O Pioneers! Kids Recreate Oregon Trail Wagon Train

June 12, 2015 7:17am

Green Lake and Lower Woodland Park looked oddly like a “Little House on the Prairie episode” on Friday. If you were confused by passing bonnets and tiny covered wagons, there was a simple – yet very cool – explanation.

For Daniel Bagley Elementary‘s Oregon Trail unit, three blended grades 3/4/5 Montessori classes took on characters for a full-day wagon train Friday from Independence, MO (Bagley – Stone Way near 79th St. N) to Oregon City, OR (Woodland Park cooking shelters). In preparation, they had designed the menu, brought in supplies, created mini-Connestagas with canopies, and even written letters home in character. But they only knew part of the itinerary that teachers John Moore, Pamela Stackhouse and Dick Vonderlage – who have clearly been watching reality TV – had cooked up for them.

Each “family” of five had to load their wagon onto a parent-steered rowboat to cross the lake, repair it as needed and later push it up hill to the shelters in Woodland Park.  Dressed in costume, they lugged vittles in covered wagons, hiked around Green Lake, faced rainstorms (in the form of water cannons), friendly Native Americans (parents), equipment failure (repair lesson), and helped cook traditional recipes  followed by square-dancing and old-timey games at the Woodland Park Shelters. Signs along the way echoed the original pioneers’ journey.  Fate cards added to your character’s persona, and trading cards helped you augment your possessions.

Mules, Bison, Bears, Oh My

Adding to the atmosphere were the complement of parents willing to wear – and do – whatever it took to pull off the day. Bonnets, aprons, cowboy hats, and did we mention the animal heads?  For the “hunting,” despite the 85-degree heat, several parents donned furry costumes of bison, bear, and more, and allowed themselves to be whacked with balls, albeit soft ones.  Above and beyond. Huge parenting karma points there – should be enough to carry them through at least a couple years of adolescent angst.

Disclosure: our 11-year-old was in attendance, and wore pants for the first time in about 249 days. Looking back on the event, rather than being awash in appreciation for the day of living history, he was more relieved  – he’d thought it was going to be hours of mandatory square-dancing. My husband helped the kids cook “Red Flannel Hash,” which he reports as popular, beets notwithstanding.  At least it wasn’t the”Fart ‘N’ Dart Beans.”

What a great way to bring history alive while forging an unforgettable field trip. Thanks to the parents for sharing their pictures.


First steps


The North Platte River is flooded. What now?

Parents get in some cardio.

Parents get in some cardio.


Another bison bites the dust.

Crossing the pass  Credit: Veronica Neimeyer

Crossing the Blue Mountain Pass

Wagon fail.

Wagon fail.

Getting  "Fate Cards" - better hope you don't get cholera Credit: Veronica Neimeyer

Getting “Fate Cards”  – better hope you don’t get cholera


Square-dancing outside the cafeteria = actual fun

spring 2015 421

spring 2015 395

Some well-earned shut-eye.