Lesson Plan

Pioneer Survival

White Snakeroot


During the game “Oh No! Sickness!” students will collect the things the Lincoln family needed to survive.  They will learn that pioneers who got sick didn’t have the medicines we have today to help them get better.


Students will be able to:

1. Work productively in small groups to collect all the cards needed to make a home.

2. Make appropriate decisions to collect the needed cards.


Thomas and Elizabeth Sparrow, Nancy's uncle and aunt, with their 18-year-old nephew Dennis Hanks, followed the Lincolns to Indiana and moved into a rough shelter on the Lincoln farm until they could find land and settle. Their coming cheered Nancy and gave young Abraham a companion and Thomas another work hand.


Within a year, both Sparrows died as victims of the dreaded "milk sickness" (white snakeroot poisoning) that swept through southwestern Indiana in the late summer of 1818. No doctors lived nearby, and there were no known remedies. A few weeks later Nancy also became a victim of the "milk sickness" and died on October 5, 1818. Abraham was only 9 and Sarah 11.


36 cards total

6 Animals

6 Home (log cabin)

6 Water (ex. spring, well, stream)

6 Land

6 Food

5 Trees

1 Sickness


Write the following topics on the board:  animals, home, water, land, food, and trees.  Discuss that these are some things the Lincoln family needed to live.

Ask the students for examples that would go under each of the topics.

Explain that they will play a game like Old Maid that is called "Oh No! Sickness". The goal of the game is to get a complete set of cards, when they do they will say the word "pioneer". Divide the class into six small groups in different areas of the room. Shuffle the game cards and deal each group six cards. To win the game they will need to have a complete set of cards – 1 animal, 1 home, 1 water, 1 land, 1 food, 1 tree. But there is a catch, one tree is missing and has been replaced with something bad – sickness. If a group gets the sickness card they will want to get rid of it (just like you would want to get rid of the Old Maid). (Place a set of the cards in view of the students for reference).

Have the students look at their cards and as a group choose the best move. The students will need to decide how many cards they will need to trade. After they have decided, they pick one member of their group to go to the center of the room to trade their cards with another group. The student that is selected to trade cards says aloud the number of cards they are trading until they are able to exchange cards with another group. They can only trade with a group that wants to trade the same number of cards.

The groups continue to trade cards until one group has a set of all six cards. When a group has a complete set they should shout the word "pioneer". The game stops. Any student in the middle goes back to their group with the cards they have in their hand.

The group that shouted "pioneer" reads their cards to make sure they have 1 animal, 1 home, 1 water, 1 land, 1 food, 1 tree. If they have all six they get 6 points. The other groups check their cards to make sure they do not have a complete set.  If another group has a complete set of six cards they also get six points. Keep score on the board.


The other groups check their hands to see which one is holding the sickness card.


This group receives 0 points for this round. The remaining groups get a point for each part of a set they have, no points are given for the duplicates.


Collect the cards, shuffle and deal again. The class can play as many rounds as desired.

Park Connections

For the early 19th century Indiana pioneer, the forests where he moved were both a blessing and a curse. The dense growth of trees and underbrush were sometimes almost impenetrable and clearing the land was a seemingly never-ending chore. But it was also the forests that provided so much of what was needed. It was from the trees that he obtained logs for his home and the wood from which he fashioned tools, furniture, and other utensils necessary for frontier life.


One of the major necessities of life for the pioneers was clothing. Ready-made, store-bought clothing was scarce on the frontier. As a result, most of what they wore was what they could make themselves. Moccasins could be made of tanned buckskin and breeches and shirts of dressed skin worked soft and then by hand. Once cultivated, the flax plant was a good source of raw material for clothing. Wool was also very important in the pioneers' efforts to provide themselves with adequate apparel. The preparation of these materials and the production of homemade clothing was a significant part of the pioneers' lives.


Obtaining food to cook over the fire occupied a large amount of the pioneers' time. Hunting was the primary means of obtaining meat for the earliest settlers. Indiana in the early 19th century was rich in natural resources and game was abundant. Deer and bear were plentiful and pigeons were reported in flocks so large that they darkened the sky when they flew over. As the state became more heavily settled, hunting became more of a challenge and the pioneer came to rely more upon agriculture to feed his family.