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Lewis and Clark:
Equipping the Expedition


Lewis and Clark: The Journey West

Return to Meet the Corps of Discovery: The Members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition



Arts & Humanities
  • Language Arts
Social Studies
  • History
    • U.S. History


  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12


Brief Description

In this cooperative activity, students learn about preparations made before Lewis and Clark set off on their expedition.


Students will

  • make "educated guesses about what Lewis and Clark brought with them on the expedition.
  • create graphic organizers to help group the long list of items.
  • compare their "predictions with an actual "shopping list.


expedition, equipment, graphic organizer, clothing, medicine, guns, Lewis and Clark, Louisiana Purchase

Materials Needed

  • Venn diagram form (sources provided)
  • Concept Mapping form (sources provided)
  • pencil and paper

Lesson Plan

In this activity, students become familiar with some of the things Meriwether Lewis gathered to equip the expedition. They will see one of Lewiss actual "shopping lists.

Begin the lesson with a discussion about the kinds of things students and their families take with them when they travel. Write the list on a board or chart.

Then arrange students into small groups and give each group five minutes to come up with a list of things they think Lewis and Clark might have gathered to take with them on the expedition. When time is up, take five minutes for students to share with their classmates some of the things Lewis and Clark might have had on their lists.

Next, ask students to take a good look at the list and try to determine what items on the list have something in common with other items. Ask them to arrange the list into categories of provisions. Help students see that those lists cover most of the main categories of provisions (except maybe one. :)

  • Tools and Instruments
  • Camp supplies
  • Clothing
  • Arms and ammunition
  • Medicine and medical supplies
  • Reference books
  • Gifts for Indians
The "gifts for Indians is probably a category students had not considered. Expedition members carried goods to trade with the Indians. Other gifts would be given as gestures of good will.

Now that the students have identified the major categories of provisions, have them work in groups to flesh out a list of provisions they would expect Lewis and Clark to carry. Be sure they list each provision under the correct category.

Graphic Organizers
Next, introduce the activities below, in which students use the information they have collected to complete one or both graphic organizers.

Venn Diagram Activity
Invite students to create a Venn diagram showing

  • things todays students take with them when they travel (Circle A);
  • things that Lewis and Clark would have taken on their expedition.( Circle B); and
  • things that are common to both the Lewis and Clark Expedition and modern-day travel (written in the space where Circles A and B intersect
You might use Venn Diagram Form 1 or Education Worlds printable and editable Venn Diagram. Students can save that file to a disk, click the word Item at the top of the page to insert a headline for the Venn diagram, and click the words Topic in the two circles to insert text.

Concept Map Activity
Invite students to create a Concept Map showing at least four of the provisions categories discussed. (You might use a Cluster/Word Web 2.) The headline/topic for the page should be "The Lewis and Clark Expedition." The center square or circle should be labeled "Equipping the Expedition." Then each additional square or circle should include one category of provisions that Lewis and Clark carried on the journey. Each category should contain at least five items.

Introducing a Primary Resource
Next, introduce students to the Web page To Equip an Expedition. Share printouts of the two pages, or use a projector to display the computer image on a large screen for all can see. Let students discover how many of the provisions Lewis and Clark packed were on the lists they created. Ask some of the following questions as students study the list of items Lewis and Clark took along on their expedition:

  • How many of the items were on your lists?
  • Why would each item have been important to have?
  • Which items were you most surprised to find on the list?
  • Which items are you unfamiliar with?

Provide time for students to correct their graphic organizers and/or add some of the items they learned about. Students should use their corrected sheets in the Assessment activity for this lesson.

Building Vocabulary
The list of items provided on the To Equip an Expedition Web page provides an opportunity to build vocabulary. You might produce the list of words below and have students look up definitions for them. Or mix up the words and definitions and create an activity in which students match each word with its meaning.

  • chronometer -- a tool used to measure time; needed to calculate longitude
  • diaphoretic -- medicine used to force a person to sweat, perspire
  • emetic -- medicine used to force vomiting
  • flint -- a material used to produce a spark
  • frock -- an outer garment worn mostly by men
  • lancet -- a sharp surgical tool used to make incisions
  • quadrant -- a tool used for measuring altitudes
  • "Rush's pills" -- powerful drugs made of mercury, chlorine and jalap; used for any and all ailments (Source:
  • sextant -- a tool used to aid navigation
  • vermilion (face paint) -- bright red (face paint)
  • whetstone -- a stone used for sharpening tools


  • Students use the completed graphic organizers (Venn diagrams, concept maps) as resources as they write an essay telling what they learned from this lesson.
  • Students pass the matching activity with a score of 80 percent or higher.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

National Standards


    GRADES K - 12
    Reading for Perspective
    Communication Skills
    Developing Research Skills
    Applying Language Skills
    GRADES K - 4
    Living and Working together in Families and Communities, Now and Long Ago

  • GRADES 5 - 12
  • Era 4: Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
TECHNOLOGY NT.K-12.1NT.K-12.4NT.K-12.5
    GRADES K - 12
    Basic Operations and Concepts
    Technology Communications tools
    Technology Research tools

Click here to return to the Lewis and Clark lesson plan page.

Click here to find lesson plans about other events and eras in history.

Originally published 01/24/2003
Links last updated 07/14/2011