It is really hard to transport students back in time to learn from their ancestors and their predecessors without a time machine. It is easy to give them lots of facts, dates, and names of famous people, but hard for these to remain with them as a resource for life. As XIS teachers, we try to show our students more than the facts and principles but also how the subject we teach can impact and strengthen them for life.
In order to make the knowledge more meaningful for our students we often create hands on projects. Kyle Choi said, “What I liked about the Westward Ho Project is that, unlike any other projects like making a PPT, making a poster, we made a wagon with what we got on the quiz and played a game with hard trails.” This not only gives the students the opportunity to learn with different media but also have real life projects to help them plan, organize, and solve their problems. For US History, there are many Oregon Trail games that help to make it fun while students plan their adventure. I really wanted to give the students the opportunity to be fully immersed within the adventure. The project took a lot of planning and organizing by myself and other XIS staff, but I think that it was well worth it.
The Westward Ho project expanded over 3 class periods for the students and challenged them with multiple skills and activities. The project started with a simple vocabulary test for the students, where their score provided the “money” to buy supplies and equipment. All students were given the opportunity to buy the same supplies, however, some supplies were on high demand and limited supply. With their supplies each student was responsible for building and packing his or her own wagon. The wagon, containing their supplies and avatar, was the game piece as they went through the trail. There were a couple of hands on physical challenges in the game with real life consequences. Paul Yao said, “I like how we need to build our own prairie schooner by buying supplies and combining them together. With all the supplies, we get to compete who gets to Pacific Ocean first, we loose supplies, restive on sicknesses or weather and go through the difficulties the people on the route did 150 years ago.” At the end of the game, each student was to build a homestead for the avatar using toothpicks that were cut from the “forest”. Once the home was built the adventure was complete.
After the students completed the game, I asked them to provide me with both positive and negative feedback about the game. Jenni Parrett “learned from this, that the actual journey that was made back then was definitely not easy. Its one thing to know it wasn’t easy and another to understand how hard it was for them.”
I also asked them to evaluate what they would do differently. I even gave the high school students and staff an opportunity to play the game and evaluate it. One of eighth grader, Ming Yang said, “This game is very good at teaching people how to make smart and wise choices in life because if you have a flaw choice, it could cause great harm to yourself.” Another eighth grader learned the importance of planning when Julie Lee said, “By doing the Westward Ho project, I learned that before I’m doing something, I have think and plan it really carefully so I can save my time. “ I personally took it as a complement when one of the tenth graders playing the game after school prioritized the game over basketball.