The Value of Exchange


Students will investigate the relationship between the Jefferson Peace Medal and the first nickel of the Westward Journey Nickel Series. They will make decisions about bartering similar to those that Lewis and Clark made. They will reflect on and write about the similarities and differences between their decisions and those of the Corps of Discovery.

Coin Type(s)

  • Nickel

Coin Program(s)

  • Westward Journey Nickels


  • Students will investigate the relationship between the Jefferson Peace Medal and the first nickel of the Westward Journey Nickel Series.™
  • They will make decisions about bartering similar to those that Lewis and Clark made.
  • They will reflect on and write about the similarities and differences between their decisions and those of the Corps of Discovery.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies
  • Economics


  • 6th

Class Time

  • Sessions: One
  • Session Length: 45-60 minutes
  • Total Length: 46-90 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Pairs
  • Individual work

Background Knowledge

Students should have a basic knowledge of:

  • Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery
  • Bartering as a means of exchange
  • Medals as symbols of success or praise
  • U.S. geography
  • Conducting a class discussion

Terms and Concepts

  • Obverse (front)
  • Reverse (back)
  • Louisiana Purchase
  • Lewis and Clark
  • Corps of Discovery
  • Peace Medal
  • American Indians
  • Barter
  • Money as a medium of exchange
  • Decision-making


  • One small foam ball
  • Peace Medal nickels (1 per student)
  • Copies of the "Lewis and Clark Expedition" overview from the Resource Guide
  • Chart paper/chalkboard
  • Markers/chalk
  • 1 overhead projector
  • 1 overhead transparency of the "Louisiana Territory Map" from the Resource Guide
  • 1 erasable overhead projector marker
  • Scenario cards
  • One die
  • Writing paper


  • Gather Peace Medal nickels (1 per student).
  • Make copies of the "Lewis and Clark Expedition" overview from the Resource Guide (1 per student).
  • Create a "Supply List" on a piece of chart paper or on the chalk board that consists of these items: 2 brass kettles, 5 ivory combs, 2 handkerchiefs, colored glass beads, 1 corn mill, 2 calico ruffled shirts, 80 fish hooks, 20 needles, 4 butcher knives, 3 rings.
  • Make an overhead transparency of the "Louisiana Territory Map."
  • Create a rubric to guide student's final response essay.


Worksheets and files (PDF)

