May 14 marks the anniversary of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s historic expedition to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean. Take the chance to learn about this amazing journey and the people and conditions that made it possible!
Introduce your students to the topic with The Walking Classroom’s Lewis and Clark and Sacagawea (5-#35, Complete-#100). While students are at it, encourage them to consider the impact of exploration on the world today!
A Bit of History
Thomas Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark’s expedition of 1804 to survey the newly-purchased Louisiana Territory and to establish relations with many Native American nations. Today, few doubt its importance in early American history. However, the expedition’s accomplishments were barely acknowledged until 1905, when the Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition popularized the explorers as American heroes!
Even after the Centennial Exposition, the story was seldom researched. Finally, in the 1960’s, the formation of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation and the marking of the Western Trails brought the story of America’s westward expansion into the public consciousness!
In the early 2000’s, the expedition’s bicentennial brought the peak of Lewis and Clark’s fame. Nowadays, few American explorers can claim quite as much renown as them.
As for Sacagawea, she gained recognition a little sooner. In the early 20th century, the National American Women’s Suffrage Association adopted her as a symbol of women’s accomplishments. Other than her crucial assistance during Lewis and Clark’s expedition, however, very little is known.
The Frontier Awaits!
Want to blaze a trail onward, and bring in some language arts? The National Archives has a quite a collection of primary sources, which you can have students read and share. Or, invite them to channel their inner explorer and create their own accounts of the expedition for a creative writing angle! As always, if you’re still looking for some reading material, you can always bring in a book or two.
Bring in some Books
There’s a wealth of books on Lewis and Clark’s expedition to explore!
For kids interested in the expedition, or seeking another look at some primary sources, start with Rosalyn Schanzer’s How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark (AD 890L)! If students are after some lighthearted fun and daring adventure, try You Wouldn’t Want to Travel with Lewis and Clark (IG840L) by Jacqueline Morley.
Still interested in Sacagawea? National Geographic Kids’ Sacagawea (O850L) by Kitson Jazynka or Lisolette Erdrich’s award-winning Sacagawea (AD840L) are great starting points. Lastly, for younger students, try The Crossing (AD690L)! This picture book by Donna Jo Napoli tells the tale from a rarely heard-from pair of eyes — Sacagawea’s infant son!
Be on the lookout for other timely topics (and more ideas!) in future posts.