Skip Navigation

Heritage: Packing Your Handcart

Time Frame

3 class periods of 45 minutes each

Group Size

Small Groups

Life Skills

  • Thinking & Reasoning
  • Communication




Charting and making categories for items needed to take in a handcart 1200 miles.


Paper, pencil, ruler, and video 'Handcarts to Zion'.

Background for Teachers

Handcarts were about 3'X 4' in size and could carry about 500 to 700 lbs. Handcarts had many problems, among the worst was lack of grease to lubricate the wheels. Was it an unforseen problem? Can you think of any other unforseen problems the pioneers may have encountered along the way? Preview 'Handcarts to Zion', which is a video that helps the viewer understand the many hardships that handcart pioneers endured.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to pack their handcart with items they need to cross the plains by using their planning skills, keeping in mind both bulk and weight.

Instructional Procedures


  • Utah Pioneers - Classroom Activities
    This link includes a set of questions, themes, and lesson plans to guide students and teachers with their research into the Pioneers coming to Utah by wagon train and handcart.

See preface materials for the Utah Sesquicentennial Lesson Plan book. DAY 1: Orientation and Explanations. Watch the video, Handcarts to Zion and review the teacher resource book, Finding the Right Place. DAY 2: Organization. Teacher makes group assignments, then the groups will make a chart and brainstorm to gain the essential catagories. i.e. food, clothing, shelter, medicine, firearms, utensils, repair supplies, trade items, etc. Groups will make lists of items under each catagory. DAY 3: Presentation. When groups have completed their lists, students will present their lists to the class explaining why they made their choices. When the group presentation is finished the class can make suggestions of things that may have been forgotten and should be added to the presenters list. Any items that may have been forgotten, but the class added, may not be taken on the imaginary trek. The presenters must decide how they will improvise the items they left off their list. i.e. animal fat for grease, bone or wood carved utensils, personal heirlooms for trade, animal hides for shelter and clothing, plants, roots, bark for food and shelter. After the groups have their list of supplies to take on the trek, follow the re-enactment and simulate using up the supplies as the wagon train makes it way across the plains and mountains to the Great Salt Lake Valley. If groups lack a supply and cannot improvise in order to survive on the trail, that group must stop and settle at that spot.


Students can create board games using information generated from the lesson plan.


Handcarts to Zion (03298) (B.Y.U. 18 min., ) Hill, William E. Finding the Right Place (Oregon-Calif. Trail Assoc., )

Created: 03/31/1997
Updated: 02/03/2018