Students will explore the significance of the Louisiana Purchase and the journey of Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery. They will examine the features and the purpose of the Jefferson Peace Medal in order to discuss 'needs' versus 'wants.' Students will use critical thinking skills to plan for a similar excursion, weighing the importance of supplies and other external factors.
- Westward Journey Nickels
- Students will explore the significance of the Louisiana Purchase and the journey of Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery.
- They will examine the features and the purpose of the Jefferson Peace Medal in order to discuss "needs" versus "wants."
- Students will use critical thinking skills to plan for a similar excursion, weighing the importance of supplies and other external factors.
Major Subject Area Connections
- Social Studies
- Language Arts
- Sessions: Two
- Session Length: 30-45 minutes
- Total Length: 46-90 minutes
- Whole group
- Individual work
Students should have a basic knowledge of:
- Medals as symbols of success or praise
- U.S. geography
- Reading to locate information
Terms and Concepts
- Obverse (heads)
- Reverse (tails)
- Jefferson Peace Medal
- Lewis and Clark Expedition
- American Indians
- An assortment of medals (sports, military, scholastic, etc.)
- Copies of an age-appropriate text that provides basic historical information about the Lewis and Clark expedition, such as:
- A Picture book of Lewis and Clark by David Adler
- Lewis and Clark for Kids: Their Journey of Discovery with 21 Activities by Janis Herbert
- Lewis and Clark: Explorers of the American West by Steven Kroll
- Going Along with Lewis and Clark by Barbara Fifer
- How We Crossed the West; The Adventures of Lewis and Clark by Rosalyn Schanzer
- Animals on the Trail with Lewis and Clark by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
- 1 overhead projector
- 1 overhead transparency of the "Louisiana Territory Map" from the Resource Guide
- 1 overhead transparency of the Jefferson Peace Medal reverse from the Resource Guide
- Copies of the "Lewis and Clark Lesson Plans Introduction" from the Resource Guide
- Chart paper
- 1 copy of the "Lewis and Clark Supply List" from the Resource Guide
- Copies of the "What Would We Bring?" worksheet
- 1 overhead transparency of the Peace Medal nickel obverse from the Resource Guide
- 1 overhead transparency of the Peace Medal nickel reverse from the Resource Guide
- Locate an age-appropriate text that provides basic historical information about the Lewis and Clark expedition (see examples under "Materials").
- Make an overhead transparency of the "Louisiana Territory Map" from the Resource Guide.
- Make an overhead transparency of the Jefferson Peace Medal reverse from the Resource Guide.
- Make copies of the "Lewis and Clark Lesson Plans Introduction" from the Resource Guide (1 per student).
- Create a "Needs vs. Wants" chart: Divide a piece of chart paper into two columns. Write "Needs" over the left column and "Wants" over the right column.
- Make copies of the "What Would We Bring?" worksheet (1 per pair of students).
- Make an overhead transparency of the Peace Medal nickel obverse from the Resource Guide.
- Make an overhead transparency of the Peace Medal nickel reverse from the Resource Guide.
Worksheets and files (PDF)
- Display an assortment of medals. Ask students to identify reasons why people receive medals. Ask students how they would feel if they were to receive a medal.
- Explain that the students will listen to a true story about a group of explorers who brought medals with them on a long journey. Ask them to listen for why this group might have brought medals with them and to whom they would have presented the medals.
- 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.
- Read this story aloud to the group. During the reading, attend to any unfamiliar vocabulary.
- Ask the students to explain who Lewis and Clark were. Why were they traveling across the country?
- After reading the story, display the transparency of the "Louisiana Territory Map" and show students the Louisiana Territory, which Lewis and Clark explored. Point out the states that were part of the United States before the Louisiana Purchase. Guide students to notice the land features that the Corps of Discovery encountered during their journey, including rivers and mountains. Also, briefly discuss the weather in these parts of the country.
