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Westward Ho!: An Activity Guide to the Wild West

Westward Ho!: An Activity Guide to the Wild West

by Laurie Carlson

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Take your students on any number of learning journeys: join Lewis and Clark on an expedition; journey into the woods with fur traders; or ride a wagon train to the Oregon Territory as you learn how the quest for gold led to a feverish migration. Experience the excitement of resettlement following the Homestead Act, and ride off to a roundup during the cowboy era. Your


Take your students on any number of learning journeys: join Lewis and Clark on an expedition; journey into the woods with fur traders; or ride a wagon train to the Oregon Territory as you learn how the quest for gold led to a feverish migration. Experience the excitement of resettlement following the Homestead Act, and ride off to a roundup during the cowboy era. Your students will explore the West with activities such as sewing a sunbonnet, panning for gold, cooking flapjacks, singing cowboy songs, and more. Helpful illustrations are included to explain project steps.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-This unique book brings to life the days of the Old West. Crafts, recipes, songs, and games teamed with an engaging text will have young readers convinced that they're just having fun. The book is organized by the major waves of western movement, from the early explorers in 1804 to the trail drives of the 1880s. Carlson's clear and concise writing includes amusing stories and bits of trivia that will keep kids interested. Each chapter is packed with projects that will give them a taste of daily life. Students might construct field books like those used by Lewis and Clark, or they might make root beer like the settlers. Each activity includes easy-to-follow instructions and informative line drawings. A book that will be heavily used by teachers in the classroom and by children at home.-Paula A. Kiely, Milwaukee Public Library, WI
From the Publisher

“Crafts, recipes, songs, and games teamed with an engaging text will have young readers convinced that they’re just having fun.”  —School Library Journal

Product Details

Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
A Kid's Guide Series
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
6 MB
Age Range:
5 - 11 Years

Read an Excerpt

Westward Ho!

An Activity Guide to the Wild West

By Laurie Carlson

Chicago Review Press Incorporated

Copyright © 1996 Laurie Carlson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-56976-798-6


Early History of the West

What would you do if your parents told you that your family was going to leave your home behind and walk 2,000 miles through searing deserts and over mile-high mountains? That they were only taking food, blankets, and a few changes of clothing? That the trip would take almost a year? That vicious wild animals and blizzards, poisoned water, and starvation would all be possible? What if they added that they didn't even have a map to where you would be going? Whew! Now you know how someone like you might have felt in the 1800s, when people began heading into the American West.

Two hundred years ago most people thought the West was as far away as the moon. Only a few had been to the West and their tales of vast deserts, empty plains, soaring mountains, and hot water geysers seemed unbelievable. People said the land was worthless, the North American Indians were fierce, and grizzly bears were everywhere. Few people thought it would be an interesting place to visit, let alone a place to live. And few could go even if they wanted.

The western part of North America belonged to foreign countries. Spain owned what is now most of Texas and New Mexico, half of Colorado, all of Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California. Britain controlled the Oregon Country — now Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and part of Montana. Russia owned Alaska; and Hawaii was an independent nation, called the Sandwich Islands. To travel to any of these territories required a passport and special permission of the U.S. and territorial governments.

Maybe the state where you live was once part of a foreign empire. If history had gone differently, you might be speaking a very different language today!

There were native people already living in the West, and when the first settlers came to their lands they were welcomed. North American Indians looked forward to trading goods, selling horses, and learning new things from the newcomers. But so many people moved into the West so quickly that the Indians' lives were changed forever. The settlers took up the land and farmed or fenced it. They killed the buffalo and wild animals for food or skins. The Indians became angry and unhappy. They moved farther west, too, to get away from the masses of newcomers. Tribes fought with each other over land, as the Sioux left Minnesota and the Blackfeet, who had been called Algonquian, moved from the East. Everyone fought over the land, but that didn't stop them from going west.

