Social Studies can be a hard subject to teach. Not many kiddos just LOVE learning about history, and our new TN standards are HARD...good but HARD! :) So, I have been adding as many simulations as possible to our learning curriculum.
A huge shout out goes to the TPT seller The Sweetest Thing for her massive unit on Westward Expansion. This activity came from a part of her unit. If you teach 4th/5th grade SS then you want to own this bundle!
The students had spent a lot of time before this unit discussing the WHY of Westward Expansion. Why did we move west? What were some causes for our expansion? And so on. After they had a good understanding of the "why", we moved on to the "how". There is an amazing History Channel documentary out there that discusses the Transcontinental Railroad beautifully. I highly recommend purchasing this DVD to go with it. It really helped my students with comprehending just how big of a deal this railroad was and how difficult it was to build it.
We had a blast! I brought in a train whistle, wore a conductor hat, bought too many marshmallows, and just had a crazy good time.
The students were assigned to a railroad and had to brainstorm how to build the railroad quickly.
Next year, I am going CRAZY on the mountain ranges. I played it too safe this year. :) Watch out next year!
Overall, the kiddos did a great job. Being able to learn about why the railroad was needed and how it was going to impact Westward Expansion was assisted by creating this simulation in class!
Check back soon for part 2 where I share how we brought the Gold Rush to our classroom!