Lesson Steps

  1. Assess the students' pre-activity knowledge of the Lewis and Clark expedition (the Corps of Discovery) by conducting a short game (about 3 minutes). Holding a small foam ball, make a statement about Lewis and Clark's expedition and then toss the ball to a student in the class. Direct the student to repeat the process. If the student cannot make a statement about this journey, they should simply say "pass" and toss the ball to another student. As students are playing this game, record or ask one student to sit out of the game to record all the statements made.
  2. Ask the students if they have heard about the new Westward Journey Nickel Series that the United States government is producing during 2004 through 2006. Describe this series as background information.
  3. Distribute a Peace Medal nickel to each student and allow them time to thoroughly examine each side.
  4. Explain the terms "obverse" and "reverse" and ask students to describe the image on the coin's obverse. The students should be able to explain that this side shows an image of President Thomas Jefferson. They should also realize that this is the same image as on the obverse of the pre-2004 Monticello nickel.
  5. Ask the students to turn the nickel over and describe the images on the reverse. Ask the students to make predictions about the coin's design. Who are the individuals shaking hands and why might they be shaking hands?
  6. Explain that this design was used on a series of special medals that were carried by Lewis and Clark during their journey. Display a transparency of the Jefferson Peace Medal reverse.
  7. Ask the students if they've ever received a medal before. Ask why they received the medal and how it was given to them. Students should understand that a medal is given to mark a special occasion or achievement, such as a success in a competition. They should realize that it is an honor to be given a medal.
  8. Distribute copies of the "Lewis and Clark Expedition" overview from the Resource Guide. Direct students to read this page either independently or in pairs.
  9. Based on this reading, ask students why they think Lewis and Clark would bring medals on their expedition. Students should understand that the medals were brought as gifts for the American Indians they met while traveling west. Also note that Lewis and Clark planned to bring many supplies along with them for the American Indians, and only some of them were meant as gifts.
  10. Discuss why Lewis and Clark carried other supplies for the American Indians they encountered. Instruct them to consider money in our modern world. Ask them to explain how people traveling between countries that use different currencies can still spend money. Explain that our money is only useful to us because people accept it as having a certain value.
  11. As a class, discuss the value that American money had to the Indians Lewis and Clark met. Students should realize that our money did not have much value to these people, but some of the supplies that Lewis and Clark carried were of more interest.
  12. Explain that the students are going to play a game as a class. The game involves making the kind of decisions about supplies that the Corps of Discovery may have had to make for their trip. Display the "Supply List" and the transparency of the "Louisiana Territory Map."
  13. Explain that the students will take turns reading a series of scenario cards which ask them to make decisions about trading or bartering supplies. A student volunteer will first mark the Corps of Discovery's location on the map for each scenario.
  14. Next, the class will consider these scenarios together as if they were in the Corps of Discovery. After each card is read, the class will have two minutes to discuss what they should do. At the end of the two minute period, the class will take a vote to see what they should try to trade.
  15. Once the class makes its decision, the teacher will roll a die. If the number on the die is odd, the trade was accepted and the team can move on to the next scenario. If the number on the die is even, the trade was denied and the team must add to their offer. The goal of the game is to make it through all of the scenarios with enough supplies to survive.
  16. Direct the students as they play this game, offering appropriate guidance throughout its duration.
  17. After the activity, divide students into pairs and direct them to discuss what considerations they needed to take into account each time they made a decision about what to trade.
  18. Based on this conversation, assign students the task of independently writing a response essay to compare and contrast the class decision-making experience with the experiences of the Corps of Discovery. Pose these questions: "If you had been on the expedition with Lewis and Clark, what strategies would you have used to make peace with the American Indians while still keeping enough supplies for your trip? How does this compare with your classroom experience?" Distribute a rubric to help guide the students' writing.

Differentiated Learning Options

  • Direct the students to play the bartering game in small groups rather than as an entire class.
  • Create copies of the scenario cards for students to see as they are being read.
  • Allow students to present the information for their essay in an alternate format.


  • Add additional scenarios to the bartering game for students to consider.
  • Direct students to conduct research about the experiences of the Corps of Discovery.
  • Based on this research, have the students write more bartering scenarios for the game.
  • Invite students to explore the history of money in the United States.


  • Take anecdotal notes about the students' participation and involvement during the class and pair discussions.
  • Evaluate the essays for composition and content.

Common Core Standards

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: RL.6 Reading: Informational Text
Grade(s): Grade 6
Cluster: Key Ideas and Details

  • RI.6.1. Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • RI.6.2. Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
  • RI.6.3. Analyze in detail how a key individual, event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and elaborated in a text (e.g., through examples or anecdotes).

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: RL.6 Reading: Informational Text
Grade(s): Grade 6
Cluster: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

  • RI.6.7. Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.
  • RI.6.8. Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.
  • RI.6.9. Compare and contrast one author’s presentation of events with that of another (e.g., a memoir written by and a biography on the same person).

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: W.6 Writing
Grade(s): Grade 6
Cluster: Research to Build and Present Knowledge

  • W.6.7. Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and refocusing the inquiry when appropriate.
  • W.6.8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources; assess the credibility of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and providing basic bibliographic information for sources.
  • W.6.9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
    • Apply grade 6 Reading standards to literature (e.g., “Compare and contrast texts in different forms or genres [e.g., stories and poems; historical novels and fantasy stories] in terms of their approaches to similar themes and topics”).
    • Apply grade 6 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g., “Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not”).

