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overview prep for teachers steps: class one class two extensions

Learning Activity

Step 1. Explain to your students they will be examining a specific group in history that had to change their patterns of consumption and use as a result of the circumstances in which they found themselves: homesteaders who made their way west during the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Step 2. Distribute the Getting Started Focus Sheet to your students. Divide your students into groups of 4 or 5. Tell your students that they will now be reading an online historical essay about the preparations that homesteaders had to make to prepare for their trips to the frontier. Each group of 4-5 students will be responsible for recording specific information from the essay.

Step 3. Assign one of the following topics to each group of students: 1) Steamboats, 2) Railroads, 3) Covered Wagons, 4) Supplies, and 5) Costs of the Journey.

Step 4. Ask your students to log on to the FRONTIER HOUSE "Getting Started" essay at frontierlife/essay2.html. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to read the entire essay, and answer the four questions about their group's assigned topic in the space allotted on the Focus Sheet. After answering the questions, each group will have to share their answers with the rest of the class.

Step 5. Allow your students ample time to read the essay. Once all groups have completed reading and answering their questions, each group should share their answers with the rest of the class, who will record them. Ask your students if anything in the essay surprised them. Based on the information in the essay, do they think they would have wanted to travel to the frontier by wagon, steamboat, or railroad? What is the rationale for their decisions? (Student responses will vary.)

Step 6. Tell your students that they will now be looking at an actual supply list for a settler who was heading to Montana in the 1860s. On the first page of the "Getting Started" Essay, ask your students to click on the link that reads "View Fergus' complete list" in the sidebar about the letter from James Fergus to his wife Pamelia. Remind your students that this list was meant to keep the Fergus family supplied for four months on the trail, and the first two months in their new home.

Step 7. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to look over Fergus' supply list and compare it to the information on their Daily Personal Consumption and Use Log. After looking over the list, students should write a one paragraph response to the last question on the "Getting Started" Focus Sheet.

Step 8. Ask your students what similarities and differences they noticed between their Personal Consumption and Use Logs and James Fergus' supply list. What needs do they share? What items from 2002 are totally absent from the supply list? Does James Fergus' supply list seem extravagant? Why or why not? Do you think it would have been a challenge for Pamelia Fergus to fit all of the items in her three wagons? Why or why not? (Student responses will vary).

Step 9. Tell your students that they will now have an opportunity to take on the identity of a homesteader and travel to Montana in the year 1883. Ask your students to log on to the FRONTIER HOUSE "Plains, Trains, and Spare Wagon Parts" Web site at topstories/topstory.html. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to complete the activity on the site three times, taking a journey from each of the three departure cities. Students should record five new facts about travel in 1883 while completing the activity. Allow students to complete the activity, and then check for comprehension. (Answers will vary.)

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