Westward Expansion Unit Study

This pioneer/westward expansion unit plan includes a plan of study, a living literature list and ideas/examples of project-based learning.

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Westward Expansion Unit Study

Our time spent learning about pioneers and the Westward Expansion was so full, fun and meaningful. As with most of our unit studies, this one was very literature-rich and included a healthy portion of project-based learning.

What Did We Learn?

I tried to pulled together a unit plan that was as thorough and chronological as possible. While there might be a few holes here or there, or even some overlap, I felt like my upper elementary and middle school children soaked in a great deal of understanding about the time period.

The person or event listed in bold was the focus, while the following events or people were covered with lesser importance.

Daniel Boone – pioneer, frontier boundaries after Revolutionary War, Wilderness Road, Northwest Ordinance

Thomas Jefferson – Louisiana Purchase

Lewis and Clark – Northwest Passage, plants and animals discovered (nature journals), geographic barriers, cartography, map of Native American tribes across N. America

Sacagawea – Conestoga wagons, Monroe Doctrine, fur trade, Oregon Fever

War of 1812 – America & Great Britain, disagreement over shipping & trade on seas – Embargo Act, Henry Clay, fought in America & Canada, Star Spangled Banner, Treaty of Ghent

Jedediah Smith – Oregon Trail, Santa Fe Trail

Davy Crockett – prairie schooner, Jason Lee, Independence Rock

Trail of Tears – Indian Removal Act, Andrew Jackson, Cherokee history

Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) – six states created from 1816-1821, wagon groupings, Pony Express

The Battle of the Alamo

Oklahoma Land Run

Chisholm Trail and Cowboys – Buffalo Bill, Ben Holladay, Annie Oakley, Wild Bill Hickok

How We Ordered Our Unit Study Work

Each day looked somewhat similar to the next, making sure to include some of each of the following.

  • Reading for research with notebooking
  • Timeline and map work
  • Reading for pleasure

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

Our Living Historical Fiction Selections

Living literature is always a huge part of our history units! Each of these books made a great contribution in our pioneer unit. Some were read as a family, some were assigned during individual reading time, and some were enjoyed on CD in the car.

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

Some Other Great Resources We Used

Louisiana Purchase Game

Easy Fun School Lewis and Clark Unit

Easy Fun School Santa Fe Trail Unit

Easy Fun School Gold Rush Unit


Project Week

After several weeks of fun activities, field trips and daily lessons, we finished off our Westward Expansion unit with a “project week”. At the end of most of our units, I prepare a list of projects for my children to choose and complete. Each project requires a fair amount of research and assimilating the information into a something that is presented to the family at the end of the week.

On Monday of our pioneer unit, I gave the kids a Westward Expansion Test and a project list (below), both of which were to be completed by Friday. I don’t always give tests, but I like to surprise them once in a while with new methods of assessment. As for the projects, Caleb had to choose three, while Mahayla had to choose four. Besides math, a little grammar and reading, projects were the only things on the schooling agenda during the week.

Project Choices:

Click on the image below to view and print the project list.

Westward Expansion Unit End-of-Study Project List

The Projects:

Here’s what the kids came up with. As usual, I’m not only pleased, but very surprised at their ingenuity and eagerness to do a good job. Give ‘em and inch and they’ll take a mile – that’s a good thing in this case!

Mahayla: 6th Grade

She couldn’t decide, so chose to complete five instead. (Yes, I know.)

1. A diorama and file folder report on Lewis and Clark shared many of the facts learned during the unit study.

2. A quilt square handicraft project showed her how difficult it must have been for the pioneers to sew almost everything themselves. She researched pioneer quilt squares on the internet and came up with this one named “Oh Suzanna”. She completed the entire quilt square from start to finish without any help from me. Not bad for a first timer, huh? My granny would be so proud!

3. She wrote a five page report on Sam Houston, who happens to be in our family line. She had to interview my mom who has done extensive genealogy research, and had to find information on her own.

4. She prepared a cowboy meal of chili and homemade crackers that was yummy!

Homemade Crackers

1 c flour

1 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

1/2 cube butter

1/4 c milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder and salt. Use fork to mash butter in until it looks like crumbs. Add milk and stir until dough forms a ball. Sprinkle flour on counter and roll dough into a flat rectangle with a rolling pin. Use a knife to cut the dough into small squares. Place onto a greased cookie sheet and poke holes into the crackers with a fork. Bake for 9 minutes. Makes about 24 crackers.

5. And she was Flying Sparrow in their original play entitled “Cowboy and Indian”. It was complete with five scenes, a playbill and a script!

Caleb: 3rd Grade

In his usual fashion, he chose projects that required lots of hands-on and little writing. That’s okay, though, because he was still required to give a presentation about the projects. Even with very little writing, the information he gleaned and presented was very good.

1. He made a model of the Lewis and Clark keelboat using several of the toys he has around the house.

2. He made a 2nd model of the corner watchtower from a fort that might have been set up along one of the trails west. He said he would have built the whole fort, but ran out of Lincoln Logs!

3. And he was Jeremiah (with a great country accent) in their play “Cowboy and Indian”. As you can see, the play ended rather sadly. Jeremiah and Flying Sparrow couldn’t find a better way to solve their conflict except through the use of guns. Maybe we watch too many Gunsmoke episodes on Sunday afternoons?


And that comes to the end of another fabulous unit study. We sure had fun, learned a ton and made lots of memories. I will never regret these moments spent teaching my children.

You might enjoy these pioneer lessons, too!



Amamos Español! Homeschool with Mango Languages

(I received a subscription to Mango Languages for free and was compensated for my time spent writing this review.  As always, my opinions are strictly my own.) Homeschool with Mango Languages Truth time.  I’ve not been the best about teaching foreign languages up to this point.  A little Spanish here, a little Latin there.  Even though my oldest took 2 years of Spanish (in which I was very hands-off) in high school using a book
More to read…

Slavery and Civil War Unit Study

Our history unit about slavery and the Civil War has been completed, and what a wonderfully rich unit it was! (This post contains affiliate links.) Slavery and Civil War Teaching Resources You might remember from my post about Planning a Large Unit Study, that I pick and choose the best ideas for our learning styles and learning objectives from many resources. While this particular study was mostly literature-based, there were some fabulous materials that provided
More to read…

10 FREE NaturExplorers Lessons

(This post contains links to my books.) What exactly is NaturExplorers? NaturExplorers studies are your go-to resource for both creative nature walks and science-based unit studies.  More than 20 nature topics are available that help you get outdoors for some serious (and seriously fun) learning in all seasons. Written with the 1st-8th grader in mind, it’s easy to include older and younger students with just a little tweaking of your expectations.  There are even a
More to read…

Around the USA Study

After our 1st grade trip Around the World last year, 2nd grade finds us touring our great country of the United States of America. (This post contains affiliate links.) Around the USA Study Our brief stops in each state will begin with living literature “tour guide(s)” who will introduce us to important historical and geographical highlights.  When appropriate, we’ll add some of the interesting people and events we learn about to our ongoing timeline.  And
More to read…

1 3 4 5 6 7 170