Putting It All Together
The 1804-1806 Lewis & Clark expedition effectively opened the Northwest to the influence of the United States, established relations with numerous American Indian nations, and gathered useful scientific documentation about the West. While the content of the lesson plan primarily focuses on the expedition and their experiences, the following activities will help students explore the impact of the expedition on the lives of the American Indians and explore their perspectives. Also included are activities helping students understand the importance of documenting and recording evidence and the difficulties of detailed mapping.
Activity 1: The Legacy of Lewis and Clark
The legacy of Lewis and Clark reaches far and wide in the history of the United States. Divide students into teams having them research the impact of the Lewis and Clark expedition on one of the following topics:
1. Westward expansion
2. American Indians
3. Science-flora, fauna, and mapping
4. Commerce and trade
Ask each group to present their findings in an oral report, and then have them discuss the positive and negative impact of the expedition especially depending on whose perspective you take into account.
Activity 2: The American Indians
Divide students into teams and explain that there is a perspective missing in the accounts by Lewis and Clark and other journals kept by expedition members--the American Indian perspective. Have students research what the tribes mentioned in the readings of this lesson were like at the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition. If possible, try to find references to their encounters with the expedition members to determine what they thought of these explorers from the East. Have them compare what they find to the perspectives presented in the Lewis and Clark journals. Hold a class discussion on the following questions. How do the perspectives differ? Is it possible to determine if there is a "correct" perspective? Why or why not? How do cultural biases reflect how we see others?
Many of the American Indian tribes encountered by the Lewis and Clark expedition are active and cohesive cultural societies today. Of the tribes mentioned in the readings of this lesson, have students determine which ones are still in existence today. Choose one tribe and write a brief paper on their history since the Lewis and Clark expedition. How did their lives change in light of contact with European Americans? Where are they now in comparison to where the corps encountered them in the early 19th century? What steps are they taking to maintain their own distinct culture? Are they a federally recognized sovereign nation? If so, what does that mean?
See the Supplementary Resource section of this lesson for a listing of several useful resources to help students get started on these activities.
Activity 3: The Power of the Pen
Ask students to review Drawings 1 & 2 and a copy of the Lewis and Clark journals from the local or school library. Have them note examples of the scientific documentation that Lewis and Clark compiled over the course of the Corps of Discovery's two and a half-year journey. Due to the nature of their mission, Lewis and Clark recorded their observations with precision and detail. Break the students into groups of three or four and ask them to spend an hour observing their environment recording the details in a journal. Suggest that they record details by both drawing and writing to provide a complete picture of the subject being studied. Allow students to venture outdoors and record natural settings as well. After the hour, gather the students and have each group present their observations. Without mentioning the name of the actual object, place, or environment studied; each group should talk in depth about their observations in such a way that the rest of the class might guess what had been observed. When each group is done, hold a class discussion on each group's methods of observation. Which was the most effective? Which was the most thorough? Why is it important to study and understand the environment? An alternate activity would be to have students collect samples of native flowers and plants and place them in a botanical notebook. Students should identify the specimen by name. Have them examine their samples and record their observations in the journal.
Activity 4: Creating Maps
Mapping new territories incorporating geographical elements is quite a daunting task. And with only a few rudimentary instruments, William Clark was able to produce a workable map of the Louisiana Territory and the northwestern territory. Have students examine the maps in this lesson as well as maps available in the classroom, school library, or on the Internet (preferably maps drawn during the Corps of Discovery's journey to the Pacific). Then ask students to walk around their neighborhood or the area surrounding their school and document their visual interpretations in the form of a map. Have students note topographical variations in their surroundings. Emphasize the importance of including a scale and a legend in all map-making endeavors. When the students are done, have them display their maps in the classroom and share with classmates what they learned from the experience. Then have students compare their own maps to an actual map of the school grounds or their neighborhood file at the local library or with the town. Focus on the difficult nature of reproducing precise, accurate drawings of landscapes and then place the significance of Clark's work into perspective. Have the students discuss the challenges that they came across in trying to create their own maps and relate that to some of the difficulties with which Clark might have been faced. If possible, invite a local surveyor in your community and have him/her talk to the class about surveying and map-making today.