Third Graders in Tahoe Learn About the Donner Party, First Hand
If the Donner Party had been equipped with sturdier covered wagons, would more of them have survived their infamous journey over Donner Summit in the winter of 1847? And how would you build a stronger wagon? The Tamarack crew had a chance to answer these questions during their first semester learning expedition, an in-depth study of westward expansion during the pioneer days. They looked into local events, people, and innovations during this time period. Drawing from historical and community resources, students studied the ways in which the pioneer period left its mark on Truckee.
As a component of the learning expedition, students were tasked to research, write, and perform Chautauquas in front of a live audience of parents and staff. Their challenge: Become a character from the pioneer movement. Costumes, accents, and props helped bring the personalities to life. Students researched members of the Donner Party and the subsequent events of their perilous struggle on Donner Summit. In STEAM lab, they recreated aspects of covered wagons to be better suited to the demands of the trail.
In the end, students gained a deeper knowledge about human experiences throughout that time period and developed a true sense of respect for our early settlers. Through the Chautauqua presentations, the Tamarack crew went back in time and experienced westward expansion first hand.