- Display the transparency of the Jefferson Peace Medal reverse and introduce this medal to the students as the one carried by the Lewis and Clark expedition. Ask students to examine and identify the images that appear on the medal. Briefly discuss the meaning of these images. Ask students to make predictions about why they believe Lewis and Clark brought the medals along on their journey.
- Distribute a copy of the "Lewis and Clark Lesson Plans Introduction" to each student. Direct students to read this information independently and highlight or underline any information about items Lewis and Clark brought on their adventure.
- Assign each student a partner and have the pairs of students discuss why Lewis and Clark brought the medals along on their journey. The students should also discuss what other items were carried for purposes of befriending the American Indians and why it was important to be on good terms with the tribes along the trail.
- Regroup, and ask the students to share with the class what they discussed with their partners. Record this information on a piece of chart paper for use during the following session.
- Revisit the image of the Jefferson Peace Medal reverse and ask the students to recall who carried the medal and what it was used for.
- Ask students to think back to consider the story to which they listened during the previous session. Explain that when Lewis and Clark set off on their expedition, they were given funds (initially $2500.00) with which they were to purchase crucial materials for their expedition. In deciding what to buy, they had to choose between things they would actually need and things they would like to have with them, but really could do without. Explain that we call those "needs" and "wants."
- Relate this concept to your students' personal experiences. Discuss what they can and cannot live without by listing everyday items and asking students which category they belong in. Using the "Needs vs. Wants" chart, record student responses.
- Explain that they are going to plan for a journey like Lewis and Clark's with their previous partners. As a class, brainstorm a list of supplies that the students would bring on a trip across the country. Guide the students to consider weather and land conditions as well as animals that they might encounter on this trip. Record all student suggestions on a piece of chart paper or the chalk board. If the students miss some of the items on the "Lewis and Clark Supply List," use the list to suggest some of the most important supplies that the explorers actually brought with them.
- Direct students to sit with their partners from the previous session, and distribute a "What Would We Bring?" worksheet to each pair. Ask students to sort their brainstormed suggestions into "needs" and "wants" on their worksheet. Students will need to keep this worksheet to use during the next session.
- Have the students assign monetary values to each item on the list that they brainstormed. On the worksheet used in step 5, write each cost next to its item.
- Direct the students to complete the "What Would We Bring?" worksheet with their partners. Once everyone has finished, discuss as a class the students' responses to questions 3 and 4.
- Display the chart from the previous session and ask the students to consider the item "Jefferson Peace Medals." Were these medals a need or a want for Lewis and Clark? Would this category change if the weather or land was different?
- Explain that our country redesigned its nickel in 2004 to tell the story of the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark's journey across the country. Display the transparencies of the Peace Medal nickel obverse and reverse. The students should realize that the United States Mint incorporated the design from the Jefferson Peace Medal on this new nickel.
- Ask the students why this was an appropriate image to place on the first of the new nickels in the Westward Journey Nickel SeriesTM. Ideas should include that the Peace Medal was a necessary means of creating friendship, and that they had to plan for them well in advance of leaving on their journey. The students should realize that Lewis and Clark could not have done without these medals on their journey.
- To conclude this activity, direct the students to turn once more to their partners and name three things that they learned about Lewis and Clark's trip out west.
Differentiated Learning Options
- Allow students to read the "Lewis and Clark Lesson Plans Introduction" in pairs.
- Provide each student with the "Louisiana Territory Map" and a Peace Medal nickel to examine.
- Let students examine relevant picture books to determine what supplies Lewis and Clark needed and brought on their journey.
- Direct your students to write story problems using the supply list that they created as a class.
- Have students develop a poster that shows what situations they would consider before packing for the trip and what they would bring to help them survive these different situations.
- Take anecdotal notes about the students' participation during the class and pair discussions and their ability to work cooperatively in pairs.
- Collect and review the students' accuracy on the "What Would We Bring?" worksheet.
Common Core Standards
This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.
This lesson plan is not associated with any National Standards.
Subscribe to our Lessons that Make Cents newsletter.