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Students will examine the significance of the Louisiana Purchase and the journey of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery. They will become familiar with the features of the Keelboat Nickel reverse. They will be able to identify goods that were traded between Lewis and Clark and the American Indians. Students will also explore ways in which to carry out trade for their needs and wants.

Coin Type(s)

  • Nickel

Coin Program(s)

  • Westward Journey Nickel Series


  • Students will examine the significance of the Louisiana Purchase and the journey of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery.
  • They will become familiar with the features of the Keelboat Nickel reverse.
  • They will be able to identify goods that were traded between Lewis and Clark and the American Indians.
  • Students will also explore ways in which to carry out trade for their needs and wants.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Economics
  • Math
  • Social Studies


  • First grade

Class Time

Sessions: Three
Session Length: 20-30 minutes
Total Length: 46-90 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Pairs
  • Individual work

Background Knowledge

Students should have a basic knowledge of:

  • The term “explorer”
  • The terms “trade,” “needs,” and “wants”

Terms and Concepts

  • Obverse (heads)
  • Explorer
  • Reverse (tails)
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Lewis and Clark
  • Keelboat
  • Louisiana Purchase
  • American Indians
  • Corps of Discovery
  • Nickel
  • Goods
  • Needs
  • Wants
  • Trade


  • 1 pre-2004 Monticello nickel
  • 1 overhead projector
  • 1 overhead transparency of each of the following:
    • Pre-2004 Monticello nickel obverse from the Resource Guide (optional)
    • Keelboat Nickel reverse the Resource Guide
    • “Louisiana Territory” map from the Resource Guide
    • “Trading Key” chart
  • 1 overhead marker (optional)
  • 1 copy of an age-appropriate text that provides basic historical information about the Lewis and Clark Expedition, such as:
    • Lewis and Clark: Discover the Life Of An Explorer by Trish Kline
    • Lewis and Clark: Explorers of the American West by Steven Kroll
    • A Picture Book of Lewis and Clark by David Adler
    • Going Along with Lewis and Clark by Barbara Fifer
  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • Copies of the “I’ll Trade You!” worksheets (“American Indian” and “Explorer” versions)
  • Crayons/colored pencils
  • Scissors
  • Envelopes


  • Make one overhead transparency of each of the following:
    • Pre-2004 Monticello nickel obverse from the Resource Guide (optional).
    • Keelboat Nickel reverse from the Resource Guide.
    • “Louisiana Territory” map from the Resource Guide.
    • “Trading Key” chart.
  • Locate an appropriate text that provides basic historical information about the Lewis and Clark Expedition (see examples under “Materials”).
  • Make copies of the “I’ll Trade You!” worksheets (1 set for half the class of each version)

