Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
sponsored by the Utah State Board of Education, the BYU-Public School Partnership and the Utah Education Network

Classroom Activities

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You may also want to view the recommended reading list from the Sesquicentennial Committee.

Utah: Then and Now

"The Mormons were one of the principal forces in the settlement of the West." One hundred and fifty years ago on July 24, 1847, the Mormon pioneers declared the valley of the Great Salt Lake to be their new home.Wallace Stegner says, "There are more than theological reasons for remembering the Mormon pioneers. They were the most systematic, organized, disciplined and successful pioneers in our history; and their advantage over the random individualists who preceded them and paralleled them and followed them up the valley of the Platte came directly from their "un-American" social and religious organization. Where Oregon emigrants and argonauts bound for the gold fields lost practically all their social cohesion en route, the Mormons moved like the Host of Israel they thought themselves. Far from loosening their social organization, the trail perfected it. As communities on the march they proved extraordinarily adaptable. When driven out of Nauvoo, they converted their fixed property, insofar as they could, into instruments of mobility, especially livestock, and became for the time herders and shepherds, teamsters and frontiersmen, instead of artisans and townsmen and farmers. When their villages on wheels reached the valley of their destination, the Saints were able to revert at once, because they were town-and-temple builders and because they had their families with them, to the stable agrarian life in which most of them had grown up. "The Gathering of Zion, 1964, McGraw-Hill Book Company p.6"

Utah has had many different peoples who have called it home. This unit of study covers Utah's peoples up to the time that the transcontinental railroad connected the 2 coasts of the United States in 1869.

Elementary Grades

These lessons fall into 3 different age categories. The K-6 lessons are focused around the following essential questions. Pat Horyna helped several master teachers develop the focus for these lessons. Contributors of the K-6 lessons are Linda Crowther, Barbara Rindflesh, and Gaylene Seaman.The rest of team of K-6 teachers comes from the BYU/Public School Partnership including Rob Keddington, Lauren Tanner, Marilynn Nielson, Sharon Jensen, Debra May, Phyllis Embley, Mike Embley, Barry Graff, Ann Searle, Julie Warren, Jan Burger, Judy Catlett, and Christine Wilkinson.

Essential Questions About the Settling of Utah

Who settled Utah and why did they settle?

  • Native Americans
  • Spanish Explorers
  • Mountain Men
  • Pioneers/Settlers/Immigrants
  • How did people's background impact their settlement?
  • What is the heritage of Utah's settlers?
How did people get to Utah?
  • Walking
  • Horseback
  • Wagon
  • Handcart
  • What was the impact of the trail on the pioneers?
  • What role did geographic features play along the trail?
What did people do when they got to "Utah"?
  • What was daily life like for the pioneers?
  • What lifestyles/traditions did the settlers bring?
  • What impact did the pioneers have on the environment?
  • What impact did the environment have on the pioneers?
How does Utah history uniquely affect you?
  • What role does heritage play in the lives of Utah's people?

What influence did the trek have on the United States and on the world?

Does the settling of Utah affect the environment?

Junior High/Middle School Grades

The 7-9 lesson plans were gathered under the direction of Dr. Jess Walker, Pat Horyna, and Lauren Tanner. Main contributors of the 7-9 lessons are Jean McPherron, Kimberly Nielsen, Cory Little, Natalie Anderson, Mindy Husk, and Sara Bird-Matis.

Senior High Grades

The 7-9 lesson plans were gathered under the direction of Dr. Jess Walker, Pat Horyna, and David Squires. Main contributors of the 9-12 lessons are Mark Bake, Sally Todd, Janet Bledsoe, Judy Rice and Steve Haderlie. These teachers are part of the BYU/Public School Partnership.

Common Themes About the Settling of Utah

Human Environment

  • Family Dynamics
  • Communication in the Frontier
Physical Environment
  • Landforms and Map-making
  • Land Distribution and Water Rights
Imposed Environment
  • Education - What Does a Pioneer Need to Know?
  • Tenacity, Courage, and Self-Reliance
  • Pushing Boundaries - The Pioneer Spirit
  • Curiosity Drives Change: Risk-takers in the Mormon Migration
  • Family Roles and Lifestyle Changes Become Inevitable in the Westward Movement
  • Cycles of Change and Growth in the Mormon Trek

