Winkelman School students re-enact ‘Oregon Trail’ tale
Truell Williams, 10, and Sebastian Capota, 10, both of Northbrook, walk along the mock Oregon Trail. | Alyssa Schueneman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 15, 2012 6:16AM
An uncovered wagon pulled by two large horses headed west last week with a load of pioneers from Winkelman Elementary School in Glenview.
Dressed in pieces of home made 1800s attire, children from Glenview and Northbrook learned first-hand about the rough time early travelers had on the Oregon Trail, though the youngsters ventured only two miles into the neighborhood.
The nine and 10-year-old fourth-graders took the mini trip facing imaginary dangers, but had to make real life decisions that could have meant their survival, said West Northfield School District 31 Superintendent Alexandra Nicholson.
“This is a problem solving exercise. It looks like a fun activity, but they had to solve problems along the way and correlate what they did in the classroom to real life,” she added.
Principal Maria Kalant noted that the students also had to work together in groups, collaborating just as the pioneers did, which is the goal of the activity.
“They actually lived the experience,” she said.
In the scenario, the pretend pioneers started from Independence, Mo., and stopped at Fort Kearny, Nebraska, to check on supplies and “sick travelers,” said Sydney Dougherty, a special education assistant.
When they arrived at Scotts Bluff the pioners learned about a group of wagon train bandits near Fort Laramie. Once there, they encountered a “shifty group of wanderers” who tried to join them, so they pioneers had to decide if they should heed the earlier warnings or not, Dougherty added.
Then the pioneers met wounded hunters with extra ammunition and supplies who needed a ride from Independence Rock to Fort Vancouver. Should they invite men with guns into their midst? she asked.
And when the travelers reached Soda Springs, the travelers had to decide whether or not to let a woman and her sick, elderly mother ride with them to Oregon city. Would they become ill, too?
Once at Flagstaff Hill, they come across a doctor, his wife and child who lave lost their oxen and need help getting to Oregon. They are healthy and have a wagon full of supplies. No problem making this decision,
Finally, the pioneers reached Oregon City - back at school, 1919 Landwehr Road - where they shared a picnic lunch.
Olena Tytarenko, mother of Emiliya Zusko Zusko, a 10-year-old fourth grader, said the experience inspired teamwork and brought the students closer together.
“They’ve been working on this project for a long time. First, they had to plan it. They were given a certain amount of money and had to decide what food and supplies they would take. They also had to keep a journal,” she added.
Reese Lauri, 10, of Glenview, said that if she were a real pioneer, she would have no problem traveling west for more land, gold and a place to live that was less crowded.
Matthew Sauser, 9, of Northbrook said now he knew how the pioneers had to make do with what they had, as well as look out for wild animals and unfriendly native Americans.
“It was like learning in school, but it was living like the pioneers did in the 1860s. They had it pretty hard. They didn’t have houses, cars or busses, and had difficulty traveling on land and water,” said Radek Chromniak, 10, of Northbrook.
Andrew Kahn, 10, of Northbrook, added: “If this was real, I would have been afraid of getting sick, because there were no doctors anywhere.”
Caelee Um, 10 of Northbrook, noted that she would be afraid of running out of food, sickness and getting across rivers.
“If I could take only a few things with me,” added Aria Stamatis, 9, of Glenview, “ I would take a blanket I had when I was little, and an icon, a picture of a saint.”
Fourth grade teacher Carlissa Pokora said the journey helped the students learn how the country was created – by making tough decisions, handling hardships, working together, taking responsibility and learning about respect.
“Considering the choices and the consequences of their actions made it come alive for them,” she added.