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Great Sites for Teaching About ...Westward Expansion

Each week, Education World's Great Sites for Teaching About ... page highlights Web sites to help educators work timely themes into their lessons. This week's sites are among the best on the Web for teaching about the westward expansion movement.


  1. All About the Oregon Trail
    http://www.isu.edu/~trinmich/Allabout.html
    Also available as a two-hour video documentary, this site offers comprehensive information about the history of the Oregon Trail. Students will particularly enjoy the tales in the Fantastic Facts section, including the case of the confused mapmaker and the cow that started a war. The online Teacher's Guide provides a variety of resources, such as background information, lesson plans, vocabulary, and test questions.

  2. American West
    http://www.americanwest.com
    This truly comprehensive site provides a searchable database of links to almost everything you ever wanted to know about westward expansion, cowboys, Native Americans, gun battles, ghost towns, mining, and much more.

  3. Go West Across America with Lewis and Clark
    http://www.nationalgeographic.com/features/97/west
    On this interactive journey from the National Geographic Society, students help Lewis and Clark explore and map the newly purchased Louisiana Territory.

  4. Pioneers
    http://tqjunior.thinkquest.org/6400
    This ThinkQuest Junior entry presents a personal picture of the western movement, from life in the camps to life on the trail. Topics include first aid, food, fires, wagon trains, toys, and much more. The Literature link provides literary resources about the time, including a student-written and student-illustrated retelling of Rebecca of Blossom Prairie, -- an account of pioneer life by Maurine Walpole Liles.

  5. Lost in the Grand Canyon
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/canyon
    This online resource was created to accompany the PBS American Experience film of the same name. Visitors can follow a timeline of the canyon's exploration, tour an interactive map, study the geology of the rapids, and learn about the people and events that helped make the Grand Canyon part of America's heritage. The accompanying Teacher's Guide provides guided questions designed to maximize the student experience.

  6. Pony Express Home Station
    http://www.ccnet.com/~xptom
    This fabulous study offers a look at the people and history of this legendary westward mail service, which operated for just a year and a half at the onset of the Civil War. The Pony Express School House offers an online quiz, research resources, a bibliography, and the opportunity for students to post their own papers and reports.

  7. Women of the West Museum
    http://www.autry-museum.org/explore/exhibits/wwmonline/
    This virtual museum offers an opportunity to discover the women of the American West. The site includes brief biographies of two dozen important women. Each biography is accompanied by a student activity as well as extension activities and history standards.

  8. Riding the Overland Stage
    http://www.ibiscom.com/stage.htm
    Mark Twain wrote this account of riding the stagecoach from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Carson City, Nevada, 140 years ago. Full of Twain's wit and descriptive talent, the page also contains graphics and links that extend the written experience.

  9. Africans in America
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4narr4.html
    This PBS site provides a vivid narrative of African American life during the western movement with additional comparisons to the lives of Native Americans. The site includes relevant links to the Dred Scott case and Lincoln's famed House Divided speech.

  10. Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
    http://www.nps.gov/jeff/main.htm#Top
    More commonly known as the Gateway Arch, this monument commemorates the American spirit during westward expansion. The site offers insight into life in St. Louis and information about people who fueled the movement west. The site's Educator's Guide provides a link to Teaching With Historic Places, a lesson plan created by the National Park Service.

Walter McKenzie
Education World®
Copyright © 2004 Education World

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Originally published 05/12/2000
Links last updated 11/15/2004

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