Oregon Trail

Area 2: Early Growth of the United States (1800-1850s) 
Question:  Why do peoples and societies explore, relocate, and settle frontiers?

‘Breaking Up Camp at Sunrise,’ Alfred Jacob Miller. One of about 200 pictures Miller made on the trail in the summer of 1837. Walters Art Museum.

Lesson Plan Developed By 
Michael Redman, St. Stephens Indian School, St. Stephens, Wyo.

Grade Level 

Content Area(s) 
Social Studies 

Learning Objective(s)

  1. Students will gain a fuller understanding of the geography of the Oregon Trail and the hardships and dangers faced by its early travelers.
  2. Students will gain a fuller understanding of how the trail brought European Americans into the North American West.
  3. Students will come to understand the trail’s various routes and uses across what became Wyoming, including the Oregon Trail, the California Trail and the Mormon Trail.
  4. Students will consider larger questions: What difference did the trail make in how the United States grew in the 1800s? Why did people make the journey?

Wyoming Social Studies Standards, with 2018 Additions

Click here to see a spreadsheet aligning Wyoming State Social Studies and Common Core Standards for this and other digital toolkits of Wyoming History.

We will update the standards spreadsheet as more lesson plans are developed.

One 90-Minute class period or 
two 45-minute class periods

Materials Required 
Trails West, National Geographic. 
Oregon Trail interactive map, WyoHistory.org.

Count diphtheria, dysentery, drowning, accident, and exhaustion as some of the dangers along the Oregon Trail, Britannica.com.

Oregon Trail, History.com. 
Trails Across Wyoming: The Oregon, Mormon Pioneer and California Routes

Lesson Plan


  • 5 minutes: Doorbell question-what comes to mind when you hear the words “Oregon Trail”?

Step by step directions

  • 45 minutes: Students will study the two maps, read the two articles and watch the short Britannica.com video.
  • 10 minutes: Define 8 vocabulary words: missionaries, Mormon trail, settlers, mule train, survive, Manifest Destiny, Christianity, emigrant.
  • 10 minutes: students will create/write their own complete sentences using 5 vocabulary words.
  • 10 minutes: Students will have a 10 minute discussion.


  • 5 minutes: Students will complete their KWL chart.
  • 5 minutes: Whole group discussion of what students have learned.