Americans went to the West looking for things they couldn't find in the growing cities of the East, like land, fresh air, and clean water. They hated working long hours in factories for only a dollar or two a week. Many people fled starvation or lives of servitude in Europe to settle in the West. After the Civil War many people left the South, including many freed slaves. People wanted to own land of their own, hoped to get rich, or just looked for adventure. A few people found that the West wasn't what they had expected and went back, but most stayed, and built towns and villages, schools and churches, and tried to make it as much like the place they had left as they could.

Here Comes the Horse!

Things were very different in western North America long ago. Native North Americans had lived on the plains and deserts of the West for 20,000 years. They lived on the land, planting small gardens, and hunting, fishing, or gathering what they needed. They traveled to trade with others who did the same thing. Then one day, a strange animal arrived that changed their lives forever — the horse.

In 1519, eleven stallions and five mares came ashore from a Spanish ship off the coast of what is now Mexico. Before that arrival, no horses had lived in North or South America since prehistoric times, when a small horse called eohippus roamed among the dinosaurs.

Each year the Spanish herds in the New World grew, and horses spread out across the continent. Some were sold, others stolen. Some escaped the herds and ran wild. When the Native North Americans first saw horses, they couldn't believe their eyes. They had never seen an animal like it before. They had to think of a name for the strange-looking creature. At first they called them god dogs or elk dogs. Some wanted to butcher and eat the animal; others were afraid of it. It wasn't long though before the Indians tamed the horses they caught and learned to ride swiftly across the vast plains. Indians made ropes of grass, hair, or buckskin. They rode without saddles, guiding the horse with the pressure of their knees and by speaking softly to it.

The arrival of the horse was exciting and important. It changed the way the Native North Americans lived in many ways. Before the horses arrived, the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Dakota Sioux had been farming in small villages. After the Indians acquired horses, they began hunting the huge buffalo herds and traveling in tepee camps across the plains.

With horses, North American tribes could move swiftly and easily. They began to travel farther, raiding other tribes and stealing horses from them. This caused war, something that hadn't been as common before the horse arrived. Men became warriors, not hunters and farmers. Women worked harder than ever, tanning the hides and preserving all the food that buffalo hunters, mounted on horses rather than on foot, now brought to camp.

Soon many tribes had hundreds of horses, people began to count their wealth in horses, and warriors became more important. The simple life of the farm villages had changed forever.

How High?



* North American Indian horses were small, standing about 14 hands tall. A horse is measured in hands, a hand being 4 inches. To measure a horse you start at the ground, and go up to the shoulder.

How many hands tall are you? Have someone mark your height in inches on a wall with a pencil, then measure it and divide by 4.

Horse Trading Game

Make up a simple card game to help learn the different colors and names of horse breeds.


Index cards, cut to playing card size
Crayons, markers, and pens Scissors
Books and magazines with colored photographs of horses

* Trace the outline of a horse, like the one shown here. Cut it out and use it as a template or pattern. Trace around the template to make a horse outline on half of the cards. Color in the horse outlines to match the natural colors of horses. (See the list on the following page for assistance.) Write the name of the breed of horse on a separate card. When you are finished, you should have a stack of cards with horses colored on them, and a matching stack of cards with names of the horse markings.

To play, 2 players shuffle the cards, then deal out an uneven number (3 or 5) to each player. Put the rest of the cards in a stack face down on the table. Look over the cards in your hand. If you have a picture of a horse and a breed name that match, this makes a pair. These pairs can be put in a pile beside you. If you make a pair, select the next 2 cards on the stack and add them to your hand. If you can't make a pair, ask the other player for a card you need to make a pair. If she has the card, she gives it to you, and takes another from the top of the stack. If she doesn't have it, you must draw 1 card from the top of the stack, and put a card you don't want at the bottom of the stack. Then it's her turn. Continue playing, making pairs, and discarding cards until the cards are gone. Count up the cards you have in your pairs stack, and see who ends up with the most horses.