Common Themes About the Settling of Utah

Health and Well Being

  • Why did pioneers wear what they did? Why do we wear what we do? Fashions, freedom of choice.
  • Compare pioneer activities/risk today with those of that time.
  • Special populations - what did they do with those who were badly injured or handicapped? How is it similar/different than how we deal with exceptionalities today?
  • How did the pioneers utilize herbs and homeopathic medicines and did they learn from the native population to use indigenous plants?
Leisure Time and Recreation
  • How did the pioneers beautify their surroundings?
  • What games, recreational activities, entertainment, athletics, avocations, etc. were they involved with?
Justice and the Law
  • How did the pioneers deal with issues of law and order? What penalties were imposed? When and how did they establish jails and prisons?
Environment and Conditions
  • What impact does a wagon train have on the environment (insect populations, flora, fauna, water quality, air quality)?
  • What traces did the pioneers leave as they traveled and why (discarded baggage, graves, writings, etc.)?
  • How did the pioneers deal with water treatment and quality issues?
  • How were the pioneers changed by the experience and how did they change their environment?
  • What wild life controls evolved (laws, regulations, endangerment of species)? What about land use controls (irrigation, farm use, farming techniques)?
  • In what ways were agriculture different?
  • How was city planning handled? How did they choose to layout their cities? How does it compare with today?
  • What were the conditions under which the pioneers were living along the trek (crops, potable water, food)?
  • What was the weather, environment, geography, terrain?
Family Structure
  • What was the role of women and their place in society? How is it different from today? How were the roles of children, married people, single men/women, widows/widowers different?
  • What differences were there in how families were defined? Were there differences in the types of pressures families experienced?
  • How was leadership established?
  • Create your own settlement.
  • What social problems did they encounter (alcohol use, immorality, etc.)?
  • How did they deal with death, grieving, hardships, illness, depression, medications? What differences were there in mortality rates, life expectancies, aging?
  • In what constructive ways did people of other religious and ethnic groups respond in their interactions with the pioneers both during the trek and during the settlement of Utah?
  • How did the pioneers interactive with Native Americans? How did the native culture affect the pioneers?
Learning and Communication
  • Create your own journal. Compare it with those of the pioneers.
  • How was education handled during the trek and after they arrived in the valley?
  • How did the experience affect the pioneers' poetry, music, literature, art?
  • What was the impact of their experience on their language - what new words evolved? What effect did contact with peoples of different backgrounds have on their language?
  • How did libraries, universities, newspapers and print industries evolve?
  • How did contact with native and other cultures impact pioneer arts, crafts, and expression?
Technology and Invention
  • How were weapons made?
  • How did farming and agriculture change as the pioneers adapted to their environment (food storage, food preparation)?
  • How did manufacturing and industry develop? Who created them? What new industry evolved?
  • How were events recorded (photography, historical documentation)?
  • How did the pioneers know what materials to utilize (clays, woods, etc.)? How did they change with their new environment?
  • What kinds of things did people use/create to make their lives easier technologically/ Compare then and now.
  • Cycles of Change and Growth in the Mormon Trek: Comparing the 1847 Trek to the 1997 Reenactment Trek Does the Reenactment Trek of 1997 parallel the attitudes and challenges of the 1847 Trek? Comparing journals shows similar cycles of experiences.
  • Heritage: 'And Should We Die...' Attributes of the Pioneers in Character Sketches Showing various attributes of the pioneers through character sketches allows students greater understanding and empathy with their cultural heritage.
  • Heritage: Choices - Making the Journey Students will select and defend selected items that they propose to take on their pioneer journey.
  • Heritage: Pioneer Job Application The students will write a job application letter for a job of the pioneer era, either specifically for Utah and the West or for any job current in America at that time.
  • Mapping the 'Utah War' Student-generated maps help students understand geographical and spacial relationships when discussing important events such as the Utah War.
  • Mountain Man Rendezvous The mountain man rendezvous were unique occurances, associated with fur trappers, where many cultures joined in the intermountain west from 1825 to 1840 and made exchanges of goods, services and skills that influenced all who participated. These events also had great impact on westward expansion of the United States.
  • Out in the Middle of Nowhere: Inevitable Lifestyle Changes from the Mormon Migration Mormons sought isolation from the U.S. by settling in an unwanted remote region of the west. Mormon leaders' decisions of place and purpose created misunderstandings that resulted in U.S. government action against the Mormons. Examining cause and effect helps to interpret what happened in the 'Utah War.'
  • Pioneer Currency in Utah: Have you got change for $5? Pioneer society needed a uniform medium of exchange -- not so much among themselves, but for use with non-Mormon suppliers and California immigrants. This lesson explores the efforts to create this medium in the Utah Territory before the spread of 'greenbacks'.
  • Pushing the Boundaries: The Pioneer Spirit What motivated various pioneer groups to go out west? Each group (settlers to Oregon, persecuted Mormons, and gold-rush adventurers to California) had different reasons, but at huge cost in life and lifestyle. Was it worth it?
  • Raising the Mormon Battalion The decision to send 500 Mormon soldiers to fight in the War with Mexico was a very difficult one for Brigham Young, and for his followers.
  • SLC ordinances from the 1860's get students involved in local government! A discussion of Salt Lake City ordinances from the early 1860's leads to drafting ordinances to present to local government.

Other lesson plan resources that may be of interest are the Utah Centennial Lesson Plans.