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Lesson Plans Library 9-12 > U.S. History
East Meets West: Americans on the Move
East Meets West: Americans on the Move
Grade level: 9-12 Subject: U.S. History Duration: Three class periods

lesson plan support
Students will
  • Learn what it was like to be a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
  • Read journal entries from members of the expedition.
  • Write journal entries from the perspective of an expedition member.
  1. Begin the lesson by asking students to view the segment "On the Trail of Lewis and Clark," in East Meets West: Americans on the Move . The segment focuses on new archaeological research regarding artifacts from Lewis and Clark's expedition.
  2. Discuss the segment with the class. Encourage students to think about the following questions:
    • What was the purpose of the expedition?
    • What were the experiences of the members of the expedition?
    • Why do you think members were willing to endure the hardships?
    • What were the benefits of the expedition?
    • How does the expedition reflect the spirit of the times?
  3. Tell students that many expedition members kept journals. Explain that their assignment is to write at least three journal entries recounting their experiences from the perspective of a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Entries should include responses to the questions listed above.
  4. Suggest that students read journal entries from the expedition at the following Web sites:
  5. Allow time in class for students to work on their journal entries, or assign for homework.
  6. During the next class period, ask volunteers to share their entries. Then discuss students' ideas. Ask them why members of the expedition were willing to risk danger. Do students believe that the benefits outweighed the risks? What do they see as the long-term results of the Lewis and Clark expedition?

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points: Students were highly engaged in class discussions; researched the topic thoroughly and read all of the online journal entries; and produced at least three thoughtful, accurate, and compelling journal entries.
  • Two points: Students participated in class discussions; conducted adequate research and read most of the online journal entries; and produced one or two accurate, satisfactory journal entries.
  • One point: Students participated minimally in class discussions; did not research the topic thoroughly and did not read the online journal entries; and did not complete any journal entries.

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Definition:The systematic study of past human life and culture by the recovery and examination of remaining material evidence, such as graves, buildings, tools, and pottery.
Context:Some researchers are hoping that the tools of archaeology will help them uncover details about Lewis and Clark's expedition to the Pacific Ocean.

William Clark
Definition:An American explorer, one of the leaders of the Lewis and Clark expedition, which took place from 1803 to 1806.
Context:An able leader, William Clark could spur the members of the expedition to action.

Thomas Jefferson
Definition:President of the United States from 1801 to 1809; he organized the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1801 to find an overland route to the Pacific Ocean.
Context:Thomas Jefferson entrusted the expedition to find a land route to the Pacific and strengthen America's claims to Oregon territory.

Definition:A first-person account that may provide a perspective on events in the past
Context:The journals written by members of the Lewis and Clark expedition provide insights about an important historical event.

Meriwether Lewis
Definition:Former army captain and secretary to Thomas Jefferson who worked closely with Jefferson to plan the expedition; appointed its leader in 1803
Context:Meriwether Lewis collected plant and animal specimens and served as the expedition's naturalist in addition to its leader.

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Academic Standards

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visit
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • U.S. History: Era 4: Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)-Understands the United States territorial expansion between 1801 and 1861, and how it affected relations with external powers and Native Americans
  • Language Arts: Viewing: Uses a range of strategies to interpret visual media

The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
NCSS has developed national guidelines for teaching social studies. To become a member of NCSS, or to view the standards online, go to
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • Time, Continuity, and Change
  • People, Places, and Environment

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