T he American West Online Resources

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he American West

American West Online Resources
History of the American West Wikipedia


Choose any category you want more information about and follow the links.
The American West Virtual Library http://www.vlib.us/americanwest/

A collection of online resources by topic, with searches and research tools, lesson plans, timelines and quizzes.

American West http://www.americanwest.com/

Features information about pioneers, native Americans, explores, westward expansion, Oregon Trail, cowboys, gold mining, great plains, prairie, stage coaches, frontier railroads and anything of interest or significance west of the Mississippi River.

Harper’s Weekly http://thewest.harpweek.com/

From 1857-1916, this magazine kept its audience well informed about the exploration and settlement of the American West and covers topics such as buffalo, farming & agriculture, wagon trains, gold, railroads, life on the plains, the frontier and Indians.

Pioneers and Westward Expansion http://www.kidinfo.com/American_History/Pioneers.html

A collection of websites around topics such as Lewis and Clark, the railroad and other history-referenced sites.

History Matters  http://historymatters.gmu.edu/

Designed for teachers of U.S. History Survey courses at high schools and colleges around the world, History Matters provides an excellent starting point for exploring American history on the Web. This site serves as a gateway to Web resources and offers unique teaching materials, first-person primary documents, and threaded discussions on teaching U.S. history. It emphasizes materials that focus on the lives of ordinary Americans and involves students in analyzing and interpreting evidence.

History Now http://www.historynow.org/12_2005/index.html

A quarterly on events in American History from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The site also contains lesson plans, interactivities, and other educational resources.

Harpweek http://www.harpweek.com/

Created by Harper's Weekly as an online archive of 18th and 19th century issues of the magazine, the site contains ten free features utilizing rich primary sources and scholastic commentary on topics that range from Immigrant and Ethnic America to The World of Thomas Nast.

Pioneers & Settlers Teaching Ideas

  • Students can compare several pioneer woman, their lives, hardships and successes using Dandelions, Dakota Dugout, Log Cabin Quilt and these online resources:

Women of the West http://www.autry-museum.org/explore/exhibits/wwmonline/

Pioneer and Emigrant Woman http://www.rootsweb.com/~nwa/pioneer.html

Gold Rush Stories of Woman Pioneers http://www.sfmuseum.org/hist5/foremoms.html

Wisconsin Pioneer Woman http://www.library.wisc.edu/etext/WIReader/Contents/Pioneer.html

Pioneer Woman and Their Quilts http://www.womenfolk.com/quilting_history/pioneer.htm

  • Using the text set on Pioneers, create a semantic map http://literacy.kent.edu/eureka/strategies/semantic_mapping.pdf describing the lifestyle of a pioneer. Categories might include clothing, houses, transportation or any other important items. Aurora Means Dawn, Warm as Wool and Danger Along the Ohio focus on life in Ohio during this time. The illustrators from these books have created an excellent resource to use as writing prompts before the study begins. They can write fictional but realistic accounts of where the pioneers originated, the forces that lured them to leave their homes, their means of transportation and their ultimate destination.

  • Dakota Land, a folk song about pioneer life, can be shared with students. They can read the song and individually write down five words describing the physical environment from the song. Allow them to speculate on measures that enabled these people to adapt to this environment. On the board, compile a list of technological developments that helped them respond to the demands and constraints of the physical environment of the Great Plains (might include windmills, plows, railroad, barbed wire, etc.). Have students formulate generalizations about how technological development advanced the settlement of the Great Plains. What contemporary examples show how people adapt and how technology has allowed us to live in otherwise inhospitable locations?

  • Read Eight Hands Round A Patchwork Alphabet by Paul to the group. Discuss quilts, their color, patterns and geometric shapes. Make a class quilt with squares that represent something special about each person. Tangrams could be used to develop each person’s square.

  • The Homestead Act http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/today/may20.html could be used as a primary source of study with these resources.

Native & African Americans Teaching Ideas

  • Using My Heroes, My People and other books for this text set, complete a Venn Diagram http://literacy.kent.edu/eureka/strategies/venn_diagrams.pdf on the effects of the westward expansion on Native Americans and African Americans.

Crossing the Plains Teaching Ideas

  • Introduce students to Willa Cather, the American writer who set most of her books on the prairies and plains, with Michael Bedard’s The Divide. Students can gain more information, read from many texts, and listen to some works on these websites to see how her life influenced her writing:




  • Encourage students to find a favorite passage to read to the class.

