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The Trek



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kudos for The Odyssey

NOTE: This orientation hasn't been updated since the Trek was underway in 2000-2001, so if it might refer to the Trek as something going on or coming up. Don't be confused by that!

The US Trek is free for use anytime by anyone. Just get on the website and go!

Whenever it ties in with what you are covering with your students or brings in something new, just schedule it into your lessons as you would a video or class visit or field trip. This may mean:

  • taking the class to a computer lab to check out the site together
  • or you may have a few students check it out and report back to the class
  • or you may refer students to it on their own time as a resource for their projects or assignements.

Just have them get on the site at and have them choose the appropriate section: K-6 or 7-12 (for free).

 What's On This Page - An Orientation Overview

 US Trek Purposes

 The US Trek in a Nutshell

 What Will Be Covered

 How to Use the US Trek

 Matching the US Trek to Your Curriculum

 What It's Like for Students

 Free Registration

The 3 Purposes of the United States Trek:

  • To bring traditional US History studies to life for your students with lively, immediate, multimedia content.

  • To expand on the traditional studies to include the experiences and perspectives of the United States' diverse population, and to include critical current events.

  • To educate youth about ways people are addressing these current events to create a better society and to involve youth in service learning activities that support these efforts, locally, nationally, and internationally.

Trekker Monica from the World Trek writing a dispatch at Teotihuacan
The US Trek in a Nutshell

The US Trek allows your students to follow along via the Internet with a Team of educators doing the 9-month trek around the United States to explore US history and culture. These eight educators, selected from over 500 applicants, are equipped with laptops and digital video equipment. They document the people and places they visit through their own writing, pictures and video, and this content is updated on The Odyssey website every Wednesday and Saturday so your students can experience the Trek and the excitement in learning vicariously.

The content, which consists of between 5 and 9 individual reports from the Team, is much more alive and fun than most curriculum. It is created by a Team of young, diverse individuals who the students come to know and identify with, and who are there reporting from the places where events actually happened, giving them interest and relevance.

praise from homeschooler
Core content from the Team includes images and video that most students do not experience with traditional curriculum yet which are critical to fully appreciate history. It also includes special live and recorded interviews with significant people. In previous projects these have included former Presidents, Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, and experts in specific areas of history. Throw in periodic live chats with experts and other students and you wind up with an extremely engaging and educational US History experience for your students.

What is Covered?

75% of US History teachers address the subject as a one-year survey course, beginning with the origins of US History through the present day. To best allow for integration with regular course curriculum, the US Trek will follow the same progression, addressing US History through Industrialization in the fall semester, 2000, and The United States in the 20th Century in the spring semester, 2001.

With National Education Standards for US History as the backbone, the itinerary has the US Trek Team addressing specific topics on set dates. Those topics for the first semester are:

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

Second Semester Themes TBA

For each of these broad themes, we have 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 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 will split up to visit places and people that bring the topics to life. For example, for this 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
So you've got a list of the themes to be covered, but what if you want to know about the specific topics, or where exactly the Team will go to cover those topics? This information is available in the Teacher's Guide, one of the main sections of the Teacher Zone. You can always go there by clicking "Teachers Guide" in the upper left corner of any webpage in the Teacher Zone.

So How Does a Teacher Use the US Trek?

Teacher Guide screenshot The US Trek is completely free. The Odyssey is a non-profit, 100% volunteer-run organization, so our compensation is simply that you use it!

As with any new resource you want to use with your students, the US Trek is most effectively and easily used as a supplement to your existing curriulum. You've seen above what we are going to cover and when. Hopefully it coincides with when you plan to cover related topics.

For starters, make plans tp have your class or a group of students get on the Internet to check out the updates that cover topics that interst you. With previous Odyssey Treks, teachers have very effectively had students lead discussions on the topic after exploring an update. Others have assigned questions or writing topics. Still others assign more elaborate activities like debates or presentations or art projects. It's all about giving some structure and accountability to the students and having them apply what they learn, just as you would with any other classroom resource.

praise from teacher Note that with the website being updated every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon, students can explore new material as frequently as twice a week. And if you want you can check out an update after it is posted on Sunday or Wednesday (at 3pm both days) before you assign it so you can see in detail how it covers the topics we've listed above.

As you grow accustomed to using the website with your students you can begin to take advantage of the special events such as chats that we schedule. We'll let you know about these beforehand by e-mailing you once you've registered.

What if the Timing of Our Itinerary and Your Curriculum Don't Match Up?

All of the content the Team posts on the website is "archived," meaning your students can always get to it. If we are running ahead of your own schedule, you can just have your students go back and look at the material after the fact. This also means you can use all of the material with your classes next year and beyond.

What Will the Website Be Like For Students?

US Trek screenshot

There are two main sections - one for K-6 and the other 7-12. The difference is simply that the K-6 section has about 30% as much material - the reports are specially selected for their appropriateness for younger students, they are shorter and written for their reading level (or for your out-loud reading level).

In both sections students will be welcomed by what is called the "Basecamp" page. It features the latest update from the Team and has a title at the top - the same as the ones listed above. It then lists the different reports from the Trekkers that students can click on and check out.

From the basecamp they can also go back and check out previous updates using a timeline, as well as get information on who the Trekkers are.

After you finish this quick orientation definitely click over to the "Trek" section of the site so you can see what the students will experience. (Click here for K-6 and here for 7-12.)

Bring World History to Life

The Odyssey's previous project was a two-year World Trek. It is very similar to the US Trek in tone and organization. You can check out the World Trek here.

Before you go...

Be sure to Register! This is how we keep in touch with you about the upcoming chats and other special events. It's also how we keep track of who is using the site so we can continue to receive funding! It's free, quick and confidential, so please do so now.

Thank you, and may your experience with The Odyssey United States Trek be meaningful and enjoyable!

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