Grades 6–8

This lesson can be taught in 5–8 class periods

Lesson Introduction:
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 organizer.

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 & Evaluation)

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 5–8)
Research any local events having to do with Lewis and Clark (You can start at, and have your students write a newspaper story on the event. Collect the articles and create a newspaper.

Language Arts (Grade 5–8)
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 great grandchildren.

Discussion starters:

• 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 changes? Why?
• 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?
• 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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