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Lewis and Clark Expedition Activities

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition is one of the most famous events in early 19th-century US history. These activities can help students explore this topic in greater depth and new ways.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition

In 1804, the Corps of Discovery left from Missouri on a journey to explore the just-purchased territory of Louisiana. Generally referred to as the Lewis and Clark Expedition, this team traveled to the Pacific Ocean and back over the next two years and become folk heroes. The following in-class activities can help your students explore this moment in history and engage with the material in new ways.

Lewis and Clark Expedition Activities

Expedition Summary

Ask students to assume the identity of Meriwether Lewis for this writing activity. Provide students with a packet of information about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. If possible for your class, try to make these primary sources from the Corps of Discovery. Using these sources and their existing knowledge, students will write a summary of the expedition. (Students can work individually or in groups.) This summary will be written from Lewis' first-person perspective, and be framed as his report to Congress. Students should focus on detailing the discoveries that Congress would be most interested in, which will require them to understand what Congress hoped Lewis and Clark would do in the first place. Choose several students to present their reports to a mock Congress (their classmates).

  • Materials: Historical documents packet, writing supplies

Visual Diary

Provide students with some of the written accounts from the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Students will read through these textual primary sources, and will then attempt to retell it by writing their own journal of these same events. However, they will do so from the perspective of one of the less literate members of the Corps of Discovery. This means that they will create a visual diary, drawing the things that the Corps of Discovery witnessed on their expedition. Students diaries can be displayed around the room for the entire class to view.

  • Materials: Written accounts of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, paper, pencil or other writing/drawing utensils

Memorial

Divide the class into small groups. Inform them that they are competing to earn a commission to design a memorial to the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In their groups, students must come up with a design that commemorates the expedition and its significance to history. They will sketch out their design, and must also choose a location for the memorial - will it be in St. Louis or Oregon or Louisiana or somewhere else? Once the groups are ready, give them each a chance to pitch their memorial design to the class.

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