches or farms, sometimes building their houses from sod. However, this was not ideal farming land. It was often dry, with harsh weather conditions. Many settlers attempted to farm and were unsuccessful.

      Additional Resources

      • Oregon Trail Pioneers by : This website on Oregon History and Oregon Pioneers features wagon train lists and information on early explorers, fur traders, missionaries, NW Indians, and the Oregon Trail.
      • Old West History by : Take a stroll through this Old West history site which is packed with chuckwagon lore, western music, cowboy stories and songs, vintage cowboy song books, Dutch oven recipes, history of the fur trade, pioneer history, and other historic tidbits.
      • Telling America's Story by
        : U.S. Department of State website that has full text books. This link is for the publication Outline of U.S. History.
      • Student Corner by U.S. Department of State website for students. It contains nonfiction books and journals for student reference.


      Note: This teacher's guide was developed as part of one of the Clark County School District's Teaching American History grants. In this grant 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.


Judy Ingham said...

Jennifer, your "Prairie Weather" section is a creative way to share the information about weather on the plains. Students will have fun doing research, learning about broadcasting, and delivering their knowledge to their peers.

I liked how you added a graphic organizer, for the students to use, to compare and contrast the Conestoga wagon and the prairie schooner. To add to their higher level thinking skills, I'd have the students share their graphic organizers with others and add newly learned information to their own. Also, you could have students pretend to be a "wagon salesperson" and convince a buyer to purchase their wagon.

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

Thank you for all the embedded links! This makes planning for the activity LOTS easier!

I love your teacher's guide. You are clearly not afraid of having your students get their hands dirty by doing active, differentiated projects. You give them a fun learning experience that brings in 21st century skills like technology tools and critical thinking.

Sarah said...

My favorite part of this is all the websites you have linked to. I have a projector in my classroom, so I'm always looking for good sites to extend and enhance lessons. Your lessons are great. They're very hands on and should be very engaging in students. I would suggest adding more graphic organizers or Thinking Maps, to go along with the Venn diagram you already have listed. The other suggestion I would add is to calculate distance traveled in the "Calculations on the Oregon Trail" lesson, as well as the time it would take. Your activities are great! I know my students would love them.

narias said...

Your activities are appropriate for third grade and would definitely get a lot out of the magazine. I like the log cabin idea because my students always enjoy writing directions for creating and building things. I like the idea of incorporating the reading strategies standards to your activities. I would like to recommend a site that you might find helpful in your prairie lessons. I would have just double checked the format so it would have looked a bit more uniform.