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Background For Teachers:
Intended Learning Outcomes:
Almost a third of a million Americans traveled the pioneer trails out west during the mid-1800's. In 1843, almost 900 people made the first trek to Oregon. In April 1849 alone, more than 20,000 people left for Oregon and California. The Mormon Trail saw over 70,000 people during a 20-year period. Taking the 2,000 mile trek could prove fatal, as one in ten pioneers died along the way. Yet they kept coming. Why?
Refer to the Heritage Gateways list of Essential Questions and Themes.
Have students find examples of motivations for going west, drawbacks for going, and advantages for settling out west using various sources of trail stories, pioneer journals, and published accounts of the time.
Set up a debate: The cost of life and changes in lifestyle were too high to offset the advantages of moving out west. Have sides take turns supporting the pro or con side of westward migration with specific facts, statistics, incidents.
Debrief the debate. Have students vote on who was the most persuasive, giving reasons why. Show demographics of the 1800's that demonstrate how extensive the westward movement was. Ask students what impact the westward movement may have had on the rest of the Americans.
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