Thank you for your interest in coming to the End of the Oregon Trail. Our focus is to give students interactive, hands-on experience, based on the Oregon Department of Education Content Standards. The group activities are designed to give in-depth educational introduction to the Oregon Trail experience. These activities are special programs separate from the general admission programming. Library Cultural Passes cannot be used for group programming.
We have taken the time to create new activities for school groups, which we are excited to now offer for the 2022-2023 school year!
Interested in coming, but can’t make it out to our location? Check out our long-distance Oregon Trail Experience now offered via Skype.
Interested in coming with a small group, home-school students or girl scouts troop? If you have fewer than 20 children in your group, another option is to come general public– many great activities, reservation and deposit not required.
We want your experience at the End of the Oregon Trail to be as one-of-a-kind as the group you are bringing. Create your own group program by choosing a presentation and your choice of 30-minute activities. Groups typically choose between 2 and 5 activities, depending on available time. For example, the standard presentation and two activities is one and a half hours, the standard presentation and three activities is two hours, and so on. You can also plan to eat lunch in our on-site picnic shelter and visit our gift shop.
Please note that larger groups may require a minimum number of activities so that they can be split up into smaller groups during the program.
Presentation: All packages include a presentation with a historically clothed interpreter because it’s a great place to start!
- Standard: In 30 minutes, your interpreter will orient your group with an interactive presentation that includes volunteers and props. This overview of the reasons pioneers traveled, the dangers they faced, and chores they did will prepare your group for the rest of your visit. Ask about customizing your presentation to better suit your group’s age or cover a specific topic.
- Wagon Master Choices: This 45-minute PowerPoint presentation covers all the same information, but in a choose-your-own-adventure format that allows students to vote on the hard choices pioneers faced on the Oregon Trail.
- Journey West: This presentation is 45 minutes long and takes place outside along our interpretive trail, which features oxen statues, wagons, and a replica of Independence Rock.
Candle Dipping & Butter Making: For almost every pioneer, candles and butter were an essential part of the overland journey. Students will also listen to a short presentation about the typical diet of pioneers before they make (and taste) their own hand-churned butter. Students will also learn about how daily tasks and chores were different without electricity, and then hand-dip their own candles. (Arrangements can be made for gluten allergies).
Heartstrings Music: Enjoy the musical presentation of Nancy and Rob Downie in “Heartstrings”. They play a variety of instruments from the Oregon Trail era including hammered dulcimer, fiddle, mountain dulcimer, Native American flute, acoustic bass, and banjo. Their 30-minute program includes a history of the songs and instruments and a sing-along musical performance (lyrics are provided) with familiar tunes such as “Camptown Races”, “Oh Susanna”, and more. Find out more about Heartstrings here.
*Advanced notice is required to book a Heartstrings performance.
Bison Expedition: This activity helps students explore the ecosystems that span across the Oregon Trail by introducing students to North America’s largest mammal: the bison. On our outdoor trail, “The Oregon Trail Experience,” students will collect buffalo chips, and receive hands-on education about the keystone species of the Great Plains. Your guide will discuss how different groups hunted and utilized the bison, and how over-hunting led to their near extinction.
Bound for Oregon: This 30-minute film traces the true stories of four pioneers making their way to Oregon. Elizabeth Dixon Smith, John Minto, Lucy Henderson, and Joel Palmer came from different backgrounds, and were motivated by different goals, but all faced the hardships and the joys of the Trail. Hear their experiences in their own words – taken from their journals and letters – interwoven with the narration of John McLoughlin, the Father of Oregon.
Chinook Trade Language: When pioneers began to arrive in Oregon, English wasn’t the language used for trade: it was Chinook Wawa. During this activity, students will explore the myths surrounding the relationships between Indigenous communities and pioneers, and how pioneer communities relied on trades(and trade routes that Indigenous peoples had established long before they began to move west). Along the Oregon Trail, bartering and trading kept pioneers alive. Students will have the opportunity to use the trade language that the Indigenous people of the Columbia river area shared with those who traded in their lands
Journal Writing: Most of the information that we know about the day-to-day aspects of the Oregon Trail comes from the journals and diaries of the people who traveled overland. Your guide will provide examples of real excerpts from the diaries and journals of individuals who traveled the trail, and help encourage your students to engage with their critical thinking skills and create their own journals.
