Ghosts of the Past....

Analyzing the Wild, Wild West

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A Webquest for 8th Grade History Students at Bloomfield Jr/Sr High School

By Mrs. Kristie Bladen, Media Specialist

Based on, and using components of, a project conducted by Melville Krebs, Virginia

IIntroduction | Task | Resources | Process | Evaluation | Conclusion

Teacher Notes


And You Thought They Were Only Cloning Sheep!

Imagine for a moment that you could travel beyond the grave to visit with the characters of the Wild, Wild, West......the good, the bad, and the ugly!  Imagine that you are whisked back in time and could experience first hand what life was really like in the unsettled West of the 1800s.  Would you find that some of the Wild West characters were true outlaws and criminals or were they  "Robin Hoods" of their time as some considered the infamous Jesse James to be?  Were the "good guys" always good or were their actions as scandalous as their outlaw counterparts?

Well, it's a new millenium and anything's possible.  An American scientist with a passion for western movies has been secretly cloning characters of the Wild West.  It all started with the 1995 exhumation of Jesse James' burial site.  Since that first exhumation, top secret exhumations of burial sites have been occurring all over the West.  DNA was collected and once cloning was perfected in animals,  the cloning process was used with the DNA of those famous Wild West characters.  They are now living in a top-secret underground facility in New Mexico.  As students of U.S. History, you have been invited to this secret place to meet the characters of the Wild West. These outlaws, lawmen, and showmen are anxious to discover how history has portrayed them years after their deaths.  You will be responsible for giving a presentation through a format of your choosing.  You will need to be creative, yet accurate in your reporting.  Remember, some of them have been dead for decades and are anxious to hear how their lives have been portrayed to today's society.

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The Task

Before visiting the New Mexico facility, you must learn about the times and historical figures of the "Wild West" in American history, and then choose a character that you find especially interesting to research further.  You will write a short paper about your character and then use this person as the basis for your presentation.  Your presentation must be historically accurate, but you are encouraged to be as creative as possible.  The following questions will guide you in your research:

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You will use your history textbook, library books, Internet sources, and encyclopedias to find out information about this period of history.  You must use at least THREE different resources and include them in your citation page.   Below are some of the suggested references available in our library.  You may use these to help find other sources not found in this list or you may bring in items of your own from the public library or your home. 


Divine, Robert A., et. al.  America: The People and the Dream.  Glenview, IL:  ScottForesman, 1994.

Library Books (Click here)

Internet Resources (Use the following:)

The Wild, Wild West

America's West

The Kansas Heritage Server

American Memory

Wild, Wild West's Favorite Links

Westward Expansion




The Wild West

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show

Encyclopedias (Available in the Media Center)

World Book 2000

World Book 1995

The New Book of Knowledge

Encyclopedia Americana

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The Process

1.  You will be responsible for reading your history textbook to get a feeling for the time period.  You will participate in class discussions and exercises with Miss Lincicome.

2.  You will conduct research in the library and the computer lab with Mrs. Bladen and be responsible for taking notes on the information you find.  You will choose a character that you want to know more about from your reading, research, or class discussions.    Your notes should include the following information as well as answering the questions listed above in the Task section.:

*Background information--include dates and important information about this time period.

*Setting--give a description of the places where important events occur.

*Character descriptions--give biographical information about the character you have chosen to report on. 

*Important events--give information about important events that happened during your character's lifetime and during the time of the "Wild West".

3.  Using your notes, write a two page background paper about your chosen character giving historical, geographical, and biographical information.  Discuss the important events that occurred in his/her lifetime and discuss why this person was/was not important to history of that time period.    Your paper should have a title page, citation page, and in-text citation when necessary.  See this link for help with citations/or ask Mrs. Bladen for help.

4.  Based on your paper, create a presentation that highlights your character's life. When giving your presentation, discuss whether history has been kind to that person and whether history has given us an accurate, historical portrayal of the person.  Possible formats for your presentation include:

* Original video--perhaps portray an important scene in your character's life or give an overview of the person's life--from beginning to end.  You will probably have to have the help of classmates who are willing to work with you on this project.  You may use a school camera during school hours, but will have to use your own camera at home.  You may also use the video editing equipment during school hours and will need to arrange time with Mrs. Bladen to do this.

*PowerPoint--lots of possibilities here.  Import pictures from the Internet and create a biographical presentation. 

*Webpage--There are tons of websites devoted to the Wild West.  Create your own using one of the free Internet building tools available on the web.

*Original skit--Write a skit with dialogue and stage directions to portray something about your character's life.  Again, you'll need the help of classmates. Then act out the skit.

*Oral presentation with visuals (timelines, artwork, pictures, posters).  Any kind of oral presentation, but must use some visuals to make the presentation more interesting.

Remember, these are the presentations that will be given to the Wild West characters in that underground facility in New Mexico, so you'll want to portray your character accurately, yet creatively!  This part of the project will take a lot of thought and effort.  Think about what you can realistically do well and practice, practice before giving your presentation to the class.  Discuss with Mrs. Bladen before beginning.  

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The following rubrics will be used to grade your project:

Research Process = 1/3 grade 

Background Paper= 1/3 grade

Presentation--pick the correct rubric for your project= 1/3 grade

Power Point Presentation

Video Presentation

Oral Presentation

Web Page Presentation

Total score = 100 points

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By the end of this project, you will have learned a great deal about the Wild West, it's famous characters, and their way of life.  You will have been given the opportunity to see how history has portrayed these people and decide for yourself whether your character was an outlaw or a hero.  You will gain skills in creating and presenting a multimedia project to your peers (and to those famous folks out in New Mexico!).  Hopefully you will have found this project to be interesting, challenging, and eye-opening.  And last, but not least, I hope you will have had fun!

Who knows.....maybe someday they really will be able to clone Jesse James!   His DNA is out there somewhere!  It could happen!   Would you want it to?

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