A 3D printed map of the Oregon Trail

Educators of the Month: Third Graders Bring Back the Oregon Trail

Nine out of of ten parents want their kids to learn to code in school, according to a recent Gallup poll. Teachers, for their part, are finding all kinds of creative ways to incorporate coding into many subjects in their schools, including math, biology, and language arts.

For a slightly older generation, including the parents of today’s kids, computer science classes looked very different. In those days of dial up, the computers at school were clunky, grey machines. You’d show up for class and sit down not to explore drag-and-drop programming or design an app, but for a session of timed typing or–if you were really lucky–an hour of Oregon Trail.

Don’t know Oregon Trail? You just haven’t lived until you’ve died of dysentery, or carefully doled out grain and cared for your oxen while travelling over two thousand miles, only to fail while fording a river. Even with glowing green text and pixelated 2D imagery, the game brought history to life for an entire generation of students. And now Ozobot robots are being used to bring it back!

That’s right. The computer science classic is making a comeback in Mrs. Monica Vides’ third grade classroom. Together with co-teacher Cindy Gonzalez, Mrs. Vides designed an assignment for her students that combines history, high tech, and a bit of arts and crafts. We reached out to these innovative educators who, along with Gulliver Schools Ed Tech Integrator Cindy Wilson-Hyde, told us more about their students and this awesome STEAM project.

Tell us about yourselves! What grade(s) and subject(s) do you teach and what inspired you to become educators?

Cindy Wilson-Hyde: I am one of the Ed Tech Integrators at Gulliver. I wanted to jump in here and take the opportunity to introduce two of my most creative and innovative colleagues at Gulliver.

Cindy Gonzalez (we call her Cindy Go!) is the circus ringmaster of all things computer science at Gulliver in grades K-3. On any given day, you can find her in classrooms with students and teachers creating amazing projects using all sorts of techie tools. On the same day, you may see her out in the school courtyard overseeing the annual May the Fourth Be With You celebration with 19 STEAM activity stations and 400 students!

Monica Vides is a teacher with an incredible superpower of being able to view her classroom and students in 360 view–she sees all students all the time! Pretty amazing. I have been in her classroom and watched her differentiate her instruction in ways that make her students light up as they “get it.”

The Ozzie Oregon Trail Project is a perfect example of the creativity and synergy of these two teachers.

Monica Vides: I teach third grade.  In my life, I have always enjoyed learning new things. Even now, as an adult, I love to travel and learn about the world around me. Helping students and sharing my love of learning is one of the reasons I chose education as my career goal. Every year, I strive to create a classroom environment that will help my students learn and achieve their personal best. As I began my teaching profession, I reflected upon my personal beliefs and philosophies and how these would influence my teaching. What kind of teacher did I want to be? Although much has changed since I graduated, and my teaching now includes many new 21st century ideals, many of my core beliefs about teaching remain the same. My ideal position is working with elementary students. Younger children are challenging because they have so much energy and they are eager to learn. Their excitement for life is contagious! It is wonderful to look back at the end of the school year and reflect on the tremendous personal growth each student has made. Ultimately, my love of children and my desire to share the world with them is the foundation for my teaching career.

Cindy Gonzalez:  I am the Computer Science Teacher for grades K-3. I loved how my teachers trusted and believed in me when I was a child. I hope to be that kind of teacher to my students.

An Ozobot robot decorated as a covered wagon

How did you come up with the Oregon Trail project?

We have a social studies unit entitled Communities Over Time. During this unit, we explore what it means to be a pioneer. We talk about pioneers of westward expansion, as well as pioneers of industry (space, medicine, technology, communication, and transportation). We researched important people and events related to these topics and created a presentation for our parents.  We thought it would be a great idea to have the students create a 3D map of the Oregon Trail to gain better understanding of the trail. Students were able to express their creativity and explore technology by creating 3D models, and by coding the robots to travel along their map. It exceeded our expectations!

Can you give us an example of how it combined history and coding?

Students first researched about the Oregon Trail. They learned about important landmarks along the way and created them using 3D printing. We then placed them on a large map we printed. Once the map was created, we gave the students the Ozobots and a (smaller) printed version of our map for them to plan how the Ozobots would move on our map. Students worked in groups and explored different coding options to make the Ozobots spin, accelerate, etc. Students then drew their designs on the actual map. Once the Ozobot lines were in place, students worked in groups to create costumes for the Ozobots, such as: gold mine carts to circle our gold mine, buffalo to roam the prairies, a covered wagon to travel along the Oregon Trail, and a couple steamboats.

Ozobot robots decorated as gold mining carts

Why STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math), not STEM?

Throughout the project, we allowed the children to use their creativity to experience the Oregon Trail and bring it to life. We wanted to give students the opportunity to integrate different subjects and to be able to able to express themselves in many different ways. Students had opportunities to design, build and create throughout the entire project.

What are some other STEAM projects Gulliver Schools students have done with their bots?

Other projects Gulliver School students have done with the Ozobots include: second grade students read fairy tales and re-enacted the fairy tales using the Ozobots; and first grade students created a community (based on the book Roxaboxen). In their community they had a Vet. There, students created dog costumes and an agility course for their “Ozzie-dogs.” In addition, on May the 4th we have a Star Wars school-wide event which will feature maps created by third grade students for Ozobots. On these maps, the Ozobots, in costume, will travel through space and visit our solar system and Star Wars characters.

Follow Monica Vides, Cindy Gonzalez, and Cindy Wilson-Hyde on Twitter to see more of their inspiring collaborations. And don’t forget…

Coding is Creative!

Tech skills alone don’t spur big ideas—creative visions do. That’s why education at home and in the classroom should span science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math (STEAM, not just STEM). Whether you see yourself as a future artist, astronaut, or entrepreneur, our goal at Ozobot is to kick start your creativity and coding skills with playtime that strengthens your whole mind.

Creator of the Month – Official Rules

Want to learn more? Explore Ozobot’s two ways to code:
OzoBlockly >
Color Codes >

For Educators and Students:
OzoBlockly Mini Lesson >
Color Codes Basic Training >
100+ STEAM Lessons >

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