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Pioneer Life: Lesson for Kids

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Instructor: Angela Burke

Angela has fifteen years of teaching experience, primarily in Special Education and Gifted Education at the K-12 level. She has a B.A. in Elementary Education and Special Education, K-12. In addition, she has a M.A.Ed. in Special Education with an emphasis in Gifted, K-12. Angela has had several research and review articles published in education journals.

Explore pioneer life, how people known as pioneers lived as they moved west in the 1800s. Discover why people would leave civilization for the open spaces of the west, how they built homes, what they did to survive, and the challenges they faced. Updated: 12/27/2021

What Is a Pioneer?

Would you have the courage to pack up everything you own in a covered wagon and travel 2,000 miles across prairies, hills, and mountains while braving blazing heat, thunderstorms, blizzards, and possible attacks from Native Americans? If so, you have the adventurous heart of a pioneer. Pioneers are people who do things for the first time. American pioneers were the first people to explore and settle the western part of the United States.

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  • 0:04 What Is a Pioneer?
  • 0:29 Moving West
  • 0:57 Pioneer Life
  • 3:09 Lesson Summary
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Moving West

Have you ever been given something for free? What if it was land? Many pioneers left their homes in the east and traveled west because land was cheap and they wanted to be farmers. Some pioneers were shopkeepers, doctors, ministers, and veterinarians. The Oregon Trail was a famous trail pioneers followed in the 1840s as they ventured west toward Oregon. Many never made it to Oregon, but instead stopped along the trail to make their homes. Let's take a look at the life of the pioneers!

Pioneer Life

The American pioneer lived life much differently than we do today! Pioneers had to use the land and materials around them to survive. They also relied on help from their neighbors, even if they lived miles away!

If pioneers were lucky enough to settle along a river where there were trees, they could build a cabin. But in places surrounded by prairie, trees were not plentiful. Pioneers built sod-houses, which were homes constructed of the top layer of earth, including grass, dirt, and roots. Special plows cut sod bricks to make the walls of a home. Windows and a door were added if there was enough money. Because of the three-foot-thick walls, sod houses were warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. They had dirt floors and were usually one room.

Pioneers had stoves in their homes, but they didn't burn wood because there wasn't a lot of it. And coal was too expensive. What do you think they used? They used chips, which were droppings from cows or buffalo!

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