Emma Cochrane

The 22-23 school year brought some changes in scheduling for middle school students. One of the changes involves a micro-course class in which students engage in content related projects and activities created by their teachers. One of these projects sent students on a journey along the Oregon trail. They documented their decisions and adventures on the way and even got introduced to the old school computer game we all love and remember so well.

To begin this simulation, students got in groups and created a plan for items that they needed to purchase and what they were going to prioritize on their journey. Each group, or “family”, had very different experiences depending on the decisions they made throughout the journey. Each day in class, students traveled to a new destination along the trail, they learned about what life would have been like on this journey at that day’s stop and then rolled a dice at each stop to see what happened to their group. Some families traveled through safely, others experienced hardships like losing livestock, food, or materials. Groups had to use critical thinking, budgeting, and historical knowledge to adapt to their hardships and try to make it all the way to their destination.

The Oregon trail simulation project gave students the opportunity to learn about the Oregon trail and get a look at what the long journey would have been like along the real trail in the early-mid 1800s. Students were also challenged to think critically and make the best decisions possible to help them get to the end safely. They thought through answers to questions like: what livestock would be best on this journey? Do we need more food or do we save our money? What items are we going to sell in order to make more money? The teachers had fun throwing the unknown at their students and watching them experience the classic Oregon trail computer game that still remains enjoyable for students to this day!