As a grand finale for my Westward HO! game, my students ventured out on the Oregon Trail! I created a simulated trail that was a mash-up between the epic 1990 Oregon Trail computer game and a riddle-based scavenger hunt. Students had been working all unit to master content in order to gain the materials (wagon wheels, cash, extra clothing, oxen, etc.) to be able to venture out as a pioneer. Today, their hard work and preparation would be put to the ultimate pioneer test: The Oregon Trail! Students would visit stops on the trail where they would draw cards that determined the fate of their journey. Hopefully each family packed enough supplies or had enough money to help them survive until they reached Oregon!

westward expansion bulletin board-2Families were able to fully understand what pioneers on the western trails endured through this simulation. I LOVE creating simulation-based games for my students. I truly feel it is the best way for my students to experience the history in a way they can understand. Some families lost their shoes, wagons, life-savings or even a family member on the trail (dang dysentery… every time). Families also had to complete a combination of educational and “just-for-fun” challenges at each stop on the trail as well. Students had to practice their lasso skills, create a song about their travels and even take an old-time family photo (my personal favorite)!

On our simulated trail, students also practiced their map skills and overall knowledge of US Westward Expansion while completing review activities.  As students finished this experience today, we had powerful conversations about the struggles of the real families of the Oregon Trail–it was priceless. Students were engaged, excited about the learning, and able to thoughtfully reflect on the topic. This is an example of the power of gamified classrooms. My students had a blast, and learned a ton. Isn’t that what we all want?!

Tomorrow, I break out the card game version of the Oregon Trail (available at Target stores) for students to play. Remember teacher-friends: IT’S OKAY TO PLAY!

oregon trail game

Here’s some bonus pics of my classroom during this game:

Thanks for reading,



PS: They ended up having a BLAST playing the Oregon Trail Card Game! They were jumping up and down in their chairs!



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