Master Gardeners: Master Gardener volunteers are available by request to meet with student groups to talk about gardening in pioneer times and the sustainable gardening practices still used today. Presentations are tailored to the ages and interests of the group, with the possibility of a hands-on project in the demonstration garden when time and weather allow. Groups are always welcome to visit the heritage garden, which is representative of plants grown by the pioneers in the 1860s and includes heirloom roses, vegetables, herbs, and fruits. Find out more about the End of the Oregon Trail Pioneer Garden and the Clackamas County Master Gardeners here.
Oregon Trail Quest: Explore our outdoor “Westward Interpretive Trail” in search of answers to questions about daily life on the Oregon Trail. This activity encourages students to read the fine print on the interpretive signs around the museum grounds, as the answers to their questions are written on the sign displayed on the path. Ask your guide about adding the additional “animal quest” worksheet, which asks students to find and identify indegenous animal tracks on the walking path. During the rainy season, students are able to engage in a similar activity indoors that highlights the importance of the Barlow Road.
Packing the Wagon: One of the most important parts of the journey overland was packing and preparing for the trip. Students will listen to a short presentation about necessary provisions before they have the opportunity to pack the wagon themselves. Students will ensure their wagons aren’t overweight for the journey by using one of our “provision mathematics” worksheets, and learn about how the different cultures of pioneers affected what they carried.
Surveying the Land: People traveled the Oregon trail for many reasons, but many came in search of farmable land to settle on. In this activity, students will be introduced to the different ecosystems in Oregon, and then tasked with choosing, measuring, describing, and mapping their own bit of land on our front lawn. Your guide will discuss Oregon land treaties, the history of the Oregon City land claim office, and how land claims affect our communities today.
Jewish Paper Cutting: During this activity, your group will learn about the “push” and “pull” factors of migration, and what connects immigrants back to the land they traveled from. The era of the Oregon Trail also coincided with an era of massive German-Jewish migration to (and across) the United States. Students will learn about the experiences of these pioneers, and then take part in a simplified version of traditional Jewish paper cutting craft that was commonplace during the 1800’s.
Pioneer Gardens: Our heritage garden contains plants grown in Oregon during the Oregon Trail era, including indigenous roses, vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers. Learn about the importance of plant medicine along the trail, and about the differences between indigenous plants and invasive plants to the Oregon ecosystem. During the spring and summer, students will learn about a typical “kitchen garden” and take part in a planting activity that allows them to continue learning about gardening at home.
Salmon Activity: Salmon have sustained the people living in Oregon City since time immemorial, and this educational activity helps students explore the importance of salmon on our ecosystem. Students will learn about our waterways during the 1800s and how they differ (and relate) to our waterways today. During this activity, students will create and stuff their own salmon out of either paper or felt.
Folk Dancing: With the help of our guides, students will learn some of the most popular dances of the Oregon Trail era, including barn dancing, the Do-Si-Do and the Promenade. Students will learn about a typical daily life of a child on the Oregon Trail, and what games and pastimes kept them occupied.
Laundry: People traveling the Oregon Trail had limited their wardrobe and supplies, so it was important for them to take care of their clothing along the trail. In this activity, students will receive a demonstration of how pioneers laundered their clothes using a washboard and natural water sources. Students will also receive a demonstration on patchwork sewing and mending practices that were popular during this time.
Animal Identification: Using genuine furs and skins, your guide will provide historical and scientific information about the indigenous and invasive animals of Oregon. Students will be encouraged to learn about the differences between the species, and how pioneers interacted with them on the trail. Highlighting three important species (bison, beaver, Chinese-crested pheasant), a guide will educate your group about the wildlife that people encountered in Oregon during the era of the Oregon Trail, as well as their historic importance.
To make a reservation, fill out the form and a Historical Interpreter will then be in contact with you directly to help customize your visit and provide additional instructions.
Due to the increased interest in our program it is imperative to send in the deposit by the due date on your invoice. If the deposit is not received, we will move your reservation to the waiting list.
***To cancel a reservation, please notify group services at least 10 days in advance in order to allow time for another group to enjoy the experience. Cancellations must be submitted in writing (e-mail, fax or mail). Cancellations become official when CHP has confirmed your request.***
Email any questions to email@example.com or call (503) 657-9336. We look forward to seeing you!