Giddy-Up! Learning About the Pony Express

Our Little Cowboy
photo © 2009 Scott Schopieray | more info (via: Wylio)

Did you know that the Pony Express was established on April 3rd, 1860? If you're looking for a fun 'mini-unit' to do with your kinders {or should we say, cowboys and cowgirls!}, that will teach them about the 'wild west' and the first mail system in the U.S., check out this lesson plan from Andrea J. Spillett, California kindergarten teacher and lesson plan contributor/teacher blogger for Scholastic Teachers. Your kiddos are sure to have a blast! Learning About the West

Discuss with your students what it was like to live in the 'wild west'. Here are some things to consider including:

  • A geography lesson, showing your kinders the region on a map.
  • Pictures of a traditional western town.
  • Compare/contrast education, technology, medicine, clothing, etc.
  • Describe a day in the life of a kindergartner/child in the wild west.

Western Law Enforcement

Spillett likes to do a lesson on 'law enforcement' in the west - discussing civil responsibility, the importance of order and safety, and, of course, WANTED posters! After reading The Legend Of Lightning Larry by Aaron Shepard, she invites her students to come up with actions {silly or serious} that might be cause for them, or a classmate, to be "wanted" in the classroom (i.e. turning all the name plates upside down, walking backwards through the hallways, running in class, etc.). The children then make WANTED posters in true western style!

Patterning Exercises

  • Taking from the traditional western dancing style, Spillett invites her students to explore a new style of movement - finding patterns in the dance steps.
  • With floor color cards, students are invited to finish the pattern taped to the floor, then hop from card to card reciting the pattern (i.e. red/green/red/green or yellow/red/red/yellow/red/red, etc.)
  • To capture traditional western clothing styles, students make a bandana or bolero, incorporating patterning through fun bead embellishments.

Western Songs

  • "Clementine"
  • "Oh, Susanna"
  • "Home On The Range"
  • "She'll Be Comin' Round The Mountain!"

The Pony Express

Discuss today's mail system {and the other ways we communicate with friends and family}. Explain to your students that, in the wild west, if your grandma wanted to send you a birthday card, it would travel by horse. In your discussion of the Pony Express, consider:

  • Having your students complete an ordering/problem solving activity, putting the following items in order by how long it would take a letter to travel from your city to another part of the country (from shortest to longest) - horse, rail, car, jet, etc. Discuss the answers; your students are sure to be amazed!
  • Practice addressing envelopes, stamping them {with fun stickers!}, and 'delivering' them to classmates.
  • Construct a map of the school, creating a 'mail route' of the fastest way to deliver mail to other classes.

For more lesson ideas, extensions, and 'wild west' fun, be sure to visit Spillett's full post!