Thomas Jefferson gave Captain Meriwether Lewis a detailed list of things he wanted Lewis and the Expedition to ascertain during their journey. As the explorers traveled across the continent, they encountered a number of new regions formerly unknown to Thomas Jefferson and others living on the East Coast. Thomas Jefferson asked for the following information to be found and recorded. Refer to Jefferson's Instructions to Lewis and have your students identify or locate:
- Regions on map
- Plants and Animals unique to region
- Native Americans
- Names of the tribes
- Food and clothing
- Natural resources
Ask students the question: "If you had been chosen to join the Expedition, what would you have thought essential to pack?" Have students compare Lewis's list with their own. Refer to Capt. Lewis's packing list.
Thomas Jefferson required members of the Expedition to keep accurate and detailed journals. Have your students keep a journal recording their daily activities.
Lewis had planned to bring a theodolite on the journey in order to survey land and help with mapping. Upon further consideration, he concluded that it was too heavy an instrument and decided to use a sextant instead. Contact a local surveyor in your community and have him/her talk to your class about surveying and map-making.
Have students research the importance of buffalo to Native American people and have students create masks of buffalo or other animals of the Great Plains.
Native American tribes were very important to the Expedition. Have students write a report or give a presentation on how these tribes are active and viable today.
Have students write a letter to Thomas Jefferson describing in detail three things found in their immediate surroundings that would be unknown to him.
What would students choose to send to Jefferson as examples of their current culture that he would not have seen before? Refer to the Fort Mandan Packing List.
Lead a discussion with students about the challenges encountered by the members of the Expedition. Possible topics might be:
- Physical and mental strain
- Long arduous journey
- Separation from family and friends
- Geographical challenges
- Traveling up river
- Great Falls of the Missouri River
- Mountains, Continental Divide
- Extreme weather conditions
- Wild animals
- Prickly pear cactus underfoot
- Lots of mosquitoes.
Lewis and Clark sent back numerous samples of pressed flowers and plants unknown to Thomas Jefferson. Have your students create a botanical (a notebook of pressed flowers) made up of flowers or plants found in your region. Have students properly identify the specimen by name (Latin and common) and have them measure the plants.
Lead a discussion on what students think were the major contributions of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
Have students create a newspaper on their experiences as members of the Expedition. Don't forget to include artwork. Possible article topics: Indian people encountered, difficulties along the trail (Great Falls, prickley pear cactus, mosquitoes, lack of food, grizzly bears, etc.), and highlights of the trip.