California, Ho!

California, ho! The rush to California was a critical part of California's history, even before the discovery of gold.
Learning why and how pioneers traveled to California in the 1840's is always an exciting time. Thanks to Rick Morris at New Management, we end our unit with covered wagon races. Be sure to go to his website to download his very clear and explicit directions for how to make covered wagons out of a piece of cardboard and one sheet of printer paper. (And if you don't know Rick yet, he is a teaching GURU! All of his ideas are so helpful and teacher-friendly! Check him out!)
After making their covered wagons, we "raced" to California. Using string through the top of their wagons, students have to maneuver their wagons over the "prairie grasses" and across the Sierra Nevadas (plastic cups covered in butcher paper, taped onto cardboard). Some years,  they have to cross raging rivers also. They learn what a difficult and treacherous journey the trail to California is!

To see the determined (or frustrated) faces of the drivers was priceless! Some students found their technique (keeping the string taut & pulling gently & steadily). 
We raced in a bracket until there were three wagons left.
The big finale was a "race-off" to California against the other 4th grade class' top three drivers. Unfortunately, this year we did not win, but a rousing time was had by all!