Beacon Lesson Plan Library

The 21st Century Lewis and Clark Trail

Terry Provancha


Students enjoy learning about the Lewis and Clark Trail as they trace the path from the beginning to the end using modern technology. After studying the path, students create a better route through the Rocky Mountains using a topographical CD Rom.


The student extends and refines use of various map forms and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report geographic information about the United States (for example, tracing the Oregon Trail).


-Computer lab
-MapSend software by Magellan
-A networked printer
-Printer paper
-Internet access
-Media Center (reserved for research time)
-Smart Board
-Unlabeled map of the Lewis and Clark Trail for each student (Teacher-created or reproduced)
-Group copies of the Lewis and Clark Trail Checklist (See Associated File)
-Group copies of the Lewis and Clark Trail Project Rubric (See Associated File)


1. Reserve computer lab.
2. Reserve Media Center.
3. Print out teacher-created, unlabeled map of the Lewis and Clark Trail.
4. Install MapSend on computers. (You may need site license. Contact
5. Gather printer paper.
6. Make sure there is enough space on the school server for saving information.
7. Provide plenty of disks for the students.
8. Make sure the Smart Board and presenter are available when you need them.
9. Download and copy the Lewis and Clark Trail Checklist and Project Rubric for each group of 2-3 students. (See Associated File)


NOTE: This activity may take longer depending on the technology savvy of the students.

1. Have MapSend software running on Smart Board when students arrive in class.

2. When class begins, ask them to hypothesize where in the U.S. they are looking at and take a wild guess as to the topic of investigation. Tell students they have a choice between the Santa Fe Trail, Oregon Trail, or the Lewis and Clark Trail. Tell them they have one class period to research the correct trail.

3. Hand out the unlabeled Lewis and Clark Trail map and let them know this is a partial answer, but they will have to research the rest of the correct answer. Students may choose between using classroom history books or going to the Media Center.

1. Students present their answers. Students who did not get it correct should team up with those that did for the remainder of this project.

2. Have students team up with no more than three students to a group. This will allow three students per computer in the lab.

3. When students are in the lab, they use the MapSend software and navigate (on their own) to the location of the beginning of the Lewis and Clark Trail. They may decide to zoom in or out depending on what they want. Be sure to hand out the Lewis and Clark Trail Checklist and Project Rubric at this time so students are aware of what they will be expected to know and do. (See Associated File)

4. As indicated on the Lewis and Clark Trail Project Rubric, students must give the latitude/longitude of the beginning point and the latitude/longitude of end point of the trail.

5. Students then follow the Lewis and Clark Trail on the map CD and identify 38 other latitude/longitude points that they choose along the way.

6. It is suggested that the students identify some of the points of interest that Lewis and Clark stopped at or crossed over at. Each of the three students should take turns identifying various latitude/longitude points. Remind students that they must save their work on a disk or the school server.

1. Students pick a point east of the Rockies along the trail and create a shorter, easier route from that point to the end point. They must have another 20 latitude/longitude points for this part of the project. When completed, the students should save and print out their maps of the existing trail and their newly created better route.

1. Each team describes and explains their reasons for the creation of the new and better route while showing it with the presenter and Smart Board.

2. The teacher assesses this activity using the Lewis and Clark Trail Project Rubric. (See Associated File)


1. Formative assessment occurs during each class period by walking around to each computer station while the students are working on the original trail and the new trail. Here are some questions to ask students:
-Why did you pick that point as one of your points of interest?
-Why did they use the river so frequently in their travels?
-What is the name of the river they took when they left the starting point?
-What are two other rivers they traversed?
-What is the name of the mountain range they crossed?
-What ocean were they trying to get to?
-What current states did they travel through?
-What is the highest elevation they took?
-What is the name of that mountain? What is its latitude/longitude?
-What is the lowest elevation they were at? What is its latitude/longitude
-What/where is your lowest point and your highest point in the new route?
-Explain four reasons why you designed your route.

2. The summative assessment is their presentation using the Smart Board. Students have to present a narrative of the Lewis and Clark Trail providing all the information from the Lewis and Clark Trail Checklist. (See Associated File) The Lewis and Clark Trail Project Rubric is used to evaluate the students' presentations. (See Associated File)


The lesson can be extended by having the students move on to the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, and any other exploration in the world.

Special note: When asking for student reason in the question section, the teacher should in their professional judgement determine if the response is reasonable to the question asked.
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