Horse Colors and Markings

albino white with blue eyes

Appaloosa spotted rump

bay reddish brown with black mane and tail

buckskin beige with black mane and tail

chestnut bronze or coppery

dappled spotted all over

dun beige with beige mane and tail

grulla bluish-gray

paint white and colored (brown or reddish) areas

palomino light tan or golden with ivory mane and tail

piebald black and white

pinto colors in large patches

roan bay, chestnut, or sorrel sprinkled with gray or white

sabino light red or roan with a white belly

skewbald patches of white over any color except black

sorrel chestnut or brown

Trail Blazers: Lewis and Clark

In 1803, President Jefferson boldly offered to buy the city of New Orleans from France. Napoleon, Emperor of France, offered to sell him all of Louisiana instead! To pay war debts in Europe, Napoleon sold a huge chunk of land known as Louisiana to the United States for fifteen million dollars. Considering that, at the time, Louisiana included all or part of present day Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Louisiana, this was quite a bargain. With a stroke of the pen, the United States doubled in size with the Louisiana Purchase!

President Jefferson was excited about the Louisiana Purchase, and immediately sent a group of explorers to check out what America had bought. Young Captain Meriwether Lewis was chosen to lead a Corps of Discovery to inspect the land. He selected Lieutenant William Clark to go with him. Together, they quickly began training a small group of men to travel into the western regions. The party was comprised of thirty men, a North American Indian interpreter, Clark's black slave, and Lewis's dog Scannon.

The Corps set out on foot wearing boots that were soon worn through and so the explorers replaced them with double-soled moccasins traded from the North American Indians. They walked, traded horses with the Indians along the way, or rode small boats on the trip. The explorers took a large supply of gifts for the Indians they were certain to meet along the way. These gifts included beads, shirts, handkerchiefs, mirrors, bells, needles, thimbles, ribbons, kettles, and brass curtain rings that the Indians could wear on their fingers. They also took peace medals with the image of President Jefferson on one side and two hands clasped in friendship on the back.

Equipment they took along included a microscope, a collapsible canoe Lewis had invented, and portable soup. Portable soup was made by drying thick broth into a brick which could be carried while traveling. With some water and a few vegetables or roots, the mixture made a healthy hot meal.

Portable Soup

Bouillon cubes are made from dried broth, much like Captain Lewis's portable soup.


6 bouillon cubes, beef or chicken
3 cups water
2 cans or 1 package frozen mixed vegetables



* (Adult help suggested.)

Heat the water. Add the bouillon cubes, stirring until the cubes dissolve. Stir in the vegetables and heat a few minutes if using canned vegetables. If using frozen vegetables, let the soup simmer following the package directions for cooking the vegetables. Enjoy with crackers!

Early Attempts to Go West

Lewis and Clark were not the first Easterners to try reaching the Pacific Ocean over land. Before Thomas Jefferson became president, he sent an adventurer named John Ledyard on a wild trek across Europe and Asia in a plan to walk overland, cross the Bering Sea in the arctic, and then come east from the Pacific, finally floating by boat down the Missouri River to St. Louis. Ledyard's secret trip was stopped by Catherine the Great, ruler of Russia. When her troops discovered him, he had already walked three thousand miles across Siberia. They escorted him back to Poland.

Jefferson then hired another man to explore the western part of North America, but when he was discovered to be a spy for the French, the expedition was quickly stopped.

When Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery set out, no one knew how far it was to the Pacific Ocean. There were stories of unusual creatures living in the unknown region. Some said there were tribes of man-hating, arrow-shooting, giant women. Others told of devils that looked like people, who were only eighteen inches tall. Other reports said there was a mountain made entirely of salt and fields where gold nuggets lay like walnuts. At one time, people thought the area that's now California was a huge island. But nothing frightened the members of the Corps. They were eager to go into the unknown.

The men took along many blank books to use as journals and diaries. They wrote about everything they saw. They drew sketches of plants, animals, and the Native North Americans they encountered. They drew maps of the country as they went through it. They gathered samples of plants and rocks to take back east for study. They were looking at everything, taking the information back to the people of the United States.

Field Book

Captain Lewis's most valuable item on the trip was his field book. It was bound in elk skin and stored in a tin box to keep it dry. He drew sketches of plants and animals he discovered in the West to take back for scientists to study.

Cover a notebook to create your own field book. Use it to sketch outdoors or just to draw in.

