Remember Oregon Trail? dysentery, cholera, broken wagon tongue… good times right?
Even after the 12 years I’ve been using the Oregon Trail (OT) Game in my seventh grade classroom it never ceases to amaze me how excited my students always get about such a simple game. A blogger referred to the Oregon Trail game as the only “good” educational game adding a quote by game reviewers Screwattack.com “Let’s face it. Educational Games suck…except Oregon trail.” (The_Light_Triton, 2008). If you are not familiar with Oregon Trail, first off: WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? second, check out this gamespot review of the classic 1985 version in less than 60 seconds: http://www.gamespot.com/the-oregon-trail-1985/videos/oregon-trail-video-feature-1-6154988/
Currently, I’m using OT v5 (2001) and I, like many of you, loved hunting on the MECC (1985) version I used to play as a kid, I wasn’t too concerned with all that extra stuff (history facts). With my veteran-student OT experience fresh in mind, I redesigned this single-user experience into a multi-user experience, so that we are all focused on one adventure and we all can talk about the common shared experience. The teachable moments are numerous! Collaboration, Interdependence, Consequences, Critical Thinking…. monumental attributes for Social Studies Class can be gleaned from thoughtful gaming integration!
Here’s how it’s done… Individuals are placed in to groups (drawn from a hat) and given directions specific to their tasks. These groups vote on decisions pertaining to their task. This allows the entire class to be focused on one unifying event, where all are involved. They compete against other Social Studies 4 classes for the coveted gold-star sticker award. For three days, students enter class excited, reviewing the posted National Geographic map to check on the progress of other classes. The eager students are anxious to get started on the day’s journey.
Give it a TRY!
THE GROUPS: In a class of 19 –
7 – Trail guides: vote on all trail decisions, a National Geographic map is available for them to study.
3 – Health care: decide on how to support the people/animal’s well-being via rest and medical treatment
3 – Supply masters: keep track of used and lost items due to calamity and recommend purchasing, trading, hunting, fishing, or gathering for more.
3 – Traders: try to get more supplies in towns, missions, forts, or on the trail by selling or bartering.
1 – Hunter: hunts while on the trail.
1 – Fisherman: fishes at lakes and rivers.
1 – Gatherer: selects appropriate fruits and veggies on the trail.
The_Light_Triton. “Oregon Trail (Video Game 1971) – IMDb.” The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). 11 May 2008. Web. 11 Mar. 2011. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0857332/>.