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Engage Your Students with a Virtual Field Trip Along the Oregon Trail

An engaging and interactive virtual field trip with stops along the Oregon Trail

Remember the days of playing the classic Oregon Trail simulation game? With advances in technology, we can take our students on a virtual field trip along the Oregon Trail that includes 360-degree imagery of geographic sites from Google Earth™, video content, and more. While the old computer game was fun, it really was lacking in historical accuracy. There was no recognition of Native lands and everything was viewed through the lens of white settlers. Did you know that about 3% of people traveling westward were African American? If you are looking for an engaging and interactive way to teach the Oregon Trail, while also providing your students with multiple perspectives, check out this virtual field trip.

From Independence, Missouri through Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and finally to the Willamette Valley in Oregon, your students will make 13 stops along the Oregon Trail. Throughout the trip, students will visit geographic locations as well as reconstructed sites. This trip provides panoramic views along the trail, and video content of different experiences.

Oregon Trail Virtual Field Trip. A simulation for learning about westward expansion

This activity is set up in Google Slides with clickable links to keep things simple and streamlined. It begins by having students recognize that the lands on which they live have been inhabited by Indigenous peoples since time immemorial. Students will use an interactive map to determine and give recognition to the Native lands on which they live.

So often our understanding of the Oregon Trail is from one perspective. It is important that our students understand that different groups of people view westward expansion differently. For Native Americans, westward expansion is one of loss and sorrow. Native Americans have had to continually fight to preserve and revitalize tribal culture today. For African Americans, both enslaved and formerly enslaved men, women, and children made the journey west. The physical danger and emotional toll for example, were the same for everyone. And while African Americans arrived in Oregon under different circumstances and conditions, the common goal was a quest for freedom.

Oregon Trail Map Skills and Interactive Activity

We often look at the Oregon Trail and focus on the journey. However upon arrival, life was not always easy for those that traveled west. With few supplies and after a long and exhausting journey, many struggled during the first few years in Oregon. African Americans faced hostility in Oregon and myriad of exclusion laws.

This virtual field trip is carefully crafted to ensure that history is not gamified or trivialized. By using actual Google Earth™ satellite imagery, students can better conceptualize and grasp the mountainous passes, the desert, and prairies. This also includes video content that shares living history reenactment from various museums and discovery centers. All the hours of preparation and work is done. Everything you need to present this content is found in one place.

Oregon Trail Simulation with Links

Throughout this activity your students will answer critical thinking questions. These questions are editable, so you can make adjustments to meet your class needs or tailor to your curriculum. A grading rubric is included.

Oregon Trail historical thinking questions

If you are new to virtual field trips, you might check out this blog post with some tech tips and helpful insight. This activity, as well as all of the virtual field trips I have put together are set up so that they are super low prep. You'll want to ensure that you have access to Google Earth™ and YouTube for this activity. If you don't use Google Classroom, no worries. I've got a few links to tutorials for setting this up on different learning platforms within this blog post.

Check out all the details of this virtual field trip here:

Oregon Trail Virtual Field Trip

Oregon Trail Digital Activity

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