Chapter 1: Cottonwood Creek

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Dana Matthews, 5th grade teacher, Doris Reed Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview:

In this chapter, we are introduced to the Sallie Fox family. Sallie and her sister Francie are out picking berries and two of the major fears of the trail are revealed: animals (they ran into a snake), and Indians (Mom was afraid because they were out after dark and Indians could get them). Then, we are with the family as they wake up and cook breakfast in the morning, pack up their wagon, and roll on down the trail. Sallie’s diary is introduced in this chapter, also.

Chapter Themes: Fear of Indians, Common Foods, Memoirs/Diaries, Sleeping Arrangements, Traveling Companions, Food Preparation

Chapter Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Pioneer Memoirs
      • Procedures
      • Students will pretend that they are in the same wagon train as Sallie Fox. They will decide if they are single or have a family. They will write a journal entry with each chapter as if they are part of the action. They will describe how they feel as they read about Sallie Fox's journey.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Write responses to literature that support judgments with examples.
        • Understand purpose and structure of genre.
    • Two Special Things
      • Procedures
      • The class will create a double bubble map comparing and contrasting items that we have now and items they had in pioneer times.
      • Students will pretend that they are a pioneer. They can only choose one special thing to take on the trail with them because of the space in the wagon. This one special thing must be from pioneer times (i.e. NO NINTENDOS!).
      • Students will create this item out of art materials and write why they would choose this as their one special item to take with them.
      • Then, students will write about one special thing that they had to leave behind. They would explain why this item was the hardest to leave behind.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Record information using organizational formats.
        • Write paragraphs with main ideas, supporting details, and a conclusion.
  • Mathematics
    • How far would it take in a covered wagon?
      • Procedures
        • Students will be told that a wagon train went roughly one mile per hour. Then, students will be given familiar distances to figure out how many days it would take to get places that would only take us hours or minutes. Examples: 400 miles to California, 10 miles to the nearest Sam's Club, 3 miles to the grocery store.
        • After students figure out their list and how long it would take them, they will write a journal entry about how it would change their lives if it took that long to get anywhere today.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Generate and solve multiplication problems.
        • Apply previous experience and knolwedge to new problem solving situations.
    • Did they eat healthy food?
      • Students will take the typical foods eaten by a pioneer family (bacon, milk, boiled beef, tea, coffee, biscuits) and figure out if they got the right ratio of calories that they need to be healthy. Students will make percentages from the ratios and compare them to food standards of today. Students will then discuss with a partner whether the pioneers ate healthily or not.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Explain the relationships among percents and ratios.
        • Discuss and exchange ideas about mathematics as a part of learning.
  • Social Studies
    • KWL Chart: Life on the Trail
    • Procedures
        • Students will discuss what part of history we have arrived at.
        • In a small group, students will create a KWL chart about life on the prairie.
        • One person will put their group’s ideas on the class chart.
        • The class will discuss the similarities and differences that they see between the groups on the chart.
        • Throughout the book and as a culminating activity, students will answer the questions in the L column of the chart.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Organize major events in U.S. History.
        • Use organizational formats to comprehend information.
    • Primary Sources: Children's Pioneer Journals
      • Procedures
        • Students will read two different journals of children pioneers with a partner.
        • They will compare and contrast the journals in two column notes.
        • Students will discuss their notes with their team.
        • The whole class will discuss what they found. Ask students the following questions:
          • What were hardships that these two pioneers faced on the trail?
      • Standards Addressed
        • Interpret and analyze historical passages.
      • Record information using note-taking.
  • Science
    • How will the environment affect Sallie Fox and her family on the trail
    • Students will create a class sized map that traces Sallie Fox's journey. A group of four students will look at each place Sallie Fox will be traveling and describe the environment that is in that part of our country. They will then decide how the environment will affect Sallie Fox and her family (i.e., will there be enough water, hay for the livestock, rivers to cross, etc.). At the end of the novel, they will decide if their predictions were right.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Investigate and describe interrelationships and interdependence of organisms with each other and with the non-living parts of their habitats.
        • Predict that some events are more likely to happen than others
    • The food pyramid
    • Students will look at the basic foods that pioneer families ate on the trail. They will decide if they ate the right portions of each food group according to today's standards. Then, they will look at the terrain and environments and decide what the family could have gotten from nature to supplement their diet.
    • Standards Addressed
        • Use the food pyramid to decide if what people eat is healthy.
        • Decide what nature can provide for people.
Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

