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“Choose Your Own Adventure”

Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books? Wouldn’t it have been great if they made a version of the Spanish Expedition? What would it have been like to travel with Fathers Dominguez and Escalante through Utah? What kind of adventures and trials would you have experienced? With this interactive power point, you and your students can travel with this famous Spanish Expedition in a “Choose Your Own Adventure” game!

A special thanks goes to the social studies department at American Fork Junior High for their effort and contribution of this game, so teachers across the state can use it in their own classrooms.

Click on Dominguez & Escalante Game and let your adventure begin!

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Explorer’s Journal (Part Two)

This activity can be done as part of their Explorer’s Journal, or it can be a separate activity.
Students might not know this, but many of the plants, animals and land features are named after explorers who need a name to call a never-before-seen flower, river, etc. The Escalante River and was named after, guess who? Father Escalante. The city of Provo was named for the famous explorer, Etienne Provost.

Section off part of the journal for sketches of new species or sights. At the end of their regular entries (see Part One of Explorer’s Journal), show them a picture of something native to Utah. They must sketch it in their journal and name it. It can be anything from a kind of geranium, to a type of pine, or animal the explorer has perhaps never seen before. It can also be a scene like the arches in Moab, or Goblin Valley. What would they name it? Share entries and names after the activity.

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Explorer’s Journal (Part One)

Fathers Dominguez and Escalante were known for keeping a journal of their expedition Santa Fe to Monterey. As one of the first non-Natives on record to step into what is now Utah, they set their eyes on new plants, animals, and geological wonders. They recorded these new sights and more in journals for others to one day read and know what to expect when they came to Utah. Not only did it serve explorers and settlers to come, but Utah was slowly forming an identity, no longer some “western wilderness”. This activity aims to teach students the importance in keeping a journal.

Have your students start an “Explorer’s Journal”. This can be done in their notebooks, or specially compiled pages stapled together. At the start of class during this unit, students must make an entry in their journal about the day’s journey. What kind of adventures did they encounter? Did they meet any Indians? What recommendations can they make to future trappers/settlers about that area?

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Phew! I think your students would agree with you in saying the class has been working hard this semester. Isn’t it about time for a class party? How about your own class rendezvous?

For this, you need some preparation. Many teachers have a system where individual students earn points, “dollars”, or such where students are given this “currency” in return for good work, behavior, errands, effort, etc. Even if you don’t typically do this in your class, putting a system like this in place just during your Explorers unit can end up fun and educational. I use “furs” as the system of currency in my class because it makes my students feel like fur trappers.

At the beginning of the unit, explain to the class that (if they prove themselves worthy…) at the end of the unit there will be a rendezvous, where you will be able to use your furs to trade (or auction) for fun prizes. Tell them what you expect from them to earn these furs, and that they can be taken away if needed. These furs can be pieces of paper copied on colored paper. Click here for an example of cut out furs.

During the unit, pass them out to individuals whose work/behavior show they deserve a fur. At the end, set out some small prizes to auction off in exchange for furs. Students can also bring in prizes to auction off if they’d like.

Have fun, you deserve it!

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Make A Map

When we think of early explorers, we think of Dominguez and Escalante trying to find a way to Monterrey, or mountain men hunting and trapping. But don’t forget one of their biggest contributions was mapping out the future state of Utah! This activity is a map making exercise for your students, which puts them in explorer’s shoes as they map out a way for their friends to get to a destination.

You can set the scene to whatever you’d like. It can be trappers leading their family to a cache full of furs, a map leading to an upcoming rendezvous, or Spanish missionaries leading others to a nearby mission… it’s up to you!

Students get a piece of blank paper, and are given a list of things to include on their maps (write these on the board). They can be anything from hazards to sources of water and food. Here are some examples you can start with:

  • Cliffs
  • Bear Den
  • Lakes
  • Desert
  • Streams
  • Rattle Snake Nests
  • Beaver Dams (must be by water source!)
  • Mountain Range
  • Canyons
  • Cougar country
  • Forest

Use land features and animals that are found in Utah. Their map must take up the front and back of the paper, and be drawn in as much detail as possible. A dashed line must be drawn from the start to the destination (cache, Spanish mission, etc…) going through and around these mandatory features. Students must also specify where food and water can be found on the map for those who will use the map, along with any hazards and notes they would like to make followers aware of. Empty spaces on the map can be filled in with trees or other features. Coloring also adds a nice touch!

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