Kids will have fun learning about history with this fun, hands on pony express lesson for kids that includes a clever activities like panning for gold, transcontinental railroad craft, free worksheets, book recommendations,and so much more!
This is our 3rd and final week of our Westward Expansion Unit. This fun, hands on history unit is filled with lots of creative ideas for teaching kids about american history from 1783-1898 including book recommendations, clever kids activities, and FREE printables.
Gold Rush, Ghost Towns, Transcontinental Railroad and Westward Expansion Books
Pony Express Lesson
We started out by learning about the Pony Express (see books above) and how it carried mail to the west coast during a crucial time in American History – right before the Civil War. It cost $5 for 1/2 an ounce so it wasn’t cheap! Mail took about 10 1/2 days to get from Missouri to California. With the expansion of telegraph lines, the Pony Express was no longer an effective means for delivering mail. The Pony Express was only used for 18 months.
We also were able to take a fieldtrip to see an original Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, NE. I love that homeschooling allows us to take extended fieldtrips off peak season when crowds and prices are down!
Notebooking on Westward Expansion Unit
We drew pictures and wrote the last couple pages to his Westward Expansion Book (this is a FREE printable included in Westward Expansion). I may be a little partial, but I thought his drawing came out AMAZINGLY well for a 1st grader!! I am really impressed with the Draw Write Now series.
Panning for Gold Activity for Kids
First we learning about the discover of gold by James Marshall on January 24, 1848 in California. We read how people flocked to California anyway they could (land, seas, or river) to try to get a share of the finds. Then we went panning for gold ourselves! I used the brown rice & gold fusion beads from our sensory box and dumped them in our pool. I added some water so they could feel like they were panning in a river/stream too! It had a nice side effect – the brown rice made the water cloudy – even better!! The kids used a dish to scope up the contents and try to sort through the rice (representing rocks/gravel) to find the gold. They had SO much fun!
The 1st Transcontinental Railroad for Kids
We also learned how the railroad expanded between 1863-1869 to connect the Eastern United States with the west to form the First Transcontinental Railroad. Once the railroad was completed, it slowly ended the more hazardous stagecoach and wagon caravans. The telegraph lines were actually laid on the railroad right of way as the track was being laid.
Westward Expansion Unit:
- Westward Expansion #1
- Westward Expansion #2
- Westward Expansion #3
- FREE Wild West MEGA Pack (70 pages for kids 2-8 years old)
- Oregon Train Skip Counting File Folder Game
- Westward Themed Sensory Bin
- Geography is Fun with a Salt Dough Map