One of the most difficult tasks facing a pioneer family going west was the issue of food. There were no grocery stores to stop at and re-supply. The few places that were available on the trail could cost as much as five times more than back home, so pioneers tried to bring as much with them as possible. The following were recommendations for the amount of food to bring per person, except infants:
  • 150 pounds of flour
  • 20 pounds of corn meal
  • 50 pounds of bacon
  • 40 pounds of sugar
  • 10 pounds of coffee
  • 15 pounds of dried fruit
  • 5 pounds of salt
  • ½ pounds of baking soda
  • 2 pounds of tea
  • 5 pounds of rice
  • 15 pounds of beans
  • 5 gallons of water
Pioneers were also encouraged to bring a milk cow or two along with them to provide fresh milk and butter along the trail. There was also the option of hunting for game along the trail, but that took time and there was no guarantee that there would be animals to hunt, especially after years of pioneering had brought many people along the route.

The necessity of bringing enough food to last the entire journey left pioneers with some tough choices. A wagon could only hold 2000 pounds, but to save the oxen, the prevailing wisdom was to keep the pounds down to 1600-1800. Besides food, pioneers also had to bring extra clothes, cloth and sewing supplies to make new clothes and shoes, wood and tools to make parts for the wagon, cooking utensils and pots and pans, and any personal items that they wanted to take to their new house. Many pioneers, especially those with large families, brought more than one wagon with them on the trip: at least one for food (sometimes two or more depending on the size of the family), and one for personal items. Unfortunately, to save weary oxen, many of these personal items got left behind on the trail. Later, people picked these up, refurbished them, and made a business out of selling these items to others. Life on the trail definitely led to some difficult choices.

Additional Resources


Robert said...

I liked your science idea entitled "The Food Pyramid". I think too often students hear about what the pioneers had to pack for the long trail. They forget about what types of food were available along the trail other than buffalo, deer, and fish. From what I've read, many Native Americans showed the pioneers how to harvest wild onions, tubers, and wild fruit.

Your "Children's Pioneer Journals" was also a great idea. I think it might be a great opportunity to try creating your own blog for the students to comment within.

Your "KWL Life on the Trail" was also a great activity. During one of our inservices this year we learned about a new "KWL" called "RAN" (Reading and Analyzing Non-Fiction). The columns are "What I think I know", "Confirmed", "Misconceptions", New Information", and "Wonderings". We found that this method works really well with both non-fiction and historical fiction.

Cynthia C. Spence said...

I really liked your Math activity for how far different cities are. Since my students live in Nevada, have been to Utah and California they have a good sense of travel for those distances. I see this type of activity having a lot of value to the since they could visualize the trip.

I also really liked the Healthy Food activity. This year we spent a great deal of time talking about the mathematics of food as it relates to percentages of daily requirements. Not only is this good math but it is a wonderful way to intertwine the health part of science. My students have seen so much about types of food and what is and is not healthy I think they would really enjoy this activity.

Becky said...

I really liked your journal activity. It is neat that not only do you have them journal but from a different perspective. It is almost as if at the end of the story they will have a story of their own. Really neat idea.

I also agree with the others on the Food Pyramid. I don't think that our students understand that there wasn't always a McDonald's around to just go grab food. So buy having them look at the different types of food and the nutrition guide makes them see it in a whole new light.

Christy G. Keeler, Ph.D. said...

Great ideas, Dana, and nicely prepared! This is pretty impressive given that you only had four pages of text!

Consider adding the use of primary sources to your memoirs activity. You could find copies of diaries, journals, and letters online and have students see real examples of how people communicated across space and time in the 1800s.

What is the benefit of having the students create the "one special item" in addition to telling about it? Though I am an advocate for integrating arts education throughout the curriculum, I am concerned that we often use craft projects in lieu of teaching real content or about the arts. So, what will students gain from creating the special item (e.g., opportunities for students to engage in kinesthetic activities).

beth said...

I enjoyed reading your ideas and what you had to say at the beginning of the book, since I took part in the end of the book. It was nice to see how it is all pulled together.

I particularly enjoyed your historical perspective and how much food to pack per person and to bring along a cow for milk. This is something that could be continued throughout the book and we could tie in to our activities at the end on how this particular cow could survive. It would be fun to let the kids name her and make sure they are caring for her throughout the journey!

charles said...

I really enjoyed Social Studies lesson. The KWL chart forced students to work in pairs and discuss their knowledge of the subject matter. Also by letting students answer questions about the L portion of the chart it brings to light exactly what they have actually learned.I loved the part where they discuss similarities and differences on the chart. This concept envokes higher level thinking. My only concern is that not all students do an equal share of the work. What have you done to ensure that everyone does their share.