Sunday, September 14, 2008

On the Trail with Lewis and Clark

"We were encamped under a high hill when the morning fog cleared off. Ocean in view! Oh! The joy. The Pacific Ocean which we have been so long to see, and the roaring noise made by waves breaking on rocky shores may be heard distinctly."
~From the journals of Lewis and Clark, Nov. 7, 1805

We started out our new school year doing the second "half" of American History (see our first year here) on the trail with Lewis and Clark. The first surprising bit of information my kids (ages 7 and 11) learned: It's not "Lewis N. Clark."

I had visions of making field journals, collecting plant samples, and going through this Lewis and Clark for Kids book. My mother-in-law got this for the kids a couple of years ago during the 200-year-celebration of the expedition, and I've been looking forward to using it.

Except, well, I couldn't find it. Anywhere in this whole house. I am quite sure that I did not imagine that she gave us this book. I didn't actually discover that we were missing this book until we were halfway through our main nonfiction account: Lewis and Clark: In Their Own Words (by George Sullivan). This is a good nonfiction account of the Lewis and Clark expedition. It's not fancy, but it was a good spine to provide context for the rest of our reading.

I did find a Scholastic Lewis and Clark activity book at the library which looked promising, but we didn't use much out of it. This book relied heavily on the kind of tedious busywork that is often necessary in a large classroom: writing a front-page story about the return of Lewis and Clark, filling in charts, etc. We did make a salt-dough relief map as suggested in the book, and that was fun.
We also spent some time practicing nature journals, pretending that we were describing a plant or animal species to someone who had never seen them.

A couple of videos added a nice dimension to the study, although neither were outstanding. The kids definitely preferred the American Heroes and Legends series The Song of Sacagewea. Their comment about this: "Not the best but still good." The other video we watched was from the Explorers of the World series called Lewis and Clark. This is a pretty cheesy video series but they picked up a new tidbit or two. Their favorite line was when Lewis explained, "I was shot in the buttocks," and the student (who is talking to him--like I said, it's a cheesy video), says, "You got shot in the BUTT?" My assessment: someone needs to make a better movie for young students about Lewis and Clark. I am sure that the Ken Burns' PBS documentary Lewis and Clark is excellent, but it's more than we need at this level.

What my kids enjoyed most were the picture books. Our favorite was The Great Expedition of Lewis and Clark by Private Reubin Field, Member of the Corps of Discovery (by Judith Edwards, Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport). This is the account of the expedition told in the voice of Reubin Field, one of the Kentucky boys who went on the journey. This brings to life many of the events told about in the nonfiction Lewis and Clark: In Their Own Words, providing colorful details in a folksy narrative.

Another favorite was How We Crossed The West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark by Rosalyn Schanzer. We loved this picture book which pairs selected quotes from the actual journals of Lewis and Clark with fun illustrations. Steven Kroll's Lewis and Clark: Explorers of the American West is a simple picture book but good to enhance the Lewis and Clark: In Their Own Words spine. The illustrations by Richard Williams are especially excellent in this book.

There are several other books for young readers that look fantastic but that our library doesn't carry:
The Lewis and Clark Expedition by Carol Johnmann
Plants on the Trail with Lewis and Clark and Animals on the Trail by Dorothy H. Patent
The Lewis and Clark Cookbook by Leslie Mansfield
Seaman's Journal by Patti Eubank (I wish we had this one at our library!)
Lewis and Clark and Me: A Dog's Tale by Laurie Meyers

The internet is loaded with Lewis and Clark websites, but I think these are among the best:
This one's especially fun: Go West Across American with Lewis and Clark. Very interactive.
Lewis and Clark at PBS
Lewis and Clark: Create Your Own Adventure
Journals of Lewis and Clark
Mapping the West with Lewis and Clark
Lewis and Clark Cyberhunt

Here are some free unit studies on Lewis and Clark that go into much more detail that we did:
Happy Homeschool
Easy Fun School
The Teacher's Guide
Mama Bear's Den
National Bicentennial Exhibition

Three weeks of Lewis and Clark was enough for my kids, but we could easily have stretched this into another month or so of deeper study! And this is one study that we can't easily enhance with a field trip along the trail…but hopefully someday!


  1. If you have an early reader in the house, A Prairie Dog for the President by Shirley Raye Redmond is cute.

    "A Musical Journey Along the Lewis and Clark Trail," put out by Native Ground Music is a favorite CD around here.

    Sounds like you had a good study! When we lived in Oregon we spent a lot of time on L&C.

  2. ool! Thanks for posting all that. Sounds like fun.
    and there is a morning fog every morning here in our part of CA. it start at 9ish PM and clears by 9AM usually, but the last few days it doesn't clear till noon.

  3. Thanks for stopping by! You have a BEAUTIFUL big backyard!!! We all loved Tennessee and would love to come back again someday. A week wasn't long enough to do it justice!

    Love your Lewis and Clark post!!

  4. You should make a road trip to St Louis and go to the Lewis and Clark museum underneath the arch. Its free, I think. :) Very cool.

  5. Great resource connections! Thanks!

  6. I found my way over here from Homeschool Memoirs (which I have not been good about doing, though I have "good intentions"). Anyway, the title of this post in your sidebar caught my eye, since we did L & C last fall, so I thought I'd see what you did. I always like to share my fantastic wonderful original idea for Lewis & Clark studies... so I was a bit disappointed to see that my salt-dough map wasn't so original after all :-(. Oh well. The way I did it was original, though, as we made it a progressive project. We painted in only the original US plus the Lousiana purchase to begin with, then painted more territory as it was added to the US in our studies (Florida Terr, Oregon Terr, Texas, etc, all in different colors). We also added trails as we learned about them-- the L&C trail to start with, then Trail of Tears, Oregon Trail, Santa Fe Trail, etc. It was really fun for my artsy 9-y/o and my mapsy 12-y/o.

    Hmmm... I could share that for HSM as a "Favorite" Project. We'll see. I wish they would post the themes ahead of time like HOTM does, so as to give us a chance to think abt them ahead of time.

  7. Thank you for all of this information, Sarah! My husband has a conference in St. Louis in April and I want to make it a giant field trip. We have been to St. Louis several times with the kids, so wanted to choose something different for us to learn about this time, and dig deep. There is an IMAX movie at the Arch about Lewis and Clark and the cool statue down on the river. And the Arch has a cool Westward Expansion museum. So, I think we will do a big Lewis and Clark study before we go, using many of the resources you have provided. Once there we'll watch the IMAX movie, go to the museum, visit the statue, and then go to the zoo. I think it is here I will have them choose some animals and pretend they have discovered them to put in their field journals. The salt dough map will also definitely be done!!!

    Thanks again!


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