We Are All Pioneers

In distant learning we are always trying to make connections with our current situation and the curriculum we are studying.

So I made the connection of distant learning and all the new challenges of learning in a purely digital form to being a pioneer on the Oregon Trail, traveling to a better life in California.

Students became familiar with the Oregon Trail is a similar way in which I learned about the trail, by playing a video game. After a little research I learned that this classic game was created by  Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC) in 1971 to teach students about life on the Oregon Trail. The game is certainly very low-tech by today’s standards but it still really engages students and they are having fun and learning at the same time while dying of dysentery, breaking limbs, and getting lost (in the digital sense, of course.)

And this metaphor made me write this poem (what else can you do?):

I told them that
we were like
pioneers on the
Oregon Trail,
on an uncertain
path with an
uncertain endpoint.
If the axel broke,
we’d fix it.
If the oxen broke loose,
we’d find them.
If Jimmy got cholera,
we’d heal him.
If we thought of turning back,
we’d swallow the thought.
If we came to a river,
we’d ford it.
I told my class today
that we are pioneers
on the Oregon Trail
and we will get there.

I don’t know where poetry comes from. It is a mystery. It is sublime. Sometimes, and very rarely, I just feel like a medium in which the words flows through and all I have to do is write them down. That’s how I felt when I wrote this poem. This is a metaphor turing to reality.

A field sketch of the iconic Chimney Rock from my Oregon Trail Road trip in October 2017.

I see this poem as a pep talk to my students during tough times but I guess it’s also a pep talk to myself.

2 thoughts on “We Are All Pioneers

  1. Ah, John, your poem is beautiful. What a wonderful message for us weary travelers!

    I loved teaching the Westward movement/pioneer unit. We, too, travelled the Oregon Trail as a class. I had 6 old computers and my students found happiness along the Trail. Yours will, too.


  2. Maybe some of Poetry comes from the healing part of our Soul…it is your gift to communicate that…


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