Beacon Lesson Plan Library

On the Trail with Lewis and Clark

Kathy Corder
Leon County Schools


Students use the Internet to conduct research on the Lewis and Clark journals and work cooperatively in planning and delivering a presentation.


The student knows the role of physical and cultural geography in shaping events in the United States (for example, environmental and climatic influences on settlement of the colonies, the American Revolution, the Civil War).


-Lewis and Clark journals activity sheet
-Computer lab or media center access
-Map of Louisiana Territory
-Colored pencils


1. Copy the Lewis and Clark journals activity sheet prior to class. (See attachments.)

2. Arrange for computer lab or media center access.

3. Review class procedures for groupwork and presentations to ensure maximum behavior.


1. After studying the Louisiana Purchase and an introduction to Lewis and Clark, tell students they will be studying the journals of the discovery team. Review the concepts of culture (the way of life-language, tools, customs, beliefs, language, government, and traditions of a group of people) and geography or geographical features (mountains, rivers, streams, plains, desert, rocky, animals, etc.). Tell students they will need to pay particular attention to these two themes in studying the journals of the Corps of Discovery.

2. Distribute the Lewis and Clark journals activity sheet and send students to the school Internet lab (if one is available) or media center to conduct research on the journals of a particular individual on the team during a specific time period. Assign each month of the journey to one or two students.

3. Tell students to access the Lewis and Clark web site at PBS Online and to follow the instructions on the activity sheet. (See Weblinks.) At the end of the activity, take up the Internet activity sheets to complete a formative assessment. In assessing, focus on numbers 5, 7, and 12, as these items are specific to the benchmarks. Provide feedback to students, especially on these items to help them shape their ideas about the concepts of culture and geography.

4. On the next day in class, return the Internet activity sheets. Write the benchmark for the lesson on the board or overhead. Group students according to the four to six month period of the journey.

5. Direct students to share their findings in the groups, identifying two to three major events from their period of time, the specific locations of the events, geographical features of the location, and how their particular period of time relates to the benchmark.

6. Also, instruct each group to select a spokesperson to report the findings of the group.

7. Prior to the presentations, distribute a period map of the Louisiana Territory to the entire class. Also, provide colored pencils for students who do not have them.

8. Ask the spokesperson from each group to identify the path of their four to six months on a large map of the U.S. The spokeperson should also share the major events of his or her group's time period, the locations of the events, and geographical features of the area. It might be helpful for each spokesperson to write the names of the locations on the board.

9. As each spokesperson shares the group information, the rest of the class should be charting the path of Lewis and Clark on their individual maps, labeling important locations, and taking notes on a sheet of paper. For example, students could write the number 1 at St. Louis, Missouri, since this is the location from which Lewis and Clark departed. The students could also write the number 1 on a sheet of paper with a short description of what occurred there.

10. When the presentations are complete, each student should have a complete map with notes of the Lewis and Clark journey. Ask the students to review the map and their notes.

11. Distribute an index card to each student. Tell the students to write a short three to five sentence paragraph in response to the following prompt: Explain the roles of geography and/or culture in the success of the Lewis and Clark journey. Be sure to give at least three specific examples of culture and/or geography from our class presentations to support your main idea. Students should turn in their index cards for the teacher to assess formatively. See criteria below.


1. Formatively assess numbers 5, 7, and 12 on the Internet activity sheets to determine if students have an understanding of culture and geographical features. Provide appropriate feedback to student.

2. Evaluate index cards to determine if students have provided appropriate examples of culture and geography which contributed to the success of Lewis and Clark's journey west and ultimately America's westward expansion. Accept any examples of meetings with native peoples and the sharing of customs which assisted the Corps in adapting to the environment and geographical challenges. Also, students might include geographical features or landmarks which provided the Corps with the means to be successful in their journey.


If no computer lab is available, the teacher can copy selected journals from the PBS Online web site for students to use in the classroom. These journals can be laminated for use in multiple classes.

The activity sheet could be shortened for students who struggle with reading and writing tasks.

Students could create projects or write papers after thoroughly exploring the PBS website on Lewis and Clark.

Web Links

Web supplement for On the Trail with Lewis and Clark
PBS Online Lewis and Clark Journals

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