January 19, 2018

Experiencing the Oregon Trail

Our five Corbett intermediate classes participated in a reenactment of the Oregon Trail as the culminating activity for our Westward Expansion unit. Wagon groups were formed of five or six students each. Each group mixed up bread dough, which was baked by our wonderful kitchen staff. Groups converted Radio Flyers to Prairie Schooners, stitched covers for their wagons, and loaded up with some food.

Pioneers set off from Independence on Thursday afternoon, April 12th. Almost immediately, each group had to rope their wagon in order to negotiate Windlass Hill. Some groups were more successful than others! At the bottom of the hill, groups enjoyed a respite at Ash Hollow, and were allowed to wash up and refresh themselves. Back on the trail again, groups met some Mormons, who warned them of cholera ahead. Sure enough, our pioneers had to stop and assist in grave digging for some unfortunate emigrants. More travelers on the trail urged our groups to turn back, due to the difficulties ahead. Our intrepid travelers persevered, and were rewarded for their efforts, as many of them discovered gold!

The hardships were not over. Due to storms and a bridge washing out, the wagons had to ford the North Platte River. Everyone waded the river; luckily with no loss of life. Another hill faced our hardy pioneers. Once reaching the top, they each recorded their initials on Independence Rock, to prove that they made it that far and to encourage those traveling behind. Next came the opportunity to add to their supply of food. The woods were teeming with wild animals. Quite a few folks successfully hunted. Some reported that the stew made from their fresh game was delicious.

Many of our pioneers offered spare food to the poor souls that they next encountered on the trail. These folks, by the name of Donner, were starving and planned to take a shortcut to California. Other folks at Fort Hall also tried to convince our parties of the merits of California, but our valiant groups continued on the trail to Oregon. In the Blue Mountains, our travelers learned of the abundant forest resources and then were offered water and encouragement at the Whitman Mission. All groups traveled the Barlow Road around Mt. Hood, rather than facing the dangerous rapids of the Columbia River. Most of the pioneers paid a toll to Sam Barlow, but a few were either very persuasive or very pathetic, and passed the tollgate without charge.

Upon arriving in Oregon City, groups were met by a Native American, who shared insights into this wonderful new land. Pioneers then joined a quilting bee, made apple cider, dipped candles, and churned butter to spread on their own freshly baked bread. Then they enjoyed playing marbles, Jacob’s ladder, jacks, and assorted other games. The journey’s completion was celebrated with music and dance.
This experience was one our students will long remember. It was a special day, made possible through the help of not only dozens of parents and staff, but older students who volunteered to populate the trail and give advice to our travelers, teachers and students who rearranged their p.e. and recess activities so that we could monopolize the campus, and community members (some of whom graduated from Corbett decades ago) who donated their time and talents. Thank you everyone!
The Intermediate Team
Sue Handy, Victoria Hubler, Dacia Loeung, Andy Blanc, Abby Steichen, and Michelle Dawkins
Michelle Dawkins About Michelle Dawkins

My husband and I have lived in Corbett since 1983 and I have taught at Corbett Grade School since 1994. Chris and I loved having our children grow up in the community of Corbett. They both received a great education and made many life long friends while attending school here. Both Steph and Joe graduated from Corbett. Joe is a graduate of Oregon State University and Steph has graduated from Linfield College and completed her MBA at University of Tennessee. Chris and I are extremely proud of our children! Both are enjoying life and share our love of nature.

"If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in." ~Rachel Carson