Posted in Lesson Plans

Bringing History to Life

I loved learning about Lewis and Clark as a child. Their heroic adventures always captured my imagination. This semester I took this love for Lewis and Clark to another level as my partner Sara Lisel and I created an interactive Lewis and Clark lesson plan incorporating theatre, making the lesson fun and interactive. This lesson plan is in HIPA format.

Lewis and Clark Expedition


Objective: Students will demonstrate their understanding of how Lewis and Clark’s colonization transformed human history by writing journal entries while taking on the role of a Lewis and Clark company member.

Standard/Objective: Grade 5: Social Studies Standard 1: Students will understand how the exploration and colonization of North America transformed human history.

Grade 5: Fine Arts – Theater Standard 2: Acting. A student will cooperate, imagine and assume roles, explore personal preferences and meanings, and interact in classroom dramatizations.

Materials Needed: Paper bag vests, three teacher helpers (one Lewis, one Clark, and one Native American).

Hook: Brief puppet show of President Jefferson talking to the class. Puppet is thinking out loud to himself, discussing how he just bought the Louisiana Purchase. The puppet discusses his hopes to send a team to go see what resources are available to him in this new land he just bought.

Instruct: (Involved with the Practice) Lewis and Clark appear and introduce themselves. They tell the class information about their lives, their company, and the purpose of the exploration. Students are given brown paper bag vests and they can decorate the vests to be a certain type of member in the company (example: doctor/nurse, interpreter, etc.)

Practice: (Involved with the Instruct) Students are given journals to write in during the journey along the trail to document what they observe and experience. Students gather as a company, Lewis and Clark lead the company, and they begin their journey. Along the way, after the activity at each checkpoint, students write a brief entry in their journals. (Teacher picks various points from the Lewis and Clark Trail to correlate with the school/classroom layout and resources. Below are the checkpoints used for our TMA 352 class in the HFAC.)

1. Start in “little” classroom – Pittsburgh – desks are crowds stopping us to talk, have to walk over them.

2. ”Big” Classroom: Great Plains discuss the fear of unknown native tribes.

3. Write names on the board: Discuss Pompey’s Pillar.

4. Hallway: load into canoes (walking to two lines and rowing) rowing in canyon of mountains – Missouri River.

5. Stairwell: ditch boats and climb mountains the seasons have changed and it is now winter (paper “snowballs” are thrown as we climb the treacherous stairs or mountains.)

6. Top of Stairs: Meet Volunteer as Indian (Souix) discuss the issues between Lewis and Clark and this tribe

7. Go a little further (a sign on the wall saying “West Coast”): West Coast/Ocean! Students get sick from the change in diet to raw fish. We will also discuss the West Coast tribes.

8. Now have to go ALL THE WAY BACK to Pittsburg to report.

Assess: Journal Entry: Students are given time after the journey to reflect on the excursion as if they were from Lewis and Clark’s company, mentioning how their new discovery is going to majorly impact the world once they return and report their findings.

Assessment Match: Students will demonstrate their understanding of how Lewis and Clark’s colonization transformed human history (Social Studies) by writing journal entries (assessment) while taking on the role (Theater) of a Lewis and Clark company member.

This lesson plan is great because it is so captivating! The students in our class were able to learn a great deal about Lewis and Clark in a fun and unique way. This kind of teaching creates that Disney magic I discussed in my previous post.


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