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Grey Cloud Elementary School second-graders are Oregon bound

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Cottage Grove, 55016
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

Raya Rawson's second grade class at Grey Cloud Elementary School took a covered wagon trip to Oregon -- 150 days without TV, bicycles, a closet full of clothes and Game Boys.

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Students didn't mind. They did every mile in their Cottage Grove classroom.

Second-grader Jessica Anderson said she could handle such a trip, but she "would miss pizza."

Sam Jirovec would take the trip in a flash. He said, "it would be a journey to a new place."

"It would be fun," said Dillon Coulter.

"The wagon train would take off in April," said Ben Mackenzie, "because we wouldn't want to be caught in the mountains during winter."

Nicole Gannucci tried the johnny cakes made in class last week and a trail staple, but didn't much care for the flat, fried corn cakes.

One day, students had regular trail fare for lunch. That included beans, water, bread and jerky. Like the pioneers, they made their own clothes, such as vests, bonnets and coonskin caps.

Each student kept a journal of the trip, made a log cabin diorama and a covered wagon replica, created a map of the trail and drew a picture of themselves for the story quilt to hang on the wall.

They learned how to churn butter by hanging full milk cans on the side of a wagon, as well as how to dry jerky the same way -- hanging on a wagon.

Whitney Rumpca said pioneers made moccasins for their oxen, "to keep their hooves healthy in the dust."

Rumpca was fascinated with the size of a buffalo. "A dead buffalo lying on its side is as tall as a 9-year-old," she said. Buffalo skeletons lying by the trail were used like bulletin boards. Travelers left messages on the skeletons for friends and neighbors who might be part of other wagon trains.

Rawson said adults on the trail depended on their children to help.

"The children gathered dry buffalo chips along the trail to be used for campfires," she said. "They also collected armfuls of grass to stuff under wheels mired in mud."

The duties of pioneer children are engraved in the memories of Rawson's class. She created a game, "Buffalo Chips" that incorporated all the daily activities of traveling west.

"Students loved playing the game," Rawson said. "I think it was one of their favorite activities. We threw up brown paper 'buffalo chips' and then as fast as possible, I called out activities such as spokes, campfire, river crossing, wood gathering, lights out and broken wheel and they changed positions. I doubt if they'll forget about pioneer life."

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