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Research Homework Kicks off in Opal 4

Research Homework Kicks off in Opal 4

An intention we have for social studies work in Opal 4 this year is to dive into the study of Oregon History.  With the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition behind us, we have moved forward almost a half a century to a time when European Americans made their way overland to Oregon Country on the Oregon Trail. 

We have also spent time this year getting to know a creek in the Arboretum.  The time we have spent playing in and with the water has led us to observe and wonder about other water sources in and around school, and in and around where we live.  We are starting to see the power water has — both creative and destructive power.

How do these two stories collide? 

This is the big question that will guide our inquiry work in Oregon History:

How has water formed and influenced the story of Oregon and the people who live here?

We spent some time in the last week reenacting the crossing of the Snake River on the Oregon Trail in 1853 and reflecting through the arts on how this encounter with water affected the lives of the people on the Trail.  We also wondered how it affected the water itself.

We will be growing our schema for Oregon and the stories that make up her history through some homework research projects.

The intention of this homework, beyond the benefits the research will bring to our learning community at school, is to strengthen the working relationship between parents and children in the educational process.  We hope that you enjoy your collaboration and make discoveries that lead to increased curiosity for both parents and children about history and about the research process.

Following is the first installment of the homework: 

We have had enough surprises on the Trail.  We want to do some reconnaissance to find out about what lies ahead before we move on.  We will also be faced with a big decision at The Dalles:  to pay the toll to float down the Columbia River, or to turn off and take the Barlow Toll Road.  We know now that choosing a water route comes with its own risks, so we need more information to help us make a safe, informed choice.

Oregon Trail Farewell Bend to O City

(If you click on the images on the blog, you can make them much larger.)

Each Opal 4 student is focusing on one section of the Oregon Trail between Farewell Bend to Oregon City.  Circle your section below:

  • The Oregon Trail from Farewell Bend to The Dalles
  • The Columbia Gorge from The Dalles to the Willamette River
  • The Barlow Road from The Dalles to Oregon City


This research will be focused on geography:

  • Will there be bodies of water?
  • Will you see hills and mountains or will it be flat?
  • Is it forested?  If not, what types of vegetation might be there?
  • At what elevation will you be (or in the case of the Gorge, will there be in the land that surrounds the river)?

Today in class we looked at maps of Oregon and used materials to start to envision what might be there.  In class next week we will be working more on map reading skills and we will be reading accounts of emigrants who chose took each of these routes to add to our schema.

I am not expecting that students produce anything at home that will need to be turned in.  However, your student should be prepared to share their findings with classmates.  They will be working together through the arts to visually demonstrate what they have learned.  Some students will find that after they do some research, they will just be able to look at a hard copy of a map and describe the geography that is there.  Others might want to take brief notes to remind them of land and water formations in their locale. 

We are thinking you will do most of your home research online.  Here are some potential resources:

Thank you for supporting your students with this important work.  Please contact me if I can support you in any way.