This lesson can be taught in 36 class periods
The focus for students in this age group is on the leadership,
courage and challenges faced by the Corps of Discovery. Students
will practice their reading comprehension, visual literacy, writing,
and map skills throughout the activity.
Before you begin the unit on Lewis & Clark, break the classroom
into two groups. Assign each group the background article and one
other article—either on President Thomas Jefferson or on the Louisiana
Purchase. Direct the students to the articles online or have printouts
of the articles for them to read at home.
Begin a discussion about the Lewis & Clark journey by asking
students what they learned about the articles they have read over
night. As a class, make three lists on the board: Background,
President Thomas Jefferson, and the Louisiana Purchase. Once
all the facts are on the board, and students have copied the information
into their notebooks, prompt students to synthesize this information.
Ask students about what kinds of events prompted the journey,
challenges faced by the Corps of Discovery, and leadership skills
needed by Lewis and Clark. (See Discussion starters below). Tell
students that they will be going on their own journey, following
Lewis & Clark and also making virtual visits to the trail
today, but first they must prepare for the journey.
Depending on the availability of computers in the classroom,
break up students so they can take the interactive quiz on what
they would pack for a three-year journey. If computers are not
available, you can print this quiz out in advance and have the
students complete them offline.
While students are still at their computers, have them meet
the team of explorers who joined Lewis and Clark. If you have
a computer learning station within the classroom, assign the “Meet
the Team” area as an independent activity for their computer time.
Once all students have completed the quiz, regroup to discuss
what they have learned. For example, how many were surprised at
the availability of canned goods in 1803? Discuss the leadership
skills needed for Lewis and Clark as well as the men they picked
for their team. What kind of decisions did they need to make in
order to solve the problems and challenges ahead of them in the
trail? Ask students if they would be prepared to make a similar
journey and what they would do to prepare for it.
As homework, have students bring in a box from home. Any small
box made of cardboard like a shoebox will do. Print out several
copies of the box
labels so students can pick a character to become through
their experiences following Lewis & Clark. When they return
to class, explain to them that they will collect objects as they
go through the Lewis & Clark activity, and they must prepare
these objects to send home to their parents. If you have time,
have students decorate their boxes with their box labels and any
other art material available. If there is no time, have them pick
their labels in class, paste them on their boxes, and ask them
to decorate their boxes at home
Following the Journey
Print out the timeline graphic organizer
(PDF) for each student.
Individually or in pairs, have each student by a computer. Introduce
them to the home page of Lewis and Clark and explain that they
are ready to start the journey in 1803. Direct them to the 1803
timeline and have them explore while filling out their graphic
As students explore the timelines, they will find the objects
for the specimen box. Have them create a specimen box online and
collect the objects, filling out the descriptive information as
they go along. Once they have completed their specimen box, have
them print out the contents and place them in their decorated
The Trail Today
Throughout the year, Scholastic News student reporters will
be writing articles on events celebrating Lewis and Clark. Have
students read through these reports. You can come back periodically
to see if new reports are added.
After students read about the events on the trail today, they
are given a choice on either reporting on Lewis and Clark or writing
a journal entry as if they were a member of the Corps of Discovery.
For either writing assignment, have students focus on their point
of view—whether they are writing with a Native American perspective,
a member of the Corps of Discovery, or even President Thomas Jefferson.
They should also pay attention to the facts in their journals
and articles and separate them from their opinions.
If students are writing a journal, have them pre-write, write,
and edit their work offline. They should hand one copy to you
before entering it into the Westward Expansion journal.
If students are writing the article, they should follow the directions
in the “Be a Reporter” section, enter their headline, byline,
and caption. They should fully research and write their article
before printing out a copy for grading. (See Assessment
Extend this activity
Once their timeline graphic organizers are completed, as a class,
students can create a large map or timeline following the journey
of Lewis and Clark. Decorate with the specimen box objects as well
as images they print off the Internet.
Cross Curricular Extensions
Vocabulary/Word Origins (Grades 35)
Students learn about the influence of Native American languages
by studying the history of common English words. Assign students
to each compile lists of five or more words that originate from
Native American languages. For some examples see AAA
Drama (Grades 45)
Students can choose to dramatize a specific episode from the adventures
of Lewis and Clark, rehearse the play, and then present it to
Language Arts (Grade 35)
Students write a story about the Lewis and Clark adventures.
Giving students the theme of Lewis and Clark, have them write
characters, a plot, setting, and point of view.
Why was it important to pick the right
people to go on the journey with Lewis and Clark?
What were some of the events and people
who came together to make the Lewis and Clark journey happen?
Why was it important that all these events happened?
How is the American landscape different
today than it was in the early 1800s?
What are some of the changes in the
lives of Native Americans?
Do you think Lewis and Clark could have imagined some of these
What are some of the differences between
traveling 200 years ago and today? What would be a comparable
journey today and how would you prepare for it?
In 1806, Lewis and Clark came back
to the United States to very little fanfare. Why do we celebrate
their accomplishments today?
How are people still exploring today?
How would you feel if you were put
in Lewis and Clark’s shoes?
In reading the journals written by
Lewis, Clark, and the members of their team, how can we, as historians,
figure out the differences between fact and opinion in their experiences?
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