Build-it activities connect readers to the people who built their homes and communities on the frontier, enhancing this first-hand look at the history of the American West and pioneers. Readers will discover their own mapmaking skills while learning how and why people traveled west and will replicate the tough chore of building a house when creating a log cabin out of edible materials. Other projects that help kids better understand the hardships of life on the frontier include typesetting newspapers with alphabet pasta, making models of covered wagons and prairie bonnets, and making the quilts and candles that would have turned a house in the wilderness into a home.
Great Pioneer Projects You Can Build Yourself Built It Yourself series Author: Rachel Dickinson Age Group: 9-12 Table of Contents Introduction How It All Began Chapter 1: Mapping the Way Chapter 2: The Decision to Go West Chapter 3: Wagon Trains Chapter 4: Hardships on the Trail Chapter 5: Popular Routes Chapter 6: The Transcontinental Railroad Chapter 7: Building Homes Chapter 8: Frontier Farming and Food Chapter 9: At Home and at School Chapter 10: Fun and Holidays Chapter 11: Cowboys and Indians Chapter 12: Documenting the West Glossary Resources Index Description Build-it activities connect readers to the people who built their homes and communities on the frontier, enhancing this first-hand look at the history of the American West and pioneers. Readers will discover their own mapmaking skills while learning how and why people traveled west and will replicate the tough chore of building a house when creating a log cabin out of edible materials. Other projects that help kids better understand the hardships of life on the frontier include typesetting newspapers with alphabet pasta, making models of covered wagons and prairie bonnets, and making the quilts and candles that would have turned a house in the wilderness into a home. Excerpt The first year of life as a homesteader was very difficult. After making the long journey in a covered wagon pioneers were absolutely exhausted, but they still had a lot of work to do. There were no stores where pioneers could buy groceries or supplies, so whatever they needed, they had to find in nature or make for themselves. First the pioneers cleared an area of land and built a house of some kind. If pioneers decided to settle in the Northwest or California, in the first 3 years a pioneer would clear about 22 acres of woods for farmland. That work included cutting trees, clearing bushes and vines, and pulling the stumps. Clearing the land was so hard that pioneer families would often get together to do the work as a group, which they called a bee.Pioneer families tried to have their fields and farms ready for planting by the first spring after their arrival in the West. It was important to plant as soon as the ground dried out from the winter so that the crops could grow as large as possible. Pioneers often planted potatoes first because potatoes didn’t need a perfectly plowed field to grow. They could even plant potatoes around tree stumps that the farmer had not pulled out yet.Working in the fields was back-breaking work that began before sunup and lasted until sundown. To grow crops like wheat, barley, and corn, the farmer had to plow the fields. In some areas of the Great Plains this was virtually impossible without a steel plow. The sod was so thick with roots that it was difficult to churn up. Before the steel plow was widely available, settlers broke the sod any way they could—sometimes they even chopped the sod with an axe! During planting and harvesting time everyone in the family worked in the fields. At other times of the year, mothers and daughters did household chores like cooking, cleaning, making butter, mending, and sewing, and only the father and sons worked outdoors. After the crop seeds were planted, pioneers had to battle the birds who liked to eat them. It was usually the children’s job to try to keep the birds away by chasing them and yelling and screaming.Times of extreme dry weather, also known as drought, happened off and on periodically throughout the 1880s and 1890s. The crops withered in the field as the prairie soil turned to dust. Fierce winds whipped up dangerous dust storms. With so much dirt swirling in the air, sometimes the settlers couldn’t see to their barn from their houses. Pioneers found that the fine dust got into everything. It worked its way into houses, down chimneys, and through cracks in the walls. Another danger during dry weather was prairie fires, which were often started by lightning. They were impossible to control and everything a family owned could be turned to a pile of smoking ash in a matter of minutes. Then there were the grasshoppers and locusts that sometimes swarmed through the prairie. They ate everything in their path and left crops stripped of their leaves and seeds.Pioneers had to grow most of what they ate. Even if they didn’t have large farms, families planted big gardens and grew vegetables like beans, peas, squash, pumpkins, turnips, cabbage, potatoes, beets, and anything else they might like. They also planted apple or pear orchards so that they could have both fresh and dried fruit. Author Bio Rachel Dickinson Rachel Dickinson is a travel, nature, and science writer whose articles have been published in Audubon, The Christian Science Monitor, National Geographic Traveler, and USA Weekend. She is the author of Tools of the Ancient Romans, Tools of Navigation, and The Witch's Handbook.
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