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The Land Run of 1889


Make a Compass

Those who made the land run often carried compasses to ensure they traveled in the desired direction. Two types of compasses are included in this activity. The box compass is more complex and requires more materials than the water compass. The water compass can be easily made during a class period at school or quickly at home.

Create a Box Compass

  • Square box with sides no more than two inches high (the bottom a half-gallon milk container will do also)
  • Cardboard circle small enough to lay flat in the bottom of box
  • 1.5 inch nail with head
  • 1 large paper clip, straightened
  • Compass rose (download at http://www.wilderspin.net/School%20stuff/Pirates/compass-rose-coloring.gif )
  • Magnet (one from the refrigerator will do)
  • Glue or tape
  • Wire


  • Pierce the center of the box bottom with the 1.5 inch nail from the bottom up into the box
  • Take the straightened paper clip and compare it to the diameter of your compass rose (if longer, trim)
  • Rub the paperclip against the magnet for several minutes
  • Glue or tape wire to the cardboard circle, slightly off center
  • On the same side, mark the center of cardboard circle and pierce halfway through. Place the cardboard circle on the point of the nail in the box. Let the circle settle. It will turn gently until one end of the needle points north
  • Create a compass rose by printing off the example or drawing your own. It should be the size of your cardboard circle
  • Glue the compass rose to the cardboard circle with the top placed where the needle end points to north

Create a Water Compass

  • Small paperclip, straightened
  • Small piece of Styrofoam (packing peanuts work great too)
  • Bowl or glass of water
  • Magnet (one from the refrigerator will do)
  • Permanent marker


  • Rub the paper clip with the magnet for several minutes
  • Pierce the paper clip through the Styrofoam
  • Gently place on the surface of water. Allow the needle enough time to align along the magnetic fields of the earth. It will then point north. Test this by gently blowing on the needle to push it out of alignment. The same end of the needle should always return to the same direction. Mark the north end of the needle with permanent marker

From EasyFunSchool.com Homeschool Resource

Make a Land Run!

  1. Conduct a land run. Secure the use of a football field, track, playground, or city park for a land run. Divide the area into a 7'x7' grid. Mark each square as a claim, using flour, paint, chalk or other acceptable material. Use handkerchiefs or scraps of fabric, maybe even attached to sticks as claim flags.
  2. Assign a number to each claim and write the number in the square. Make fewer claims than students; this will show that not everyone received a portion of land.
  3. Have students gather their belongings—backpacks, coats, etc.—to simulate the pioneer family carrying all their belongings.
  4. Explain that in the Land Run of 1889, homesteaders lined up all around the perimeter of the Unassigned Lands. Have students line up all around the perimeter of your area.
  5. With great fanfare, stand in the middle of the area and start the race, or assign helpers around the perimeter, to start the race on all sides, all at the same time.
  6. Encourage students to run as far as they possibly can. As students become tired, have them sit down in a square. Scatter helpers around the area to resolve disputes.


  1. Brainstorm the difference between the lifestyles of people back in land run days and contemporary lifestyles.
  2. What would have made people back then healthier? (more exercise, no TV, no video games)
  3. What factors make us healthier? (more varied diet, advances in medicine, more knowledge of nutrition)
  4. Have students walk back to their claims and count the steps (or use pedometers, if available.)
  5. Ask students how often they think they could walk or run that distance every week? Every day?
  6. Challenge students to set goals to walk or run at least that distance once or twice a day.
  7. Challenge students to walk a set number of steps every day until they have walked the equivalent number of miles from starting line to claim.

From Oklahoma State University http://oklahoma4h.okstate.edu/health/landrun.pdf

Oklahoma Land Run Word Search

Dowload the word search (PDF)

What Do You Take?

Participating in a land run requires some planning to determine what tools and supplies you may need. In this lesson, students in grades 3-5 role play making plans to participate in the Oklahoma land run and apply the economic concepts of goods and services, productive resources, scarcity, and opportunity costs to their plans.


  • After completing this activity, students will be able to:
  • Make decisions as to which resources they would need to pack to take along for the land run in Oklahoma.
  • Identify resources as to natural, human, and capital (tools).
  • Define and give examples of scarcity and opportunity cost.


  • Enough play dough for each student to produce a small sculpture
  • Examples of goods
  • Pictures of natural, human, and capital resources
  • 3"x5" cards
  • Shoe box (decorated to look like a travel trunk)
  • Play money
  • Play dough


  1. Discuss with students the story of the Oklahoma land run. Emphasize that this was the last large parcel of land in the United States to be given away by the federal government, and that many people wanted to get some of this free land.
  2. Have students brain storm the resources that they think they would need to take along in order to be successful in claiming and settling the land. For example, a hammer, stakes, food, pots, pans, water, tents, horses, etc. List them on the board. Classify the resources suggested as to whether they are natural, human, or capital resources.
  3. For students grade 3 or younger, skip to #10. For grades 4 to 5 proceed to #4.
  4. Divide students into those who want to make the run, and those who would like to provide goods and services. Distribute play money to students who want to make the run. Students should have differing amounts of money; not everyone had the same resources.
  5. Draw or cut out pictures of resources and put them on 3 x5 cards. Put a price on each card. Make enough cards so that more than one student can purchase an item.
  6. Set up a desk as a sort of general store or place to get resources for the run. Be sure to include train tickets for sale as well, and a livery stable selling horses. Make enough cards so that everyone can purchase something.
  7. Give students time to make purchases. Some will not have as many resources as others. Discuss the concepts of scarcity and opportunity cost.
  8. Hand out play dough. Have students make sculptures of items they wanted to take along, but couldn't get.
  9. Have each student show his/her sculpture and tell the class about it. Review the economic concepts of scarcity, opportunity cost, and productive resources.
  10. For younger students: Hand out play dough. Have students make a good that they would like to take on the run. Have each student show his/her sculpture and tell the class about it. Review the economic concepts of scarcity, opportunity cost, and productive resources.


  • For older students you may want to add the concepts of goods and services and have them identify the various goods and services needed to participate in a land run.
  • Goods: tangible items that satisfy peoples' wants, such as shirts, wagons, food, etc.
  • Services: activities that satisfy people's wants.
  • Students may draw pictures of the items they would want to take on the land run.
  • Students may also write a story about someone who participated in the land run.

From the Tales of Oklahoma Project by the Oklahoma Council on Economic Education