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Lewis & Clark: For Educators: Teaching Units & Lesson Plans Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition Exhibition Locations

For Educators: Teaching Units & Lesson Plans:



Target Grade Level:
Elementary, Grades 4 - 6

Although the primary mission of the Lewis and Clark expedition was to find a water passage to the Pacific Ocean, another goal was to identify new animal species that were seen along the way. President Jefferson asked Lewis and Clark to gather information concerning the habitats, habits, and physical descriptions of these animals.

The purpose of this unit is to provide a framework for understanding how Lewis and Clark and American Indians observed and interacted with animals.

The pedagogy of the unit is science inquiry and problem-based learning. The students will be gathering information from primary sources as well as using technology (World Wide Web) to gather data.

Assessment is ongoing in the form of journal entries, oral presentations, and written reports. As a culminating project, the students will demonstrate an increased awareness of the need to value animals by researching an animal that was seen by Lewis and Clark's expedition and then creating a poster that shows the status of the animal and why this animal is valuable today.

Explore Connections to Today for this unit.


Observations of animals can often be biased, depending on cultural assumptions and beliefs.


  • Can scientific observations of animals be truly objective?
  • How are the ways people value animals related to their culture?
  • How do Lewis and Clark and the American Indians qualify as naturalists?
  • Are our present-day views of animals different from the ways people viewed animals during Lewis and Clark's time?


Students will:

  • know about the science of taxonomy and some of its history
  • know how a dichotomous key is organized and how to use one
  • know how to classify items based on common characteristics
  • understand the nature of the American Indians' interaction with their environment
  • gain a deeper understanding of the American Indians' conceptions of animals
  • see how Lewis and Clark's increased contact with animals on this journey changed their attitudes toward animals
  • understand the similarities and differences between the views of the American Indians and Lewis and Clark
  • understand the meaning of the term naturalist
  • learn that knowledge comes with an accumulation of information
  • understand that information can be found in many different ways
  • describe the nature of the American Indians' interaction with their environment


Students will:

  • make observations about nature
  • give an example of a change in attitude toward wild animals and/or their environment
  • describe factors that may influence change in attitude
  • design and conduct interviews
  • compile and summarize findings
  • classify items based on common characteristics


Students will take the role of a scientist who is studying the animals observed on the Lewis and Clark expedition. They will create and use a science notebook throughout the unit of study that will be used as an assessment. Included in the science notebook will be their observations, classification data, paragraphs on comparing and contrasting the values of the two groups involved (American Indians and the Corps of Discovery), and survey results. Oral presentations will also be assessed by peers and by the teacher.

Missouri Historical Society Copyright Credits