School Resources

Lesson Plans, Presentations & Video

These resources listed here are suitable for learners of all ages, but some are specifically designed for elementary and middle school students.

2024 BYU-OCTA Essay Contest

This year BYU is partnering with the Oregon-California Trails Association to sponsor an essay contest focused on pioneer history in the 1800s.

2024 BYU-OCTA Essay Contest - Theme: Pioneer history in the western United States during the 1800s.

Prompt: Write a 4-5 page essay about an important historical person or event related to pioneer history in the Western United States during the 1800s.

Submissions Open: March 1st
Submissions Close: April 15th


  • 1st Place – $500
  • 2nd Place – $300
  • 3rd Place – $100

Additionally, the first-place winner will be given the opportunity to publish their essay in one of OCTA’s publications, with editing and revision help from the chief editor. They will also receive funding to fly out for OCTA’s Convention in Pendleton, Oregon in July of 2024 to present their paper at the conference. This is made possible because of the generous donations of BYU’s Charles Redd Center for Western Studies and BYU’s History Department.

Winners will be announced in early May.

Additional Requirements for the Essay:
The essay must be written in 12-pt Times New Roman font, double-spaced. Each submission must contain proper citations throughout the essay, which can be cited as either footnotes or endnotes. It must also include a bibliography. Any submissions that do not include citations will NOT be accepted. For any further questions, please contact Ciara Galbraith at

Ciara Galbraith
Western Regional Representative

In Pursuit of a Dream

This multiple award-winning film shows modern teenagers learning firsthand what it was like to be an emigrant traveling West on a wagon train.

What would it be like to go back in time (with no cell phones, IM’ing, Twitter and Facebook or running water for that matter) and travel across the country just like the pioneers did. That’s what 24 kids from across the US, (some who had never been out of their home town EVER), did for their summer vacation. Led by three amazing teachers these new age “emigrants” trekked through Wyoming and north to Oregon on a once-in-a-lifetime journey that challenged even the toughest in the group.

They traded their modern conveniences for long dresses and overalls, loaded their wagons and took off for adventure on the Oregon and California Trails. Along the way they met gold seekers, scoundrels and natives. And while they learned about what made us a great nation as we moved west, they also learned about themselves and how the decisions they made could have serious and unexpected consequences for their group. Some made it, others did not. Join these kids in this 83 minute-long drama as they are challenged to find the right direction, “In Pursuit of a Dream”.

Lesson Plans & Units


PowerPoint overview presentations designed for elementary students.