Chapter 4: Independence, Missouri

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Denber Cruz, 4th Grade Teacher, Rose Warren Empowerment School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview: Independence, MO.  The chapter discusses what the party did and experienced while they were in Independence.  One of the points that interested me is that there was a discussion about how a party member saw an Indian that did not look like one of "Grandma's Indians".

It seemed as if the party members were surprised to hears about more than one Indian.  This can be an interesting point to bring up with students as students might have a stereotype in mind for most things and this could be a starting point into some conversations about expectations.

Chapter Themes: Indians; Misconceptions; Independence, MO

Chapter Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Last Chance for a Mail Call
      • Independence is the last town on the frontier.  This means that this would be their last chance for sending mail back to Springfield for a good while.  The students will write a friendly letter to friends back home telling them about their trip so far and what they expect now that they are about start their trip on the prairie.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (4)5.3 write organized friendly letters, formal letters, thank you letters, and invitations in an appropriate format for a specific audience and purpose
        • (4)4.3 develop hypotheses based upon prior knowledge and information from text
    • Road Trip with Friends
      • You and your friend are going on a road trip.  Your road trip will not be nearly as long as the trip that the Donner Party is going on, but it will be a long and significant trip.  As a group, decide on 20 items you will need to bring.  After your group has decided, it will then be up to you to decide the 10 most important items from the list that your group decided on.  Write a a paragraph explaining why you chose the items on your list.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (4)5.6 write compositions with a main idea and supporting details
        • (4)6.3 generate ideas for writing through discussions and individual activities such as brainstorming and clustering
  • Mathematics
    • Time to Trade
      • Chapter IV talks about how some Indian and Mexican traders were there at Independence being outfitted.  We are going to take a break from being westward travelers for a brief moment and become Indian traders.  We are going into town with our catch and see what we can fetch for our wares.  Students will be given a list of items that the have to trade as well as a list of what items are worth to the stores in town.  Students will have to calculate what their wares are worth.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (4)3.7 determine totals for monetary amounts in practical situations
        • (4)3.8 use money notation to add and subtract given monetary amounts
    • Bulging at the Seams
      • There were only so much room in the wagons.  Also, if the wagons got too heavy, they would not be able to easily make their way up the mountains that they party would have to cross.  In this exercise, students are separated into groups.  The groups are given random items.  Each group must guess the weight each item and decide which items they can carry without going over a predetermined weight limit.  After each group has estimated what their cargo weighs, they them weigh each item and total the weights to see how close they got to getting it right. (Can also be used with volume.)
      • Standards Addressed
        • (4)3.1 estimate and convert units of measure for length, area, and weight within the same measurement system (customary and metric)
        • (4)3.5 measure length, area, temperature, and weight to a required degree of accuracy in customary and metric systems
  • Social Studies
    • 7,000 Wagons
      • The people at Independence, MO believed that "nigh onto seven thousand wagons" were going west in 1846.  That is a lot of people and things that are making their way to another part of the country.  Earlier in the book study, reasons why settlers were moving west was discussed by the class.  In this activity, students are asked if their family has ever moved, the farthest they have moved, and how they moved their belongings.  Students can also be asked the reason for their family moving (although I would caution when asking this question because in my experience, some students gave an all too honest answer (e.g.; lost their and moved in with grandparents, divorce, parent went to jail, etc ...) and found themselves embarrassed.)
      • Standards Addressed
        • (4)3.23 list reasons why people move to or from a particular place
        • (4)3.24 describe changes in how people move from place to another
    • Google Earth, Day
      • April 22nd is Earth Day.  Granted, the first Earth Day wasn't until 1970, but if Earth Day would have been around in 1846, then the Donner Party would have been on the road to Independence on Earth Day.  In this activity, students will use Google Earth (a free download for both Mac and PC) to locate key locations that were mentioned in the chapter as well as some of the other locations that are required by Nevada Standards.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (4)3.3 gather geographic information from electronic sources
        • (4)3.9 locate and name the major mountains, rivers, and lakes on a map of the United States (e.g., Sierras, Rockies, Appalachians; the Columbia, Colorado, Missouri, Rio Grande, Mississippi, and Ohio rivers; and the Great Salt Lake and Great Lakes)
  • Science
    • Horsepower on the Trail
      • In an earlier assignment, we tried to estimate the amount of items that we can bring with us on the trail.  The reason that we have a weight limit is because our oxen can only carry so much.  In this activity, students will need adjustable inclined planes, flat carts on wheels, and weights and a spring scale.  Students will measure the weight of the carts on the incline at different angles of the incline as well as with different weights on the carts.  Students will be provided with the information about gravity as a force and asked to calculate the amount of "oxenpower" that will be required to pull the wagon over the mountains at different angles and different weights.
      • Standards Addressed
        • P8A Students understand that position and motion of an object result from the net effect of the different forces acting on it.
        • P12A Students understand the interactions between force and motion
    • A Rose By Any Other Name is Still a Rose
      • Whether we are called Indians or Whites, we are still people.  Indeed, not all people look the same.  But the differences between people make each of us unique.  The chapter talks about how even the Indians have distinct appearances.  In this activity, students will be randomly separated into groups of 3.  Each group will create a three-circle Venn Diagram that describes the group that they are in.  The Venn Diagrams will include where they were born (works pretty well in Vegas), their appearances (neutral descriptions only, "ugly" and "smelly" is not allowed), and preferences.
      • Standards Addressed
        • L2C Students understand that living things live in different places
        • (4)4.2 observe and describe variations among individuals within the human population
Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

