Oregon Trail Ecosystems

Learning about Ecosystems along the Oregon Trail

Created by
Trish Alexander, Sarah Nepple, Amanda Collier

Curriculum Info  Meet the Authors

Microsoft Design Gallery

Activity Description

The pioneers traveled hundreds of miles through many different types of lands. They traveled through the Great Plains, forests, over mountains, and crossed rivers. Imagine all the different types of plants and animals they encountered!

What ecosystems did the pioneers encounter along their journey? What types of plants and animals did they find?  Were they the same the whole journey?

You will be investigating the different ecosystems found in the United States, and particularly focusing on the ecosystems the pioneers traveled through.

What is an ecosystem
An ecosystem is a community of living organisms, such as plants and animals, along with their environment, that is all interrelated.

Activity Directions

1. You and your partner will investigate the different ecosystems of the United States. Check out these two sites to help you find the information:

Once you have completed this table, you will print it off and use it to help you with Task #2.

2. The pioneers spent much of their journey traveling through grasslands, or the prairies.  Currently, there are not many prairies left in the U.S.  Click on the link to below to find out why. 

Answer the following question using at least 3 details from the text to support your answer:  

  • Explain in your own words why there are not many prairies left in the U.S.

Next, go underground and find out the different types of animals that live on the prairie.  After completing the underground adventure, write down three facts you learned about underground prairie dog towns.

3. Now that you are familiar with the different ecosystems and their characteristics, it's up to you to create a new animal that would survive along the Oregon Trail.

First, you will visit Switch Zoo. This is no ordinary zoo where you visit ordinary animals. Here, you will create a new animal.

Click on the Switch Zoo link to begin your journey.
Click on the animal list first to see all of the animals at the zoo. You will need to go back to this list to find out facts about your new animal to make sure it can survive in the ecosystems found along the Oregon Trail.

After creating your new animal, you will design a trading card showing it off.  

Your trading card should include the animal's vital statistics such as: habitat, diet, lifespan, predators, fun facts, and a picture.

4. After you have completed all of the above activities, test your knowledge and skills by restoring a prairie.  

Be sure to use the Field Guide to help you complete your mission.

Resources Required

1.Scoring GuideHandout
2.Ecosystems Data Table\"other\"
3.Trading Card TemplateHandout

Microsoft Office

40 minutes a day
for 5 days each week for 3 weeks.

Last updated: November 02 2005, 11:00 am
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