Oregon Trail

Grades 4 and 5

The Oregon Trail Traveling Trunk helps bring the history of the Oregon Trail to life for students in a hands‐on, interactive way! 

The Oregon Trail Traveling Trunk includes topic‐specific artifacts, primary source documents, a slide show, and four lesson plans.

Trunk contents include:

  • Instructions and strategies for using the Oregon Trail Traveling Trunk in the classroom.
  • A list of Oregon Trail Traveling Trunk content and topics relevant to Oregon Department of Education State Standards.
  • Recommended Reading for Students on Oregon Trail Literature. The Oregon Trail: Historical Narratives for Teachers and Students. The Historical Narrative for Teachers is designed to help teachers place the trail experience in a broader historical context. The Historical Narrative for Students is a one‐page summary of some of the key themes affiliated with the Oregon Trail that can be copied and passed out to students.
  • Hands‐on trunk objects available for students to handle in a supervised setting and a corresponding document called A Look at the Past: Description of Objects Included in the Oregon Trail Traveling Trunk. A Look at the Past provides teachers with background information on each object and how it relates to the Oregon Trail experience.
  • Artifacts and replicas include: soap, sunbonnet, ox shoe, schoolbooks, slate, doll, marbles, bullet ladle and mold, powder horn, candle mold, curling iron, daguerreotype, and buffalo hide.
  • A CD program that offers students a virtual tour of the trail experience, east to west. It consists primarily of photographs of the physical landscape of the trail, supplemented with paintings and other images of trail life. The Oregon Trail: CD Narrative for teachers can be read directly to students during the CD program, or can be simply used to augment a description of the trail experience. A list of questions included at the end of the narrative can be used to facilitate class discussion.
  • Four books (fiction and non‐fiction) that explore what it was like to be on the Oregon Trail.
  • Four lesson plans designed to enhance the use of the elements included in the trunk:

Learning through Primary Resources: Overland Trail Diaries , helps students understand the difference between primary and secondary sources, while giving them the opportunity to see replicas of trail diary and journal entries.

Learning through Material Culture: Objects from the Oregon Trail , offers teachers a guessing game framework for making use of the objects included in the trunk, and helps students to gain an enriched understanding of what material culture can tell us about the trail experience.

The Great Migration: Traveling through a New Environment , can be used in tandem with the slide program to help students think about the ways that landscape affects human migration

Mapping the Oregon Trail , can also be used in tandem With the slide program, or as a stand alone lesson to help students practice mapping skills involving scale and compass directions. The plan also helps students understand why the Oregon Trail followed the route that it did.

Download a description of the Oregon Trail Traveling Trunk (PDF)

Thank you to our sponsor the Wells Fargo History Museum!

School group in front of stagecoach. Courtesy Wells Fargo History Museum

If you would like to schedule a rental, please fill out and return the Traveling Trunk Request Form. If you would like to reserve a trunk by phone, have additional questions or would like to view any of the Traveling Trunks' lesson plans or content, please contact OHS Museum Education at education@ohs.org or 503.306.5279.