Standards Database Logo
Home | Browse | Search | Purpose | History | Process | Acknowledgment| Reference



McREL Standards Activity

Adventures with Lewis and Clark

Purpose:As a result of this activity, students will learn specific details of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and will analyze and interpret primary source materials related to this specific historical event.
Related Standard & Benchmarks:
United States History
 Standard 9.Understands the United States territorial expansion between 1801 and 1861, and how it affected relations with external powers and Native Americans
   Level III [Grade 7-8]
   Benchmark 5. Understands the significance of the Lewis and Clark expedition (e.g., its role as a scientific expedition, its contributions to friendly relations with Native Americans)
Historical Understanding
 Standard 2.Understands the historical perspective
   Level III [Grade 7-8]
   Benchmark 6. Knows different types of primary and secondary sources and the motives, interests, and bias expressed in them (e.g., eyewitness accounts, letters, diaries, artifacts, photos; magazine articles, newspaper accounts, hearsay)
Student Product:group discussion and written report
Material & Resources:The following Internet site will be particularly useful in completing this task:  This site contains information about the Ken Burns documentary Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery and also provides excerpts from the journals.  The link with the journals is designed so that a person can view journal excerpts by all members of the Corps of Discovery, journal entries for specific members of the Corps, and entries by single year, single day, or range of days.  Thus, if students want to see journal excerpts from William Clark from December 25, 1805, they can customize their search for such purposes.

In cases where Internet access is not an option, there are a number of publications of the journals or books that interpret the journals. The teacher might also want to supply photocopies of other editions of the journals. Excerpts from a variety of the Corps members would make the activity more interesting to students.

Teacher's Note:In preparation for this activity, students should have completed a unit on territorial expansion, with emphasis on the Lousiana Purchase and early exploration of this region, including the Lewis and Clark expedition.

In addition, since this activity focuses on the use of primary historical sources, the teacher should discuss with students the differences between primary and secondary sources, and how to detect bias and stereotypes in sources. It might be helpful for the teacher to discuss with the students that the journal entries they study may have spelling errors and that the writers of the journals may have used terms that are today considered "politically incorrect" to describe different groups of people. Students should understand that people in the past were products of their times, that in essence they are what historian Patricia Limerick refers to as "foreigners" to us. They behaved according to the events of the time in which they lived.

After covering a unit regarding territorial expansion of the United States during the early 19th century and the Lewis and Clark expedition, students will work in small groups and read portions (i.e., by specific members of the Corps of Discovery, in specific years) of the Lewis and Clark journals, which cover the years from 1804 to 1806.  Students will search for and identify journal references to specific elements of the expedition, and will compare how different writers of the journals characterize those events or discoveries.  For instance, students might examine how different members of the Corps characterized interactions with Native Americans, discoveries of significant geographic features (e.g., mountain ranges, rivers, bodies of water) or items of scientific interest (e.g., animals, plant-life). The group will then choose a method to present their findings (e.g., editorial, brochure, oral presentation). In addition to their participation in the group activity, individual students submit written reports in which they describe their own conclusions about the journals as sources of historical information. What types of bias or motives were evident in the sources?