Corps of Discovery:
  Voyaging with Lewis & Clark

Project Introduction:

The purchase of the Louisiana Territory doubled the size of the United States but meant little without exploration to find out what was there and how far the territory actually went. Lewis and Clark were the two men chosen by President Thomas Jefferson to explore this region and bring back reports.  Their maps and journals brought back critical information.  However, President Jefferson has found upon the return of the expedition that some of the information is missing.  Fortunately, you were on the trip and saw everything that happened and kept your own journal.  Also fortunately, other members of the expedition (who just happen to be your classmates) kept their journals so you are not responsible for maps and journals of the entire trip.
President Jefferson has asked you to provide him with three things:

  • A map of a portion of your journey.  This is to be as detailed as possible with illustrations to explain the many things you saw.  Date these maps.
  • Journal entries for at least two days of the trip.  These two days do not need to be one after the other.  In fact, journal entries from different days at different times during the travels are best.  Again, include illustrations from the journey and remember, YOU were on the trip so write about YOUR experiences from YOUR perspective and give as many details as possible.
  •  Your personal reflections about the person on this journey who was the most important to the success of this trip.  Was it Lewis?  Clark?  Sacajawea?  The choice is yours but be sure to give reasons to support your choice.


Step 1
You need to become prepared to "step back in time" so you can "recreate" your journal from the expedition for President Jefferson.  To do this read the basic information in the text about Lewis and Clark, the Louisiana Territory, and this expedition.  First in small groups, then in class discussion, identify the important historical figures, the major route taken, and some of the results of this expedition.  If available, also discuss and/or speculate on the hopes and expectations Thomas Jefferson had for this journey.

Your journals will provide the information President Jefferson needs:

  1. to determine the value of the Louisiana Territory.
  2. to decide whether or not the drainage basin of the Missouri extends far enough into Canada to give the United States reason to lay claim to Canadian territory.

Research Lewis & Clark, the Louisiana Territory, Thomas Jefferson's presidency (focus on the purchase of the Louisiana territory), Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Sacajawea.  You will have time in the library (two days if possible) and time with computers if available.   CD ROM and Internet resources are listed.  Use your note-taking skills to identify important facts.  Look for detailed maps of the expedition. You will have 3-4 hours for this research.

Step 2
You must become prepared to step back in time as a character from the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Identify the person you feel was most important on this journey based on your research and give at least two reasons for your choice. Identify two of the most significant sights or events on the trip for a detailed journal entry, illustration and map. Be sure to list some of the daily chores of the trip, challenges, and any events you remember that you believe would be important enough to include in your journals.

Step 3
Today all of the expedition crew will meet in character to discuss and share their lists and records. In small "character alike" groups "refresh" everyone’s minds about the journey. After your refresher, meet as a large group. Using a round-robin discussion, each small group contributes one new thing to each of these categories (chores, challenges, events) until there are no additional new contributions. Take notes and add any significant events you feel they have missed.

Step 4
Using both your research and the additional information you "remembered" after the round robin discussion, develop your journal.  (See the rubric for the guidelines for this journal and be certain to cover the key points.)  Use art work, brown paper for journal pages and maps, neat lettering, simple designs and details to support your statements. You will have at least three days to complete this.


Thomas Jefferson

Lewis & Clark 
Journals of the Trip

Lewis & Clark Expedition

Meriwether Lewis

William Clark

Lewis & Clark National Trail Home Page

Picture of Sacajawea

Learning Advice

Remember you must "step back in time" to the actual expedition and write as if you were really there. Support your statements with lots of detail and illustrations.

On the due date for these journals, you will have a self-evaluation page to fill in and submit with your journal.  This page reflects the rubric and you will need to use the rubric to determine what grade you believe you deserve and why you should get it.   Your reasons for getting the grade are critical so you need to specifically refer back to the rubric.  Also identify what you learned from this project and where you had difficulty.  In small groups, share with the members of the group your favorite part of your journal - the map, the diary, or their choice for most important person on the trip.

Student Rubric  

Marilyn Renger
Balboa Middle School
Ventura Unified School District
Region 8 & 11 Professional Development Consortium - SCORE Institute 1997

Last revised: 03/22/06