This lesson can be taught in 58 class periods
The focus for students in this age group is on the challenges
faced by the Corps of Discovery, and the effect the journey had
on American history and Native American cultures. Students will
practice their reading comprehension, visual literacy, writing,
and map skills throughout the activity.
Before you begin the unit on Lewis & Clark, assign the Prepare
for the Journey
section as homework. Direct the students to
the articles and quiz online or have printouts for them to read
and fill out at home.
Begin a discussion about the Lewis & Clark journey by asking
students what they learned about the articles they have read for
homework. Make two lists on the board: cause and effect. Have
students list people and events that allowed the Lewis and Clark
journey to happen. Then have students list effects the journey
had on the United States at the time, the United States today,
and Native American cultures. (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 make their own preparations for the
journey. As a class, make a list of responsibilities they, as
students, have in the classroom but also on the journey. These
responsibilities could include: being responsible for your work,
finishing tasks on time, coming to class on time, etc. They should
also include responsibilities specific to Lewis and Clark: being
a leader, packing appropriate supplies for weather and geography,
ensuring the safety of the team, etc.
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. Instruct students to try and describe the object
from several points of view. For example, how did Lewis and Clark
view a buffalo compared to the way a local Native American would
view it or even how we view buffalo today? Once they have completed
their specimen box, have them print out the contents and place
them in their decorated boxes.
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 cause and
effect—looking at how the Lewis and Clark journey has affected
people, animals, and places till this day. 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.
Extend the Lesson with these activities:
Cross Curricular Extensions
Journalism (Grades 58)
Research any local events having to do with Lewis and Clark
(You can start at http://lewisandclarkevents.com,
and have your students write a newspaper story on the event. Collect
the articles and create a newspaper.
Language Arts (Grade 58)
Students write a story about the Lewis and Clark adventures
from the point of view of one of the Native Americans encountered
along the trail in 1804. Giving students this theme, have them
write a story with characters, a plot, tone, and setting. Have
them write a postscript to their story written by their character’s
Why was it important to pick the right
people to go on the journey with Lewis and Clark?
What kind of leadership skills did they have?
What kind of responsibilities did they share?
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
In 1806, Lewis and Clark came back
to the United States to very little fanfare. Why do we celebrate
their accomplishments today?
What were some of the responsibilities
Lewis and Clark took on as the leaders of the expedition?
How do you think United States history
would be different if Lewis and Clark had failed?
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