  • Use Jim Brandenburg’s An American Safari to study the American Prairie. Use a K-W-L strategy to generate questions about prairie before checking out these online sites:





Prairie Slide Show http://www.ahsd25.k12.il.us/prairie/prairie.html
Cowboys & Cowgirls Teaching Ideas

  • Students can complete the Bill Pickett Rodeo-Ridin’ Cowboy Scavenger Hunt http://www.create.cett.msstate.edu/create/classroom/handouts/1_Holder_CD2_Set1_Western_Migration_Scavenger_Hunt_Handout.doc using the trade book and these sites:

Bill Pickett http://www.famoustexans.com/billpickett.htm

Bill Pickett http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Troy/9713/bwcowboys.html

Cowboy Hall of Fame http://www.nationalcowboymuseum.org/

  • Cowboy or Western hats are one of the unique trademarks of the cowboy. The important parts of the hat are the brim, crown and crease. Felt is the material choice for a cowboy hat – felt is matted fur and the hairs run in all directions making it stronger and lighter than woven materials. Read Boss of the Plains by Laurie Carlson to the class, then break into small groups and create a list of the many uses the cowboy had for his hat. Some might include: shade from sun, fan a fire, urge a horse to go faster, identification of origin of wearer, umbrella against elements, carry water, worn to nap or sleep, signal for help. Students may want to write about the usefulness of the cowboy hat.

  • The teacher can do a shared reading of a poem related to the Westward Expansion. A Cowboy’s Last Ride by David Kelley could be used or do a Google search for “cowboy poetry.” These are excellent resources to start your search:

Cowboy Poetry Online http://www.clantongang.com/oldwest/trade.htm

Cowboy Poetry at the Bar-D Ranch http://www.cowboypoetry.com/index.htm

Cowboy Poetry Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cowboy_poetry

  • Add-a-Word Poetry can be done individually, in groups or as a class. Create a poem describing the cowboy. In each line of the poem, a new word is added and the rest is repeated. This poem can be long or short, depending on ability and time availability.

A Cowboy
A bowlegged cowboy
A dirty, bowlegged cowboy…

  • Women of the West http://www.over-land.com/westpers2.html contains a comprehensive list of websites about women of the west such as Annie Oakley, Belle Starr, Calamity Jane and others. Read Shooting the Moon together.

Lewis & Clark Expedition Routes Teaching Ideas

  • Instructor will read aloud a section of Streams to the River, River to the Sea. Students will journal their responses/feelings to the passage.

  • This Vast Land by Ambrose provides students the opportunity to a conduct a map study by plotting the locations for each journal entry.

  • Using the collection of resources, identify the main characters and events of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Present information in the form of a timeline.






Westward Expansion Teaching Ideas

  • Ask students to choose one of the categories that interest them: Gold Rush, Pioneers and Settlers, Native and African Americans, Crossing the Plains, Cowboys and Cowgirls, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Help them find at least two books at their reading level.

  • Use a Jigsaw or Group investigation teaching strategy http://literacy.kent.edu/eureka/strategies_collab.pdf. Ask each group to present their report to the entire class.

Transportation & Trails Teaching Ideas

  • Use the following chart http://literacy.kent.edu/eureka/strategies/matrices_charts.pdf to compare several aspects of early travel on these trails; Words West, In the Days of the Vaqueros, The Perilous Journey of the Donner Party and these online resources. Other trails can also be spotlighted.

Trails West http://www.over-land.com/trwest.html

Santa Fe Trail http://www.kansasheritage.org/research/sft/

Santa Fe Trail http://www.sangres.com/history/santafetrail01.htm

California Trail http://www.emigranttrailswest.org/caltrail.htm

California Trail http://www.oregontrailcenter.org/

Oregon Trail http://www.isu.edu/~trinmich/Oregontrail.html

Oregon Trail www.americanwest.com/trails/pages/oretrail.htm

National Road http://www.route40.net/history/national-road.shtml

National Road http://www.nps.gov/fone/natlroad.htm

Mormon Trail http://www.oregontrailcenter.org/

Mormon Trail http://www.omaha.org/trails/

  • The End of the Oregon Trail http://www.endoftheoregontrail.org/blakbios.html

Biographical sketches of black pioneers and settlers of the American northwest.
The Gold Rush Teaching Ideas

  • Gold Rush http://pbskids.org/wayback/goldrush/

The Gold Rush site offers lots of information about this fascinating moment in American history, looking at the Californios, the Spanish-speaking community that had been in California since the mid-1700s; the various routes Forty-Niners took to reach the gold fields; and the overall history of the Gold Rush.

  • Gold Rush! California’s Untold Stories http://www.museumca.org/goldrush/

Created by the Oakland Museum of California, this site gives a comprehensive look into the California Gold Rush of the nineteenth-century.

  • A Golden Opportunity for Science

Gold and silver mining and gold's history, allure, and unique physical and chemical qualities explored, includes classroom activities and poster.

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