Oregon Trail Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Chart a new path with your instruction on the Oregon Trail with the help of a Study.com video lesson. The included in-class mapping activity takes students on the journeys of the earliest settlers.

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain the significance of the Oregon Trail
  • identify the path of the Oregon Trail
  • describe the experiences of the earliest settlers of the Oregon Trail


1 to 1.5 hours


  • Photocopies of maps of North America
  • Colored markers, pencils or crayons

Curriculum Standards


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.


Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.


  • Begin by showing the Study.com video lesson The Oregon Trail: Westward Migration to the Pacific Ocean, pausing at 0:33.
  • Now pass out the maps to the students, one per student.
  • Ask students to identify Oregon on the map with a star. They can use the colored pencils or markers provided.
  • Play the video lesson again, pausing at 1:03.
  • Now have students trace the entire path of the Oregon Trail on their maps.
  • Play the reminder of the video lesson for the class.


  • In groups or individually, have students use the internet to conduct research on the earliest settlers who traveled along the Oregon Trail. They can explore the questions:
    • What was the journey like?
    • How did people travel?
    • What did they bring with them?
    • What drove people to make the journey?
    • How many actually made it?
    • What were the risks of traveling along the Oregon Trail?
  • Have students share their findings with the class.

Discussion Questions

  • What might the borders of our country look like today without the expansion that occurred along the Oregon Trail?
  • What happened to the Native American tribes that originally inhabited this land?


  • Have students research and report on the population changes along the Oregon Trail from 1811 through today. How has the pollution changed? Why?
  • Ask students to select one well-known story of an individual who traveled the Oregon Trail and summarize it for the class. What was this person's motivation? Were his or her dreams realized?

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