Independence, MO is of great significance to the pioneers that headed west into Oregon and California.  At the time of the Donner Party, Independence was the last town on the frontier.  This meant that this was the last good chance for those heading west to get supplies that they needed for their trip.
Independence, MO was also a major stop on the Santa Fe Trail, a trail that was used in the invasion of Mexico, as well as a major commercial route connecting Santa Fe (then a part of Mexico) and the United States.
All of Chapter IV in Patty Reed's Doll takes place in Independence, MO while the Donner Party is picking up supplies and information.

Additional Resources


Robert said...

You had some really great activities, especially those integrating math and science. I thought your activity "Bulging at the Seams" would be ideal for my students. Students at this age have such a hard time estimating weights (and lengths)and this would be a good activity for giving the students experiences estimating objects and then actually weighing those objects. It would be fun to have a commercial grade scale to weigh some real pieces of furniture, but that would be a bit impractical.

I also liked the idea behind "7,000 Wagons", but as you said, it is an activity that you would have to be careful with. I would suggest that maybe small teams of students could interview some of the teachers in the school and ask them why they moved to Nevada.

AIMS (Activities Integrating Math and Science) has some activities in their book "Machine Shop" that would make good extensions to your activity "Horsepower on the Trail". Their activities are designed for students in 5th grade - 8th grade, so they would be a little beyond the typical 4th grade student, but could be adapted for use.

teach14 said...

I really ejoyed reading all the different activities you planned for your students, I especially enjoyed the way you related something from today (Earth Day) to the past and how students can use Google Earth to help complete this assignment. You have fun things the students would like to do.

I also enjoyed the part about the traders (Indians and Mexicans) but you could also extend this to writing by having the students compare and contrast these traders to the mountain men and trappers, then the students can write aboiut it. This would be a good way to incorporate Thinking Maps. I would also think about incorporating more computer work into your assignments, but overall, I plan I using some your your ideas, especially "7,000 Wagons"

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

Gotta love those simulation activities! What about combining the simulations with a full-day pioneering event?

Though many teachers suggested ideas relating to the weight wagons could handle, this is the first I've seen about estimating item weights. What a terrific idea!

To help with the personal issues that might evolve during the 7,000 wagons lesson, invite the counselor to attend class that day. That way, the counselor can be on-hand to help you through any sensitive issues and will be prepared if any students need further one-on-one treatment.

Hey - maybe there's a java applet that allows students to figure out exactly how much weight a wagon could pull... or, perhaps you could make one?????