Oregon doesn't always get a lot of attention. Sure, there's the Oregon Trail, and most people could tell you vaguely that Lewis and Clark came through the territory on their way to the Pacific Ocean, but we're not always in the media like California, Texas, and New York. Since most Oregonians like their privacy that's okay, but it's also nice to have a one-stop introduction to the Beaver State's geology, geography, history, and significance.
Such a one-stop introduction is Discovering Oregon, a worktext for Christian schools and home school families that examines the state of Oregon from several angles. Upper elementary and middle school students will get a solid overview of the history and geography of the region, as well as a wealth of cultural detail which brings to life different eras and cultures. Oregon is a surprisingly diverse place, and this book will help you understand it better and appreciate it more.
How Does This Work?
There are six units in all, with the first one covering geology and geography, and the following five focusing on history. Author Katharine E. Matchette begins with Creation to describe the shaping of Oregon and why there are so diverse geological provinces, including coastal (or littoral) regions, mountains and valleys, desert, and lava plains. Native American tribes are also covered in the first unit, complete with maps of their disbursement and a brief glossary of Indian words.
Units 2-6 cover explorers, missionaries like the Whitmans and Jason Lee, the arrival of the Oregon Trail immigrants, the fur trade, the work of Dr. John McLoughlin, Oregon during World War II, and much more. At the beginning of each unit is a "Word Study" section in which students write out definitions to technical and historical words. Every unit ends with a test comprised of both matching and multiple choice problems.
Smaller matching and multiple choice quizzes appear throughout units, as well as fill-in-the-blank exercises and crosswords. These are interspersed among the text, which is broken into smaller sections so students don't have to slog through page after page in one sitting. Maps and charts appear throughout the book as needed, and there are plenty of photographs and drawings (all in black and white) to spice up the text, which is engaging and readable in its own right.
There are several supplements in the back of the book, including an extensive bibliography, an excellent index, a glossary, and a guide with maps to each of the counties in Oregon, complete with vital statistics and a brief description of each county. A final test wraps everything up and recalls salient elements from each previous unit. Those who purchase the book will receive a code to access answer keys for each unit and the final test online.
Because there are no specified lessons or weekly schedules, students can make their way through Discovering Oregon at whatever pace works for your family or classroom. There's enough content to make the book perfect for one semester, though if you supplement with extra reading and projects you could stretch it over an entire year. Students can easily work alone, though you may want to discuss content with younger ones, just to make sure they grasp what they read.
Our Honest Opinion
There really are no books like this available. Its layout is simple to understand and easy to implement, and it covers an incredible amount of content. The fact that it's from a Christian perspective is particularly helpful, though Matchette doesn't get preachy, and she spends most of her time discussing general history rather than church-specific history. Oregon is a wonderful state (as everyone who lives here knows well!), and this is a wonderful source to deepen appreciation and knowledge of it.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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