Provisions for the Oregon Trail

Contributed by
Lindsey Own

Download a PDF of this lesson

Subject: Social Studies, 3rd grade
Duration: 2 class periods to design the provisions. The overall simulation can take multiple weeks

Learning Objectives:

Students will learn about the Oregon Trail and incorporate physical representations of family provisions into their simulations.


Students learn about the Oregon Trail through simulation, for which there are many examples of lesson plans online. As their family groups prepare to embark on the trail, they build their family wagons using craft materials and then 3D-design and print the provisions they have chosen to purchase at the beginning of the simulation.

Paul Solarz’s lesson plans for an Oregon Trail simulation can be an excellent starting point.

A collection of models created by students for this project can be found at YouMagine.

Other equipment/materials necessary:

Craft materials for constructing wagons, such as cardboard, pipe cleaners, scraps of cloth, jump rings, corks, straws, and hot glue guns.

Teacher Prior Preparation:

Identify and print out photos of examples of real provisions from the Oregon Trail era, for students to use as models.

oregon trail

Depending on your students’ internet searching skills and your objectives for the lesson, you might have students identify model images themselves.

Student Prior Learning:

Students should have begun a simulation of the Oregon Trail, including deciding each student in the group’s role in the family and profession, and how they will spend their starting budgets on provisions. Those budgetary decisions will drive their selections of which items to 3D-model.


  • Have students work in their family groups to build their wagons. Ideally, their wagons should have the following critical moving parts:

    • Four functional wheels on axles
    • A pivoting wagon tongue (jump rings were useful for us for these)
    • Wagon bows and a bonnet
    • A jockey box
    • A functional brake box

    Oregon Trail
    Oregon Trail

  • Once students have been assigned their budgets for the Oregon Trail simulation, distribute “order sheets” so that they can determine how they will use their budgets. An example of how to execute this lesson can be found under “Shopping at the Mercantile Store”

  • As students choose which items they will need, distribute responsibility for 3D-modeling the different items among the class.

  • Have students either find their own images or use the images you provide as a basis for designing their 3D models.

    Oregon Trail

  • Print the students’ models for use as they continue through their simulations to try to successfully navigate the Oregon Trail.

    Provisions for the Oregon Trail