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 A family of emigrants entering the South Loup Valley

[Detail] A family of emigrants entering the South Loup Valley

Pioneer Family

Congratulations! You chose the role of Pioneer Family

Step One:
Begin your research by reading the background your teacher assigned on why pioneers chose to move west. While reading, write down keywords to search the American Memory collections.

Step Two:
Consider the following questions while conducting research on your topic:

  • What were the motivations of the Pioneers who traveled west?
  • What conditions did Pioneers encounter as they journeyed west?
  • How did the conditions encountered influence their decisions?
  • What were the conflicts between the Pioneers and the native people they encountered?
  • How did policies of the U.S. government influence westward migration?

Begin your research using the following links:

Step Three:
Try searching these collections; here are some search terms to get you started: wagon train, ox wagon, covered wagon, Oregon Trail. Add to the list as you work.

Step Four:
Using information from your research, write a realistic letter to a family member convincing them to journey west and establish a homestead. Edit and revise your letter as needed.

Step Five:
All the Pioneers will chronicle a journey west for the museum. Your combined exhibition must include a journal, map, timeline, broadside and at least one additional artifact. Study the project guidelines and then decide among your group which project you will contribute.

Project Guidelines:

Journal Entries

  • The information in your journal should be as realistic as possible. You should maintain the perspective of an imaginary person in the time and place of Westward Expansion.
  • The purpose of the journal is to reveal information about typical daily life. Use examples that will teach museum visitors about life along the Oregon Trail as well as the settlements.
  • Include realistic elements such as a name, clothing, food and shelter.
  • A minimum of three entries is required to show distinct information about the daily life of a person in a particular social class.
  • The journal should also include information about how geography (location) affected daily life.


  • The information on a broadside should include a mixture of written description and pictures.
  • The broadside should include an image that connects to and shows your understanding of the viewpoint of Westward Expansion that you know about. It should be clear what you want people to know about the topic.
  • Choose 3-5 main points to teach visitors to the museum about through the broadside.
  • The written description should expand on the picture on the broadside. Use actual broadsides in the American Memory collectiosn as models to get ideas about layout.
  • The broadside should be easy to read and follow. Please use large art paper so that your broadside is easily viewed.


  • A model or artifact is a 3-dimensional object designed to represent an important people, place or object from the time period of Westward Expansion.
  • Models and artifacts should be handmade. They could be made from any combination of materials (paper, clay, wood, paper maché).
  • The models and artifacts should be carefully constructed, visually appealing and as authentic as possible.
  • The artifact must be accompanied by a written explanation of the object and its significance or importance from a journey west.
  • The models or artifacts must be able to "stand alone" to represent your research.