Covered Wagons Carry New Lessons for Merrimac Students

Covered Wagons Carry New Lessons for Merrimac Students photo

A crafty combination of durability and ingenuity steered students to success during a recent activity at Merrimac Elementary School focused on the westward expansion of the United States.

As part of the lesson that explained the historic 1803 expansion that followed the Louisiana Purchase, each fifth-grade class was challenged to design a miniature covered wagon that could traverse a simulation of the rough terrain that pioneers encountered on their journeys. Student groups were supplied with bottle caps, cardboard, straws and tinfoil to assemble a prairie schooner capable of protecting cargo simulated by blocks. 

The covered wagons were led over a canyon, mountains, plains and a river, all while being sprayed by water to represent rain. Following the initial tests, students had the opportunity to revise their designs and attempt to cross the treacherous terrain again. 

Through the covered wagon activity students learned a plethora of additional information, including the journey of Louis and Clark, the details of the Louisiana Purchase, the doctrine of manifest destiny and the countless challenges the pioneers faced.