Chapter 11: Fort Bridger

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Richard Ishman, 4th Grade Teacher, Paradise Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview: The entire group arrived at Fort Bridger on July 28, 1846, expecting to find Mr. Hastings. Mr. Hastings was supposed to show them a new route over the area that would cut off approximately 300 miles from their journey. The families discuss their next step and decide to move out in the direction that Mr. Hastings had gone, as directed by Mr. Bridger-the owner of the fort. They replace two of their oxen, Bully and George, who had died along the trail. The families discuss the Indians living in the area. Everyone is outfitted with new moccasins and buckskin clothing. They all worry about the lack of water along the trail.

Chapter Themes: Disorganization, confusion, desperation.

Chapter Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Activity Idea 1 Title-The Donner Party
      • Description- Students will conduct research and prepare group presentations about an assigned element of the Donner Party.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 1.0 Students know and use word analysis skills and strategies to comprehend new words encountered in text.
        • Standard 2.0 Students use reading process skills and strategies to build comprehension.
    • Activity Idea 2 Title-Reading Patty Reed’s Doll.
      • Description- The class will read assigned sections of the text and then respond in their writer’s notebooks about what they have read.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard (4)1.1 Students will knowledge of vocabulary and context clues to determine meanings of unknown words [NS/PS 1.4.5]
        • Standard (4)3.1 Students will use knowledge of character, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution to comprehend a variety of works [NS/PS 3.4.1]
  • Mathematics
    • Activity Idea 1 Title-Shopping Day At Fort Bridger
      • Description-buying goods at Ft Bridger. What to buy?
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard (4)3.8 Students will determine totals for monetary amounts in practical situations.
        • Standard (4)1.19 Students will multiply, divide multi-digit numbers by one digit numbers with regrouping, including monetary amounts as decimals [NS 1.4.7].
    • Activity Idea 2 Title-Calculate the Distance of the Trip
      • Description- Students will calculate the distance of the trip.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard (4)3.3 Students will measure, compare, and convert length in metric units (kilometers).
  • Social Studies
    • Activity Idea 1 Title-Map Reading and Map Making
      • Description- Find the location on the map
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 2.0 Geography, Places and Regions- Students understand the physical and human features and cultural characteristics of places and use this information to define and study regions and their patterns of change.
        • Standard 7.0 Geographic Skills- Students ask and answer geographic questions by acquiring, organizing, and analyzing geographic information.
    • Activity Idea 2 Title-Time To Play The Game
      • Description-Play the Oregon Trail Game
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 4.0 Human Systems- Students understand how economic, political, and cultural processes interact to shape patterns of human migration and settlement, influence and interdependence, and conflict and cooperation.
        • Standard 6.0 The US Economy as a Whole- Students will demonstrate an understanding of the US economic system as a whole.
  • Science
    • Activity Idea 1 Title-Who’s Stronger?
      • Description- Science activity about energy, and differences between horses and oxen when pulling a heavy load.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard PB2 Forces and Motion- Students understand that position and motion of objects can be described.
        • Standard P5A Forces ad Motion- Students understand that forces can change the position and motion of an object.
    • Activity Idea 2 Title-Describe The Animals and Plants Seen at Fort Bridger.
      • Description-Describe the flora and fauna seen along the trail
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard L2C Organisms and Their Environment- Students understand that living things live in different places.
        • Standard L2D Diversity of Life- Students understand that there are many kinds of living things on Earth.

Historical Overview of Chapter Themes
The earlier identified themes of disorganization and possible betrayal set the tone for chapter 11. Once again the reader is reminded of just how hard and perilous the journey was. The settlers had entrusted their lives to the scantest of maps and at times, hearsay. The routes were never clearly marked, and as the group moved out from Fort Bridger, they only had the wheel marks in the grass to guide them. However, I believe the greater issue for the group was that of betrayal. It is clear that the Hastings Cutoff was at best barely a game trail, and at worst a figment of both Hastings and Jim Bridger. It is entirely possible that the story of the path was concocted to lure desperate travelers into spending money at the fort and paying Hastings to guide them. This theory is given credibility when you consider that Hastings was not where he was supposed to be. Bridger was the only one with any supplies in the area, and the fact that Bridger encouraged the party to press on towards Hastings. Perhaps these men were motivated by reports of several new shortcuts that would soon put Fort Bridger over 100 miles out of the way, so they decided to take advantage of any settlers passing by. Later when Hastings refused to accompany Mr. Reed back to the wagons to guide the group, further adds to this possibility.

Additional Resources


John Yoder said...

Richard’s summary of the chapter gives the reader a good idea what is going on in the story at the time. I have never played the Oregon Trail Game, but I hear that is a lot of fun for the students and gives them a real sense of being on the trail. Playing the game will make the students more understanding of the story and the characters. It will also increase their interest in the story. I also like the idea of students finding the location on a map and calculating distances on a map. This too will give the students another connection to the story. The idea if students figuring out what they would buy at Fort Bridger will make the students do some thinking about what is necessary for the trip and how to most wisely spend their money. I liked all of Richards ideas.

Sarah Nicol said...

Having the student figure out what to buy is a great idea. They have to figure out how much they need to survive and then what they can fit in the wagon.

I have played The Oregon Trail, and I love it. I have spent a few prep times playing it. I think it is a great game for students to play because it relates very well to these books we have been reading. I only wish there was time in the day for my class to go and have an opportunity to play this game. It takes a lot of time, especially setting up your wagon.

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

What topics will you provide for students for the assigned research topic assignment?