Worksheets and Files

Lesson plan, worksheet(s), and rubric (if any) at

Session 1

  1. Display a nickel and, if necessary, display the overhead transparency of the pre-2004 Monticello nickel obverse. Ask the students to examine this coin and tell you what they know about it. They should be able to identify this as the obverse (front) of a nickel and to explain that it depicts President Thomas Jefferson. Ask the students if they know that our country has changed the design on the reverse (back) of the nickel.
  2. Display the overhead transparency of the Keelboat nickel reverse and explain that this is one of the new nickel reverse designs. Ask the students what they know about the design on this nickel. Have the students brainstorm about what is taking place in this coin’s design; who are the men portrayed and what they are doing? Explain that this nickel portrays a group of explorers who were very important to our country’s growth.
  3. Engage the students in a discussion about explorers and the meaning of this term, directing them to realize that an explorer is a person who goes to a new place to find new things. Have students brainstorm the names of other explorers with whom they may be familiar, such as Christopher Columbus.
  4. Display the overhead transparency of the “Louisiana Territory” map. Explain that our country was not always the same shape that it is today. Show them the area of the country that existed before the Louisiana Purchase.
  5. Explain that, when our country was very young, President Jefferson bought some new land for our country. He then sent a team of explorers who were led by two men, named Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, to explore this new land. Show the students the area that Lewis and Clark explored. Note the territory’s position in relation to your school’s location.
  6. Follow Lewis and Clark’s route with your finger or an overhead marker, and point out that the explorers traveled over both land and water. Ask students to guess what modes of transportation Lewis and Clark used along their journey. Explain that the boat portrayed on the nickel is a keelboat and was one of the means of transportation Lewis and Clark used on their exploration.
  7. Introduce students to the selected text. As a group, preview the text and illustrations to generate predictions about what is occurring at different points in the book.
  8. Read the selected text aloud to the class. Ask students to pay attention to key events that took place throughout Lewis and Clark’s journey. During the reading, attend to unfamiliar vocabulary and concepts.
  9. After reading the book, briefly discuss the concept of needs and wants. Ask the students to brainstorm what items Lewis and Clark might have brought along with them on their journey that represented a need. Create a T-chart on chart paper with columns labeled “Needs” and “Wants” respectively. Record responses in the “Needs” column of the Tchart. Direct students to include responses such as food, water, warm clothing, etc.
  10. Explain to students that Lewis and Clark knew they would run out of goods and would need to trade with people they met along the way, primarily American Indians, in order to get important supplies. Explain to students that American Indians, on the other hand, had everything that they needed. In order for Lewis and Clark to trade with them, they needed to bring trade items that the Native Americans would want. Explain that the keelboat that they saw on the nickel before was needed in order to carry all of the supplies that they brought on the journey, their needs and their wants.
  11. Ask students to brainstorm a list of items for which American Indians might want to trade. Explain that American Indians wanted items that they couldn’t make or find where they lived, such as colored beads, tools, and medicines. List these items in the “Wants” column on the T-chart.
  12. Model a need-want trade with a student volunteer. Pretend that you need a pencil but that the student volunteer doesn’t need anything. Ask the class what you have that the student might want. Complete the trade.

Session 2

  1. Revisit the “Needs and Wants” T-chart and text from the previous session. Ask students to recall some of the things that Lewis and Clark had brought to trade with the American Indians.
  2. Have students explain in their own words why Lewis and Clark had to bring items that they needed as well as items that the American Indians would want. If necessary, reinforce the idea that trade was Lewis and Clark’s way of getting the supplies they needed. Therefore, the explorers had to bring items that the American Indians valued, so that they would want to trade with the explorers.
  3. Display the overhead transparency of the “Trading Key” chart and examine it with students. As a class, discuss which items have equal value. Ask students to discuss which items would be most valuable to the explorers and American Indians respectively. Explain to students that this chart will be very important for a trading activity the next day.
  4. Distribute the “I’ll Trade You!” worksheets. Half of the class should receive the “American Indian” version and the other half should get the “Explorer” version. Each student should also receive an envelope labeled with his or her group name. Review the items on both of these worksheets, as necessary. Explain to students that a “camas bulb” was traded as food.
  5. Direct students to independently color and cut these cards out and place them in their envelopes. Direct the students to store these in a safe location because they will be using their cards to make trades with each other in the next session.
  6. Model a trade with two student volunteers. One student will be an explorer and the other will be an American Indian. Using the “Trading Key” chart, each student will decide for which item he or she wants to trade. Then the students will come together and agree on a trade. Once the trade is complete, the students then go back to their trading cards and decide what else they will need. The students come together again in order to complete a second trade. Have the class discuss which items the explorer traded and what he or she received in return.