Lay the notebook on the chamois. Trace around it, adding 3 inches at the sides.


Unlined notebook
Chamois (purchase from auto supply section of supermarket)
Brown embroidery thread or thin yarn
Hand sewing needle with large eye for the yarn
Colored pens or markers

* Spread the chamois flat on a table. Open the notebook and lay it on top of the chamois. Use a pencil to draw a line around the notebook. Then add 3 inches to the right and left sides of the notebook and draw another line. Cut the chamois along this second line. Fold the sides of the chamois in and stitch the edges of this flap in place by using a stitch called the blanket stitch. Continue across the top to stitch down the other side. Knot and clip the thread, tucking the ends inside the cover. Stitch the same way across the bottom. Slip the covers of the notebook inside the chamois cover. If you want to decorate this book cover, use colored pens or markers. Lewis and Clark wrote with dark brown ink.

Fold the ends in 3 inches and stitch across the top and bottom edges.

blanket stitch


The Corps kept a set of small journals bound in red goatskin. They were small enough to carry in a pocket. Lewis, Clark, and four other men on the trip took notes about each day's travel, wrote down North American Indian words, and kept track of the weather. They noted phases of the moon, what plants were in bloom, and anything else of interest. They copied each other's notes frequently in case the information was damaged or lost. They stored the journals in tin boxes.

Cover a notebook to use as a journal for yourself.

Trace around the notebook.


Red construction paper
Small notebook
White glue
Gold pen

* Open the notebook and lay it on top of the red paper. Trace a line around the notebook edges. Then draw another line, about 2 inches from the notebook. Cut along the outer line. Clip the corners and sides to the inner line like the drawing. Fold the edges in around the notebook. Close the notebook and crease the edges securely to shape the cover to fit the notebook. Open and close the notebook a few times to be sure it isn't too tight. Open it again and spread glue along the edges of the notebook that will be covered by the red paper. Smooth it down around the edges of the notebook cover. For a fancy look, use a gold pen to write your name on the cover.

Fold it around the notebook and glue to the cover.

Draw a line 2 inches outside the tracing. Cut on that line. Cut the corners and clip to the center.


A Shoshone girl, about fifteen years old, traveled with the Corps of Discovery. She went with her husband, a French fur trapper Lewis hired to act as an interpreter. The girl's name was Bird Woman or Sacajawea. She had been captured and taken from her people in the Rocky Mountains to live along the Missouri River with another North American Indian tribe. She did a lot of the interpreting once the Corps met with the mountain Indians. She walked or rode in the boats with her baby, Pomp, in a carrier on her back. When the Corps needed to trade with Indians for horses along the way, she did the dealing. Happily, she met her long-lost brother in the mountains. He had become a chief, and helped the Corps with horses and supplies.


It's easy to make yourself a pair of moccasins like the ones that North American Indians made for Lewis and Clark's men. Here's how:



3. Flip the pattern over to make both sides the same.

4. Cut it out.

5. Stitch the outer edges together.

6. Cut the center slit.


Typing paper
Chamois (purchase from auto supply section of a supermarket)
Sewing machine, or darning needle and strong thread, or fabric glue
Bright-colored fabric paints

* Adult help suggested.)

First make a pattern from your foot on the typing paper. Measure and draw a line ½-inch from the edge of the paper along the long side of the paper. Measure and draw another line 1 inch from the bottom edge of the paper. Place your foot on the paper so it just touches the lines you've drawn. Draw a curving line ½-inch away from your toes. Draw a straight line along the side of your foot, ½-inch away from your foot.

Cut out the pattern.

Lay the pattern on the chamois and trace around it with a pencil. Flip the paper pattern over and trace around it again, lining up 1 edge like the drawing. This will make a moccasin in 1 piece, with both a top and bottom.


Excerpted from Westward Ho! by Laurie Carlson. Copyright © 1996 Laurie Carlson. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Laurie Carlson is the author of Colonial Kids, More Than Moccasins, Green Thumbs, and Kids Camp! She has taught preschool, primary grades, and children’s art classes. She lives in Cheney, Washington.

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