A Program of Schools for Children

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Grades 3 and 4 Go West!

The freedom that faculty have at Lesley Ellis to develop creative assignments results in engaged students who are more likely to remember what they’re learning. At every level, the professional expertise of teachers is expressed in myriad different ways.

One such inspired assignment occurs each year in grades 3 and 4. Through a creative, interactive project that explores the westward expansion of the 1800s, students gain an appreciation of the diversity of the United States as well as the challenges and rewards that the early settlers experienced by working and living together.

To celebrate the students’ hard work, parents were invited in to enjoy short presentations and hear first-hand from the students about what they had learned.

Below is a more detailed outline of the project.


The 3/4 Orange and Green historians have been divided into groups for our cross-curricular project on life in the mid-to-late 1800’s. The Pioneer Homesteaders, Sioux Native Americans, New England Whalers, Chinook Native Americans of the Northwest, New England Industrial Revolution Workers, Union soldiers, confederate soldiers and California Gold Rushers have been ‘sent out’ to develop their communities.  Through extensive research, conversation and a bit of squabbling, each member of a group has chosen a relevant role and considered how as individuals they’re contributing to the larger community.

Each cluster has tasks to accomplish during the project.  Like the people they portray, the ‘load’ is large and there is a lot expected of them.  However with flexibility, patience, and a willingness to ‘do what it takes,’ unlike their historic counterparts, their success is assured.

Task 1: Trace yourself in a lifelike pose (farmers with hoe in hand) and write a description of your role within your group.  Be sure to include your tasks and why your contributions were necessary.  Your life-sized counterparts will be dressed in period attire and accurately the people you are representing. 

Task 2: Create a Title Sheet that simply defines your group’s purpose.  Include relevant details that will give an accurate overview of your people.  Add artistic details, like symbols (axes for gold miners) to add visual interest.

Task 3: Working as a partnership research your group’s challenges, goals and accomplishments using texts as well as the Internet. Take notes while researching and then utilize those notes to craft an informational essay on your group complete with an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion. 

Task 4: Using what we’ve learned over the course of our memoir study, write a journal entry for your person that includes the required elements of good memoir writing (small moment piece that focuses on drawing the reader into your experience through sensory phrases and descriptive metaphor). Once completed, individual essays will be compiled into one larger typed journal piece.