Session 3

  1. Revisit the “Trading Key” chart from the previous session. Review with the students that this is the trading system that they will be using in today’s session.
  2. Direct students to assemble into their groups (“Explorers” and “American Indians”).
  3. Explain to the students that each is to take on the role of either an explorer or an American Indian during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The explorer has items that the American Indians will want. The American Indian has items that the explorers will need to survive the rest of their journey.
  4. Direct each student in the American Indian group to find a partner in the explorer group and to sit with the partner.
  5. Have students take out their trading cards from their own envelopes. Allow each student time to determine what he or she wants to trade for and remind the students to use the “Trading Key” as a guide.
  6. After a few minutes have passed, direct each explorer to pair up with his or her American Indian partner to negotiate the trade. After the trade is made, separate the pairs again and allow them to plan their next trade. Repeat this process until the students have used most of their trading cards.
  7. Reconvene as a class to discuss the experiences that the students had while trading.
  8. Discuss whether the students felt that Lewis and Clark had an easy or difficult time while they were out in the wilderness.
  9. Display the overhead transparency of the “Louisiana Territory” map. Explain that the Corps of Discovery traveled over both mountains and flatlands on its journey. Have the students discuss how the needs of the explorers would have changed throughout the journey. If necessary, prompt the students with clues about climate and terrain conditions along the journey. Then, have the students analyze how the wants of American Indians might change from tribe to tribe.

Differentiated Learning Options

  • On the “Trading Key” chart, use equivalencies other than one-to-one. For example, one pair of scissors might be worth two salmon.
  • Allow students to work with partners, rather than independently, as they consider which items to trade with their counterparts.


  • As a class, create a large illustrated mural of what the trading between the explorers and the American Indians may have looked like. Include some dialogue or gestures that may have been used to communicate their needs and wants to each other.
  • Keep theme-related books about Lewis and Clark and the Louisiana Purchase in the class library so that students may read them at their leisure.
  • Have students analyze and emulate the language difficulty experienced in communications between Lewis and Clark and the American Indians.
  • Students may create an illustrated comic strip depicting a session of trading between Lewis and Clark and the American Indians. They may include some of the goods that were traded in the activity or may come up with some of their own.
  • Take anecdotal notes about the students’ participation in class discussions and their ability to follow directions.
  • Evaluate the knowledge of the trading process through informal observations during the trading session and follow-up discussion.

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: K-2 Number and Operations
Cluster: Compute fluently and make reasonable estimates.
Grade(s): Grades K–2

In K through grade 2 all students should

  • develop and use strategies for whole-number computations, with a focus on addition and subtraction;
  • develop fluency with basic number combinations for addition and subtraction; and
  • use a variety of methods and tools to compute, including objects, mental computation, estimation, paper and pencil, and calculators.

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: K-2 Number and Operations
Cluster: Understand meanings of operations and how they relate to one another.
Grade(s): Grades K–2

In K through grade 2 all students should

  • understand various meanings of addition and subtraction of whole numbers and the relationship between the two operations;
  • understand the effects of adding and subtracting whole numbers; and
  • understand situations that entail multiplication and division, such as equal groupings of objects and sharing equally.

Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Thematic Standards
Cluster: Culture and Cultural Diversity
Grade(s): Grades K–2

Teachers should:

  • assist learners to understand and apply the concept of culture as an integrated whole that governs the functions and interactions of language, literature, arts, traditions, beliefs, values, and behavior patterns
  • enable learners to analyze and explain how groups, societies, and cultures address human needs and concerns
  • guide learners as they predict how experiences may be interpreted by people from diverse cultural perspectives and frames of reference
  • encourage learners to compare and analyze societal patterns for transmitting and preserving culture while adapting to environmental and social change
  • enable learners to assess the importance of cultural unity and diversity within and across groups
  • have learners interpret patterns of behavior as reflecting values and attitudes which contribute to or pose obstacles to cross-cultural understanding
  • guide learners in constructing reasoned judgments about specific cultural responses to persistent human issues
  • have learners explain and apply ideas, theories, and modes of inquiry drawn from anthropology and sociology in the examination of persistent issues and social problems

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: All Reasoning and Proof
Cluster: Instructional programs from kindergarten through grade 12 should enable all students to
Grade(s): Grades K–2

