Chapter 12: The Hastings Cut-Off

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

Chapter Overview: The party takes off along Mr. Hastings route only to find that the going is much harder than Mr. Bridger led them to believe. Some of the families complain of supplies running short. A small group of men decide to scout ahead and look for Mr. Hastings. Mr. Reed is the first to return with directions for the group to take. The new path required the trail to be cleared and more time was lost. Eventually the group makes it through the canyons and look out upon the Great Salt Lake Valley.

Chapter Themes: Possible betrayal by both Hastings and Bridger, losing precious time, and dwindling supplies.

Chapter Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Activity Idea 1: Title: The Hastings Debate
    • Description: Classroom Debate about whether or not to take the Hastings Cut-Off
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard (4)9.3 Speaking. Students will give organized presentations that demonstrate a clear viewpoint [NS/PS 9.4.3].
        • Standard (4)10.4 Discussion. Students identify and express opinions and state facts [NS/PS10.4.4].
    • Activity Idea 2: Presentation on the various overland routes
      • Description Presentation of the various options that the settlers had for reaching California. Then each student will pick their own route.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard (4)11.1 Research and Study Skills. Students will formulate research questions and establish a focus and purpose for inquiry [NS11.4.1].
        • Standard (4)6.3 Writing Processes. Students will generate ideas for writing through discussions and individual activities such as brainstorming and clustering [NS6.4.1].
  • Mathematics
    • Activity Idea 1: Title- Plotting Your Overland Route
      • Description Students will plot and give coordinates for their chosen overland route to California.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard (4)4.5 Spatial Relationships. Students will identify coordinates for a given point on a grid. [NS4.4.3].
        • Standard (4)A.2 Problem Solving. Students will apply previous experience and knowledge to new problem solving situations [NS/PS A.3-5].
    • Activity Idea 2: Title- Time to lighten the load.
      • Description Students will choose which items to take and which items to leave behind, when the trail gets rough.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard (4)5.2 Data Analysis. Students will organize and represent data using a variety of graphical representations.
        • Standard (4)5.7 Data Analysis. Students will collect, organize and display items to solve a problem.
  • Social Studies
    • Activity Idea 1: Title- Arguments About the Route
      • Description- Extension of the Language Arts activity (see above), debate about the route.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 1.0 Civics. Rules Law, and Government- Students know why society needs rules, laws, and governments.
        • Standard 4.0 Human Systems. Students understand how economic, political, and cultural processes interact to shape patterns of human migration and settlement.
    • Activity Idea 2: Title- Native Americans Along the Route
      • Description- Students will research and discuss the roles of Native Americans along the route through Nevada and their interactions with the settlers.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard (4)4.2 History. Students will locate Nevada’s Native American inhabitants that lived along the overland routes.
        • Standard (4)4.4 History. Students will describe the experiences of pioneers moving West.
  • Science
    • Activity Idea 1: Title- Why Did Bully and George Die?
      • Description The Reed family’s two oxen died from drinking bad water. What could have poisoned them? Did the other ox drink after the first one did? Was the water stagnant? The teacher will lead a discussion about herd animal behavior. There will be a discussion about the safety of drinking water out of a pond or lake.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard (4)4.1 Life Science. Students will compare learned and inherited behaviors in animals. [L5A1].
        • Standard (4)3.1 Earth Science. Students will investigate and describe the properties of water.
    • Activity Idea 2: Title- Describe the Animals and Plants Seen Along the Trail.
      • 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 issue of lost time becomes incredibly important, and the settlers had no way of knowing just how precious each day was. The settlers were clearly aware of the impending winter, but without good guidance, they were extremely vulnerable. Additional research of entire journey shows that the group missed making it through the Sierra Nevada mountain pass by as little as one day. Therefore the time lost due to bad information from Hastings becomes an issue of life and death. Since none in their party had any idea how far the distances were, they had no way of knowing what was ahead.
Additional Resources


Christine Anderson said...

I really liked many of the ideas for activities that were presented in this blog. They seemed to flow with the material very naturally. My favorite is probably the debate portion. What a great idea to simulate the discussion! A great way to get the kids using those higher level thinking skills. It might be interesting to add a little history about Hastings himself in the Historical Background section. Overall, very creative! Thanks for the ideas!

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

How about taking a trip to the local water treatment facility and teaching students about how we ensure our drinking water is safe? That might be a nice extension to the oxen poisoning lesson.