Mountain Men

What a fantastic experiential leap into history.  
~ Fourth Grade Parent

Mountain Men - Pathfinders of the West

Before the Gold Rush, an exciting time in California history is the "Mountain Men Era" when men, and some women, left their families to seek fortunes in the wild back country of the mountainous west and faced hardships at every turn. Fourth-grade students learn about the challenges these explorers faced. They compose farewell letters describing their reasons for heading west into the wilderness and share their hopes and fears.

Much of America’s westward expansion was propelled by a desire for fur. Students consider the pros and cons of joining a fur trapping company versus being a freelance trapper. They write their decisions and pour their thoughts into detailed journal entries. Using Crane's gardens and culinary facilities, fourth graders learn about the resources and strategies mountain men used to collect and preserve food, and they even preserve some for themselves.

In collaboration with art and science, students create scientific sketches of western fauna and animals. What characteristics made animals such as the beaver so well suited to life in the western wilderness, and why were fur pelts so valuable? Integrating Mountain Men into literature and writing studies, students read historical fiction and American folklore from the era including tall tales, a delightful collection of fictional legends and stories about life in this era. They discuss various characteristics of the genre, such as hyperbole and humor, and students learn that these stories often originated from the time period in which mountain men would spin yarns to entertain each other during the long nights spent in the wilderness. Students then create their own stories to present to the class.

Fourth graders also choose a notable mountain man and research information for a paper which includes diagrams, poems, an expository paragraph, and illustrations. Students complete their studies with a “Mountain Man Rendezvous” where parent volunteers help with a cook-fire in the garden and fourth graders participate in dancing, music, storytelling, “Mountain Men Challenges,” and a feast.

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