Lesson Plan

We the People: Challenges of Life at a Frontier Fort

two story building with sidewalks on each side

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
K.L.1, 6-8.RH.1, 6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.8, 6-8.RH.9, 7.RI.9, 8.RI.9, 8.SL.4, 8.SL.5
State Standards:
Kansas Social Studies Standards: SS3 1.10 H, SS3 1.8, SS6 1.6, SS6 3.6, SS7 1.2, SS7 1.4, SS7 1.7
Missouri Social Studies Standards: SS3 1.6, 1.8, 1.9, 1.10, SS5 1.4, 1.5, 1.6
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations.


Students will be able to write an imaginary letter describing what life was like at a frontier fort in the 1840’s.


When Fort Scott was built in the 1840s, America was a young nation that barely stretched across the Mississippi River. Native Americans were being forced to relocate west of the Mississippi River, which brought them into conflict with more aggressive tribes already living on the Great Plains. Most of the lands west of the Mississippi River were either controlled by Mexico or were set up to be a "permanent" home for American Indians where they could be gradually assimilated into American life. At the same time, two overland trails were crossing right through Indian land stretch all the way to Santa Fe and the Oregon Country. When Fort Scott was built it was known to be the “crack post of the frontier”. By the time the fort was closed in the 1850s, America had stretched all the way to the Pacific Ocean and show off their power by winning the Mexican War and gaining millions of acres of new land. Soldiers stationed at the fort played a part in fulfilling America’s manifest destiny



There are a series of assignments for the letter writing assignment. Not all the assignments have to be used. The teacher has the discretion to pick and choose which ones will be best for their students.  

Also attached is a powerpoint that will help augment your lesson materials


Gives students a valuable primary source to the construction project which led to the founding of Fort Scott

Download Military Road Advertisement

Gives students an overview of all the different positions at the fort and what life was life like for the various groups.

Download The Community at Fort Scott Position Descriptions

Provides students with the background events leading up to the fort's founding. Also, gives students an overview of life at the fort.

Download The Founding of Fort Scott

Along with the 1848 sketch allows the students to compare the sketch to the present day site.

Download Current Map of Fort Scott

Allows the students to see the original plans of the fort and compare it to the current site.

Download 1848 Sketch

Allows the students to use primary sources to gain an insight about life at the fort

Download Quotes from the Fort

Allows the students to use primary sources to gain an insight about the prices for goods in the 1840's compared to present day.

Download The Sutler's Store Prices

Gives a description of why the soldiers misbehaved, they crimes they committed and the punishments they received. There are Court Martial records as well as 1841 Army Regulations.

Download Crime and Punishment

Labels the various building in the 1848 Sketch.

Download Map study

Allows student to see Fort Scott relationship to the Military Road and Indian Frontier. Answer key is included on second page.

Download Fill in the blank map of Indian Frontier/Military Road

Lesson Hook/Preview

Have you ever imagined building and living in a fort? Today’s lesson will give you a chance to find out what life was like on a fort along the frontier in the 1840’s. You will write back home to the United States describing life in Fort Scott. 


1.  In small groups have the students brainstorm the following questions:

a. What is a fort used for?

b. Where would a good place to build a fort?

c. What are some people that would be at a fort in the 1840’s?

d. What are some things you would need to have at a fort in the 1840’s?

e. What are some hardships or obstacles the people at the fort would have faced?

f. What do you think life would be like at a frontier fort in the 1840’s?

g. What were the ways people in the 1840’s would have:

h. Transported goods/travel

i. Communicated

j. Heated their homes

k. Cooked their food

l. Obtained drinking water

m. Washed their clothes

n. Washed their bodies

o. Attain reading light

p. Cooled their homes in the summer

q. Powered their machines

*Compare that to your lives today and have groups share their answers

2. Present power point on life at the fort. Have students check and add to their answers

3.  Have students answer questions about constructing the military road from the Advertisement

4.  Have students fill in a blank map of the Indian Frontier/Military Road

5.  Handout a Short History of Fort Scott and have the students answer the questions.

6.  Handout the Community at Fort Scott Positions Worksheet

a. Have students in groups write down the main jobs/duties, fun facts, pay, etc. of their individuals

b. Have the students write down people in their communities who currently do some of the same duties as the people at Fort Scott. Remember some of the positions at the fort will be accomplished by more than one position today

c. have students share their information with the rest of the class

* you may want to create a chart where the students can write down the information. 

7. Compare maps of 1848 and today. Have students determined how the fort has changed since the 1848 sketch.

8.  Have students answer questions from the quotes about life at fort Scott. (Note: many of these quotes will be used in the distance learning program)

9. Have student read the Crime and Punishment handout and answer questions

10.  Have the students write an imaginary first person letter back to the United States describing what life is like at the fort.

*Students can refer back to handouts to help them.

*Teacher can determine how long the letter would be. 



1. Infantry-backbone of the US Army, perform most of the hard labor at Fort Scott.

2. Dragoons-early form of cavalry that help protect the western trails and keep peace between 3.Indians tribes and white settlers

3. Oregon Trail- western trail used mainly by families to move west to the Oregon Country

4.Santa Fe Trail-western trail used mainly by businessmen and traders

5. Manifest Destiny-belief held by many Americans in the 1840 that the United States was destined to spread all the way to the Pacific Ocean

6. Indian Removal Act-law that forced all tribes west of the Mississippi River

7. Indian Frontier-land west of the Mississippi given to the relocated tribes as well as the Plains Indians. The land would be off limits to white settlement.

8. Military Road-built by the US Army to patrol the Indian Frontier. The road stretch from Minnesota to Louisiana. The US Army built a series of forts along the road including Fort Scott.  

Assessment Materials

Letter Writing Criteria and Answer Sheet for Assignments

Provides the assessment for the unit's main assignment; writing a letter about the frontier fort.

Letter Writing Criteria

Download Assessment

Rubric/Answer Key

Provides answers for supplemental materials attached to lessons.

Answer Sheet for Assignments

Download Rubric/Answer Key

Enrichment Activities

1) Teachers can have students explore what units where stationed at the fort. 

2) Teacher may have students explore the fort’s role during the Mexican American War, Bleeding Kansas or the US Civil War.

3) Create a timeline from the Short History Handout and write the key events in the Fort’s History. 

*May have students do research on other frontier forts and write a short timeline to compare.






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Last updated: August 3, 2016