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The United States Trek Overview


The Odyssey grew out of a series of meetings conducted in 1996 by a group of educators concerned with the lack of global awareness among youth, particularly in light of the increasing impact global issues have on the quality of life for people everywhere. The Odyssey was incorporated in September of 1997, followed by six months of laying the organization's foundation and investiging ways to use the Internet to more effectively educate youth on international issues. In that time:

  • Six focus groups were held with teachers and youth, and experts in service learning and ed-tech
  • Over thirty teachers and fifty students were consulted individually
  • Over ten on-line educational programs were surveyed for strengths and weaknesses
  • Relevant research papers and books were reviewed.
Based on these investigations, The Odyssey conducted a pilot project, the Mexico Trek, in the fall of 1998. 200 teachers participated and provided valuable feedback. This experience and the feedback formed the foundation for our first major project, the World Trek, launched in 1999.

The World Trek - Some Quick Facts
Trekker Monica from the World Trek writing a dispatch at Teotihuacan

  • The World Trekkers travelled over 35,000 miles and filed over 850 dispatches from over 40 countries.

  • They spent six weeks in each of the ten major destination sites: Guatemala, Peru, Zimbabwe, Mali, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Iran, India and China.

  • The website received over 1700 unique visits every day during that schoolyear, and was accessed from over 90 countries.

  • The World Trek featured both live and on-demand video of interviews with three Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, two Right Livelihood Award winners, an Africa Prize Laureate, a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, and a former President of "Rhodesia."

  • The World Trek hosted over 20 live chats with studnets from around the world, including from a Palestinian refugee camp, a tent city in Turkey following the earthquakes, and Tehran, Iran.
praise from 7-yr-old
The US Trek

In the fall of 2000, The Odyssey undertook the US Trek, an eight-month long trek through time and space with three purposes:

  • To engage students in established US History curriculum more effectively than traditional materials and methodologies.

  • To introduce students to diverse perspectives and critical issues too infrequently addressed in established curriculum.

  • To engage students in service to their communities and general society.
The Trek will began in August with the first update from the Team posted on September 13. The Trek was very similar to the World Trek in format and methodology. The Team's reports and video clips form the core of the website content. It also included live chats, interactive polls, and bulletin boards for students to post their own thoughts. But there were some key differences as well. We posted content provided by PBS as it related to the Trek, as well as historic content from the Library of Congress. The Team also visited schools all over the US as they traveled, and consulted with local youth to help create what went on the website.  

The Itinerary

praise from teacher
The US Trek itinerary directly supported theNational Education Standards and followed the same progression as the majority of US History classes in the US at the time. 75% of teachers in those classes taught a one-year survey course. So the US Trek was also a one-year survey, focusing on US history through the Civil War in the fall, and then exploring the United States in the 20th Century in the spring. This allowed the maximum number of teachers to participate while enhancing their existing curriculum - not adding to it, a major inhibitor for overworked teachers. The itinerary was developed with the participation of over 50 professors of US history and culture from all over the US, including UC Berkeley, Yale, Cornell, William and Mary, San Francisco State and others.

The following is a quick look at the general topics that were covered and when during the first semester::

I. In Search of American Roots

9/13 : First Team Update - The Diverse Histories of the US Trek Team

9/16 : The Geography of the United States

9/20 : Human Origins in the Americas

9/23 : Native Americans - Major Cultural Groups (pre-Contact)

9/27 : Native Americans - Major Developments and
Diverse Cultural Characteristics (pre-Contact)

9/30, 10/4 : The Early Explorers and the Colonists

10/7 : Lifestyles of the Not So Rich or Famous -
Indentured Servants, the Lower Class, and Women

10/11 : Slavery in the Colonies and Early African American Culture

10/14 : Native American Responses Up To the American Revolution

II. The Birth of the United States

10/18 : Revolutionary Flashpoints - Issues, People and Places

10/21 : The Unfolding of the American Victory

10/25 : Foundations of the US Government

III. Manifest Destiny

10/28 : US Expansion Through the Mid-1800's

11/1 : Native American Responses Through the Mid 1800's

11/4 : The Mexican-American War

11/8 : The Economic Machine and the Reaction

11/11 : The Age of Reform

11/15 : The Women's Rights Movement

IV. The Civil War and Reconstruction

11/18 : Life in the South

11/22 : Paths of Resistance and Rebellion

11/25 : Thanksgiving Break - No Update

11/29 : Life in the North

12/2 : The Abolitionists

12/6 : Flashpoints on the Road to the War - People, Places and Motivations

12/9 : The Civil War

12/13 : The Question of Emancipation and the End of the War

12/16 : Reconstruction Begun

12/20 : The Fall of Reconstruction

V. The United States Transformed

12/23, 1/3 : National Expansion, Industrialization, and Immigration

1/6 : Industrialization

1/10 : The Rise of Unions

1/13 : National Politics - The Interstate Commerce Act and Sherman Anti-Trust Act

For each of these broad themes, we identified several specific topics to explore. For example, for the October 11 update, addressing "Slavery in the Colonies and Early African American Culture," the following topics were also addressed:

  • The Songhai, Mali and Ghana Empires

  • Slave Capture and Transportation

  • Slavery in the Colonies - Conditions and Controls

  • Slave Women

  • Early Slave Resistance

  • "Free" Black Life in the US

  • Early African American Culture
For each of these topics, members of the US Trek Team split up to visit places and people that bring the topics to life. For example, for taht same update the Team's visits included:
  • The African Burial Ground

  • Underwater excavations of the Henrieta Marie, a sunken slave ship

  • Somerset Place in Creswell, NC, to explore slave conditions

  • Natchez, MS, site of the Natchez Rebellion

  • Penn Community Center, St. Helena, Sea Islands, which has preserved vestiges of virtually independent black culture

The Teacher Zone

There is a separate teacher zone where the itinerary was laid out in detail, to allow teachers to plan ahead and to give them activity suggestions. Because all of the materials was archived, it can be used by teachers any time with a variety of classes.  

So, Um, How Is This All Done?

The Odyssey was 100% volunteeer-run. Over 500 people contributed their time and counsel to the effort. It was quite a technical and logistical challenge to pull this all together.


We hope you enjoy both our Treks! Thanks for joining us!

- From all of us at The Odyssey  


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