Lewis and Clark

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 11002

If you had a spare $15 million to spend, what would you do with it? President Jefferson spent it on some land that he'd never seen. Read and write about Lewis & Clark's adventures exploring the land!


United States, United States

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5), Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Imagine if someone came to you on your birthday and told you they were giving you a fully-paid house. You get the address, and have no clue where it is, but hey, a free house is a free house, right?

What is going through your mind? What is the first thing you would want to do when handed the keys to your new house?

You would probably want to see the house, check out the neighborhood, and explore the inside to find the condition and features.

Well, this is a pretty accurate analogy of what happened with the Louisiana Purchase, except the land was purchased by the colonists from the French for a mere $15 million, sight unseen. The United States doubled the size of its landholdings, but the American colonists had no information about the land they had purchased. They needed someone to explore this new acquisition before making any decisions regarding the purpose of the land.

So, President Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to adventure through this new land and report their findings to the government.

Lewis and Clark expedition map

Image by EncMstr, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

In 1803, Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana territory from France. This deal is known as the Louisiana Purchase. This purchase doubled the size of the United States, but no one really knew what was west of the Mississippi River. So, Jefferson decided to send a team of explorers to survey the land.

In the spring of 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led a team of men to explore the new territory. They traveled along the Missouri River, stopping to collect samples and document their findings. Lewis and Clark spent two-and-a-half years exploring the new territory, and eventually reached the Pacific Ocean. Discover more about The Journey at nps.gov.

Lewis and Clark, along with their team, did not complete the expedition alone. Early in their journey, they met Sacagawea, a Shoshone Native American woman. Sacagawea offered to help guide the explorers and even worked to forge an alliance between the team and the Shoshone Native American tribe. Learn more about Sacagawea and her role in the Lewis and Clark expedition by exploring Sacagawea at History.com.

Lewis and Clark brought back information about the land, animals, natives, and size of the newly-acquired territory. Their findings enabled the United States to begin westward expansion. MrNussbaum.com's Lewis and Clark for Kids has a lot of interesting articles and interactives about their adventure. Take some time to review the different components of the site. Make sure to explore all of the Lewis and Clark Discoveries.

  • What interesting discoveries did Lewis and Clark make?
  • Does the length of this list surprise you?

Share the list with a friend or family member, then journey on to the Got It? section to create an L&C timeline.

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