What’s New with the Beta Crew!

Yippee Yahoo Y’all!  The Beta Blog is up and a runnin’!

And now we have a bit of catching up to do, so hitch up your oxen to your covered wagons and join us on our adventure!





We are a nation of movers!

Did you know that almost a half a million people moved west along the trails such as the Oregon Trail and the Santa Fe Trail in the mid-1800’s?  That’s a lot of moving!  But when you think about it, the United States has always been a nation of movers.  After all, most Americans- or their parents or grandparents- had come here from Europe to seek a better life.

The Betas have been busy preparing for our long and strenuous journey westward.



Creating tea-stained paper for our very authentic looking journals! This is where we record some of our adventures on the trail.


Ms. Courtney helps hang the pages to dry. It smelled wonderful in our room!


Do you know how many supplies to carry, and pounds of food you need for your family to travel across the country? We do! We researched what was needed to outfit our wagons.


We worked closely with our wagon families and created a list that we thought would work for us. And holy cow! It is a lot!


Did you know a typical family of four needed between 1,200-1,800 pounds of food!! Wow!! That didn’t leave a lot of room for other things, so we needed to pack carefully!


Next, we took our lists of supplies and created a visual to represent what was placed in side the wagons.


Making a choice between the lighter Prairie Schooner vs. the heavy Conestoga Wagon was easy for these families.  Knowing we needed to travel 2,000 miles with about half of that through the mountains, choosing a smaller lighter wagon made sense.  But it meant not being able to bring everything from home.


We created our wagons in 3D as well using shoe boxes and cardboard.


We sure love seeing our wagon families working so well together!

Our wagons are just about packed.  Pa and Ma told us we could only bring one item with us, for the wagons are so full.  What a tough decision to make!


Sullivan chose to bring a lovely gold pocket watch.


And Wren is bringing a rag doll.


All packed up and said our good-byes to family and friends and it is time leave for our adventure!



We learned that it is not all fun a games for the kids on the trail. We compared kids now with the kids in the 1850’s-and wow!- they sure did a lot of work!


They had to help feed the livestock, gather water, milk the cows, and even collect buffalo chips to use as fire starter! Yuck!

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And after a long day of walking next to the wagon (because often there wasn’t enough room for families inside) the kids would help ma wash the clothes.


We found out this was no easy task! I bet kids in the 1850’s had really big muscles from doing all this work!


The pioneers learned that churning butter no longer needed to be a chore- they took advantage of the bouncy wagon! In the morning they would pour fresh milk into a churn and hang it in the wagon. As the wagon bummed along, the milk sloshed back and forth so much that balls of delicious butter formed! How cool is that! Since we didn’t have a wagon, we needed to bump along our bodies to make our butter!


As the kids were helping to set up camp at the end of every day, Ma would be busy cooking dinner. It would always be a simple meal, mainly with the staples they had brought along. Sometimes they would get lucky and Pa would bring back some meat from a hunt, but not today. Supper will be Johnny Cakes. Again.


But we are so hungry and tired that we don’t complain.

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And with a little bit of our bump-along butter melted on top, they are quite delicious in fact!


Even Mr. Scott joined us for a bit of supper. Luckily we had enough to share with our guest this evening!


Life on the trail was quite monotonous.  Pioneer kids were pretty inventive when it came to amusing themselves on the journey west. They would make toys out of the simplest things.  Peek into a young boy’s or girl’s pocket back then and you might have found a buzz saw or ball-in-cup toy.


We measured the correct amount of string needed for our buzz saw, chose a pretty button, threaded the string though, tied the loose ends together and there you have it!


The cup and ball game was made out of simple material as well. Things often found in Ma’s sewing kit. We had a big discussion about how differently our free time is spend as kids in 2014 vs. kids in the 1850’s. Which kid would you rather be???!!!


So far our trip west has gone without a hitch, but Pa sees a storm a brewin’.  It’s going to be a big one!  We have lost our tent and our wagon cover is wearing out and has holes.  We need to seek shelter, but where?  Pa instructs us to collect sticks to create a lean-to to keep us dry as we weather out the storm.  We must work together quickly to get it complete before the rain begins to fall!



Wagon families gather sticks for their lean-to shelters.


We saw great cooperation and teamwork while preparing for the storm!


Our pretend wagon families are snug inside their shelters. It looks as our three families will weather out this storm safe and sound. And dry! Thank goodness, because we don’t want anyone to get sick on the trail!

So much of our language arts program is embedded into our theme. We find the kids are more engaged and focused when their skills are not used in isolation, but used with a purpose- like reading about what is needed to pack in our wagons, or writing about our journey. The kids forget they are learning!

Language Arts lends itself readily to lessons that build upon students’ “real life” experiences (in our case- Westward Expansion). Reading, writing, listening and speaking – these are the building blocks of communication, a process that is central to our lives, and we allow a great deal of time to express ourselves, as well as reflect on our learning and experiences in the classroom.


We do also squeeze in some time to focus on certain skills, like spelling. Words Their Way word sorts teach students how to look closely at words, to discover the regularities and conventions of English orthography, or spelling. It takes the place of traditional spelling and vocabulary approaches, such as skill instruction, or repeated practice.

If you would like to learn a bit more about Words Their Way, check out this file! TG_WTW_Wordstudy


We also practice the words we find in books we would like to learn to spell in fun ways. Ella has used our magnetic letters to practice her three words for the week!

In math, our main focus so far this year has been on number sense, as well as place value. Our goal, as teachers is to help the kiddos understand that they should always try to make sense of what they do in math. We will always encourage them to explain the purpose for what they’re doing, the logic of their procedures, and the reasonableness of their solutions.  During our math time, we probe children’s thinking.  We ask: Why do you think that? Why does that make sense? Convince us. Prove it. Does anyone have a different way to think about the problem? Does anyone have another explanation?

Math is a time for talk. Communication is essential for learning. Having students work quietly-and by themselves-limits their learning opportunities. Interaction helps children clarify their ideas, get feedback for their thinking, and hear other points of view. Students can learn from one another, as well as from their teachers.

The photos below show what we mean.  The kiddos CAN teach and learn from one another!  And it is super cool to see!


If you are interested in learning more about this approach check out this website.  Marilyn Burns is our math hero!  http://mathsolutions.com/about-us/marilyn-burns/


Here is what’s up over the next few weeks!

October 9th- Beta heads to the Bob Bullock Museum!

October 12th- Mr. Scott’s birthday

October 16th- The Beta Jamboree- Oregon Trail Style!  (Top secret for now!) 9am-11am

                           – Around the World 11am-2pm

October 20th-24th- Fall Break!!

October 27th- Parent/Teacher/Student Conferences

October 31st- Emil’s Birthday


Filed October 3rd, 2014.