  • Recognize reasoning and proof as fundamental aspects of mathematics
  • Make and investigate mathematical conjectures
  • Develop and evaluate mathematical arguments and proofs
  • Select and use various types of reasoning and methods of proof 

Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Thematic Standards
Cluster: Time, Continuity, and Change
Grade(s): Grades K–2

Teachers should:

  • assist learners to understand that historical knowledge and the concept of time are socially influenced constructions that lead historians to be selective in the questions they seek to answer and the evidence they use
  • help learners apply key concepts such as time, chronology, causality, change, conflict, and complexity to explain, analyze, and show connections among patterns of historical change and continuity
  • enable learners to identify and describe significant historical periods and patterns of change within and across cultures, including but not limited to, the development of ancient cultures and civilizations, the emergence of religious belief systems, the rise of nation-states, and social, economic, and political revolutions
  • guide learners in using such processes of critical historical inquiry to reconstruct and interpret the past, such as using a variety of sources and checking their credibility, validating and weighing evidence for claims, searching for causality, and distinguishing between events and developments that are significant and those that are inconsequential
  • provide learners with opportunities to investigate, interpret, and analyze multiple historical and contemporary viewpoints within and across cultures related to important events, recurring dilemmas, and persistent issues, while employing empathy, skepticism, and critical judgment; and enable learners to apply ideas, theories, and modes of historical inquiry to analyze historical and contemporary developments, and to inform and evaluate actions concerning public policy issues.

Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Thematic Standards
Cluster: Production, Distribution, and Consumption
Grade(s): Grades K–2

Teachers should:

  • enable learners to explain how the scarcity of productive resources (human, capital, technological, and natural) requires the development of economic systems to make decisions about how goods and services are to be produced and distributed
  • help learners analyze the role that supply and demand, prices, incentives, and profits play in determining what is produced and distributed in a competitive market system
  • help learners compare the costs and benefits to society of allocating goods and services through private and public means
  • assist learners in understanding the relationships among the various economic institutions that comprise economic systems such as households, businesses, banks, government agencies, labor unions, and corporations
  • guide learner analysis of the role of specialization and exchange in economic processes
  • provide opportunities for learners to assess how values and beliefs influence private and public economic decisions in different societies
  • have learners compare basic economic systems according to how they deal with demand, supply, prices, the role of government, banks, labor and labor unions, savings and investments, and capital
  • challenge learners to apply economic concepts and reasoning when evaluating historical and contemporary social developments and issues
  • enable learners to distinguish between domestic and global economic systems, and explain how the two interact
  • guide learners in the application of economic concepts and principles in the analysis of public issues such as the allocation of health care or the consumption of energy, and in devising economic plans for accomplishing socially desirable outcomes related to such issues
  • help learners critically examine the values and assumptions underlying the theories and models of economics
  • help learners to distinguish between economics as a field of inquiry and the economy

Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Thematic Standards
Cluster: People, Places, and Environment
Grade(s): Grades K–2

Teachers should:

  • Enable learners to use, interpret, and distinguish various representations of Earth such as maps, globes, and photographs, and to use appropriate geographic tools
  • Encourage learners to construct, use, and refine maps and mental maps, calculate distance, scale, area, and density, and organize information about people, places, regions, and environments in a spatial context
  • Help learners to locate, distinguish, and describe the relationships among varying regional and global patterns of physical systems such as landforms, climate, and natural resources, and explain changes in the physical systems
  • Guide learners in exploring characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth’s surface
  • Have learners describe how people create places that reflect culture, human needs, current values and ideals, and government policies
  • Provide opportunities for learners to examine, interpret, and analyze interactions of human beings and their physical environments, and to observe and analyze social and economic effects of environmental changes, both positive and negative
  • Challenge learners to consider, compare, and evaluate existing uses of resources and land in communities, regions, countries, and the world
  • Direct learners to explore ways in which Earth’s physical features have changed over time, and describe and assess ways historical events have influenced and been influenced by physical and human geographic features