Lesson Plan

Freeing the Elwha (To Go or Not to Go)

An 1895 map of Washington.

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Grade Level:
Sixth Grade-Eighth Grade
Community, Economics, Geography, Government, History, Immigration, Social Studies
One Class Period
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
Washington State Standards:
Social Studies:
EALR 2: ECONOMICS,Component 2.1:


What hardships and rewards were involved in maintaining a sustainable homestead?


  • Identify the purpose of the Homestead Act;
  • Decide what was needed to move west during the 1800s;
  • Describe the day-to-day life of homesteaders;
  • Explore who moved onto the Olympic peninsula;
  • Develop a time line for events and developments along the Elwha River and Port Angeles, WA.


To introduce the Homestead Era of United States history, students will read a summary of the Homestead Act of 1862. Through classroom discussion the conditions required to "prove up" a homestead will be listed. Students will be given a scenario and an 1870 catalogue to complete a graphic organizer to decide if they would make the move west. They will write a short essay of their decision.


  • Summary of the Homestead Act of 1862
  • 1870 Catalogue
  • Graphic Organizer:
  • "What to Take"
  • "What to Take" teacher master
  • Pencil and paper to create a journal



Completion of the graphic organizer and the essay from journal. The essay should clearly state if the student has decided to go or not to go to Washington state and why or why not. If going, the essay should include how much money they have decided to spend to get ready to go, how much they will spend while on the trip and how much they think they will need once they get to Washington. They should also include how far they expect to travel in one day (20 miles, if dry, 10 miles, if raining). Typically, the trip required four months to complete. If the student decided not to go, the essay should include their reasons why they are not going and what they will do with their money.


Westward expansion

Last updated: February 28, 2015