Gone West!

Author Visit/In-House Field Trip for Schools GRADES 3-5

​Overview ​

An epic time-travel journey for Grades 3-5 as we follow in the footsteps of westward migrants headed for Gold Rush California, using video, photos, animation, movement, and imagination.

This is also a journey that will make us uneasy. First, just like the actual migrants, we learn from experience how hard it is to cross America. Second, we become aware of the mental baggage the migrants brought with them, how they acquired it, and how the journey challenges their assumptions, especially about indigenous peoples. We see how the journey changed quickly from an exciting jaunt to a terrifying and tragic experience. We also embrace the perspectives of American Indians who watched this staggering parade of people and wagons with amazement and an eye for opportunity, and ultimately, how they came to the overwhelming and terrifying realization of what it really meant for them. It's all based on current historical scholarship and primary sources. In this presentation we will:

  • "Walk" from Independence, MO to Sacramento, CA, in 1849 sometimes literally by marching in place.
  • Experience the landscapes and challenges of the overland trail, through video, photos, and animation, and with help from primary sources.
  • Examine the impact of the drastic and rapid change that westward migration brought to life on the Great Plains and in the West, and how Indian peoples responded.
  • ​Connects with: forthcoming novel set on Overland Trail

Virtual Visits Available

I like to call myself a Brit from Sacramento. I first lived in the US in California's capital, and so my American journey has taken me from West to East. That's one of many reasons why this exciting new program is close to my heart. Gone West! takes kids on an active journey of the mind from Independence, MO to Gold Rush California in 1849, and it's my most ambitious program yet.

Gone West! is at once an epic journey, a human and environmental disaster, and a very human tale. And it makes full use of video, animation, images, physical movement, humor, empathy, and imagination. By the end of two too-brief hours, kids will feel that they really have Gone West!

Annette Laing


  • PLEASE NOTE Program Length: Two hours (BEGINS after audience seated: please allow at least 10 minutes in addition for students' arrival); PLEASE NOTE: Max. Two Sessions per Day for this program only.
  • Virtual version of Gone West is 60-75 minutes
  • Recommended Audience Ages: Grades 3-5 (especially Grade 4)
    Recommended Audience Size: Up to 150 per session For the best possible experience for students, divide a single grade into two sessions for the day. This allows more students to participate as volunteers, a closer view of the artifacts, and the best possible rapport between Annette and the audience.
  • Maximum Audience Size: 150. This is negotiable. If you have access to a sloping auditorium, where students can sit and stand comfortably, move in place, and see the screen clearly, this is the best venue, especially for a large group. All students should be in the same grade: 4th is strongly recommended.
  • Special Notes: All of Annette's programs make full use of audiovisual aids, but Gone West more than most depends on sharp imagery. Either a Promethean board (for smaller groups) or newer projector and large screen with newer projector/bulb is strongly recommended.
  • Social Studies Curriculum Relevance: Connects to study of Westward Migration. Develops critical thinking skills and historical literacy. Connects 19th century to understanding of current events.
  • Cost: Please contact us. We have a holistic approach to pricing, and will want to know some details about your school. Be assured that prices are very reasonable!

Why Don't We Just Give the Price? Each school is different. We don't want to announce a rack rate and frighten you away if you have limited resources. There are discounts and alternatives to make Annette's programs accessible to every school, and many of our clients are Title I schools in rural areas. Asking questions doesn't commit you, and we want to hear from you!

Annette Laing
Annette Laing

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