The Oregon Trail Story Continues! More Trails, Treks + No Tech Needed!

PBCCS-Sign-300x119More good and fun news on the newest learning simulation game Oregon Trail. Guess where it came from? None other than some Oregon students and their creative teacher.

It’s a clear case of hands-on, heads-on learning at its best.

Once again we hear from Powell Butte Charter School in Oregon. We heard from them in a recent blog. Click here to read it again.

What’s truly amazing about these school kids and their teacher is that they don’t even need a computer or 1:1 mobile device to play Oregon Trail (OT). They can construct their own learning game.

Their grandparents may have played a game called Monopoly on a gameboard, and long before computers. These young students designed their own new board game and named after another famous learning game called “Oregon Trail.”

RE@L is all about using EdTech, so we also think it makes great sense for students to use their own board game and other tools that engage them in both powerful and non-technical ways.

In this trail-breaking expeditionary school, students research the pros and cons of the fabled cross-country journey in a covered wagon, pulled by an oxen team, heading west to gold, fame, and fortune.

jackieschoolvideoYou may remember our earlier guest blog on Powell Butte Charter School by Lead Teacher and 4th grade instructor, Jackie LaFrenz. She and her husband, Todd LaFrenz, who teaches in another expeditionary learning school nearby, told us in their previous blog about their passion for teaching and learning that leads to new student understandings.

IMG_0603Their schools offer: “… a joyful and creative educational experience where engaged students practice the skills they need to be effective citizens and stewards.” 

Here are Jackie’s students’ most recent examples of  what she calls “inquiry-based, experiential and hands-on learning; here are her comments:

“Prior to their playing their own game, modeled after the original computer game, Oregon Trail™, the students created their own pioneer family, they wrote a letter to friends and family saying their goodbyes and come visit us someday” messages.

IMG_0605IMG_0601Jackie adds: “They even made quilts to keep themselves warm on those early spring or late fall nights on the trail.

Their modified board game requires that they earn enough ‘wagon group points’ to keep progressing.”

Here are some photos of the projects made by the young student game-playing pioneers hard at work and having fun, too, all on their way to “Oregon or Bust!”

Student O.T. Projects Photo used with permission.

Photo used with permission.

Here, a proud student shows off her project work in the photo on the left.

Yes, There’s more to come. Our next blog will update you on their progress. Like all previous players, you can bet these young learners and their teacher are working hard on building a plan.

Stay tuned to their hands-on, heads-on, hearts-on project….and no computer needed! Just an old-fashioned, student-made “board game” that’s far, far from boring. Like the Powell Butte Charter School kids and their fine teacher, we believe the right tools are the best tools.

Another RE@L blog on this topic is soon forthcoming from Lead Teacher, Jackie LaFrenz. She will tell us some of the essential details of this lesson unit for all you brave teaching trekkers out there who’d like to try the trail yourselves.

Try it! You’ll have fun and so will your students!

Don’t miss Jackie’s “Rest of the Story” in our upcoming RE@L Blog sequel!


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Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.