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: L.6 Language
Grade(s): Grade 6
Cluster: Conventions of Standard English

  • L.6.1. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
    • Ensure that pronouns are in the proper case (subjective, objective, possessive).
    • Use intensive pronouns (e.g., myself, ourselves).
    • Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in pronoun number and person.
    • Recognize and correct vague pronouns (i.e., ones with unclear or ambiguous antecedents).
    • Recognize variations from standard English in their own and others' writing and speaking, and identify and use strategies to improve expression in conventional language.
  • L.6.2. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
    • Use punctuation (commas, parentheses, dashes) to set off nonrestrictive/parenthetical elements.
    • Spell correctly.

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: RL.6 Reading: Informational Text
Grade(s): Grade 6
Cluster: Craft and Structure

  • RI.6.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings.
  • RI.6.5. Analyze how a particular sentence, paragraph, chapter, or section fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the ideas.
  • RI.6.6. Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.

National Standards

Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Disciplinary Standards
Cluster: Economics
Grade(s): Grades K–12

Teachers should:

  • Productive resources are limited. Therefore, people cannot have all the goods and services that they want; as a result, they must choose some things and give up others.
  • Effective decision making requires comparing the additional costs of alternatives with the additional benefits. Most choices involve doing a little more or a little less of something; few choices are all or nothing decisions.
  • Different methods can be used to allocate goods and services. People, acting individually or collectively through government, must choose which methods to use to allocate different kinds of goods and services.
  • People respond predictably to positive and negative incentives.
  • Voluntary exchange occurs only when all parties expect to gain. This is true for trade among individuals or organizations within a nation, or among individuals or organizations in different nations.
  • When individuals, regions, and nations specialize in what they can produce at the lowest cost and then trade with others, both production and consumption increase.
  • Markets exist when buyers and sellers interact. This interaction determines market prices and thereby allocates scarce goods and services.
  • Prices send signals and provide incentives to buyers and sellers. When supply and demand change, market prices adjust, affecting incentives.
  • Competition among sellers lowers costs and prices, encouraging producers to produce more of what consumers are willing and able to buy. Competition among buyers increases prices and allocates goods and services to those people who are willing and able to pay the most for them.
  • Institutions evolve in market economies to help individuals and groups accomplish their goals. Banks, labor unions, corporations, legal systems, and non-profit organizations are examples of important institutions.
  • Money makes it easier to trade, borrow, save, invest, and compare the value of goods and services.
  • Interest rates, adjusted for inflation, rise and fall to balance the amount saved with the amount borrowed, thus affecting the allocation of scarce resources between present and future users.
  • Income for most people is determined by the market value of the productive resources they sell. What workers earn depends, primarily, on the market value of what they produce and how productive they are.
  •  Entrepreneurs are people who take the risks of organizing productive resources to make goods and services.
  • Profit is an important incentive that leads entrepreneurs to accept the risks of business failure
  •  Investment in factories, machinery, new technology, and in the health, education, and training of people can raise future standards of living.
  • There is an economic role for government to play in a market economy whenever the benefits of a government policy outweigh its costs. Governments often provide for national defense, address environmental concerns, define and protect property rights, and attempt to make markets more competitive. Most government policies also redistribute income.
  • Costs of government policies sometimes exceed benefits. This may occur because of incentives facing voters, government officials, and government employees; because of actions by special interest groups that can impose costs on the general public; or because social goals other than economic efficiency are being pursued.
  • Cost and benefit analysis is complex and involves placing value on both tangible
  • and intangible factors when making policy decisions
  • A nation’s overall levels of income, employment, and prices are determined by the interaction of spending and production decisions made by all households, firms, government agencies, and others in the economy.
  • Unemployment imposes significant personal costs on individuals and families.  It can also place a heavy burden on governments. Unexpected inflation imposes costs on many people and benefits some others because it arbitrarily redistributes purchasing power.
  • In the United States, federal government budgetary policy and the Federal Reserve System’s monetary policy influence the overall levels of employment, output, and prices.
  • The assumptions and values on which economic theory and public policy are based require careful analysis