Discovering New Resources
Submitted by: Christine McCoid
Lesson Overview
Concept This lesson focuses on natural resources found by the Corps of Discovery throughout the expedition and those introduced to them by Native Americans they encountered along the trail.
Performance Objectives

Students will be able to:
1.  Define "natural resource."
2.  List examples of natural resources used pre- and post-1804. 
3.  Recognize the usefulness of natural resources, and the importance of discovering new resources.
4.  Use business letter-writing format.


1. Research materials
2. Lewis and Clark trail maps and background information
3. Computer(s); word processing software; Internet Web browser


1.  Read the article "The Mapping of the West" with the class.  Then re-read the following passage:  "Besides mapping the land, Lewis was to acquaint himself in detail with the native inhabitants of the territory, as well as the soil and terrain, animal and plant life, mineral resources, and climate. Jefferson anticipated that, as time went on, the nation would need more space for expansion, especially for agriculture. He wanted a better understanding of the potential of Louisiana for meeting that need."

2.  As a large group, make a list of reasons Jefferson may have had for expansion into the Louisiana Territory.  Discuss what resources may be helpful to a successful expansion (i.e., water source, good soil, fruit and game supply.)

3.  Introduce and discuss the term "natural resource."  Make a list of examples of natural resources.  Point out to students that natural resources must be from nature (not man-made) and must be useful. 

4.  Divide class into small groups to research natural resources commonly being used in pre-1804 America.  At that time, the population primarily lived on the East Coast, so the resources of that region were, for the most part,  the only ones being used.  Have student groups create lists of the resources and for what each was used.

5.   As a large group, discuss the findings of each group's research.  Students will probably notice that there are many more resources used today than they discovered were being used pre-1804.  Tell them many were discovered on the Lewis and Clark expedition. 

6.  Providing research tools and materials (books, encyclopedias, Internet) have class work in their small groups to discover resources found along the Lewis and Clark trail.  There were many resources the Corps found, and also many which were introduced to them by the Native Americans they encountered.

7.  Have each group take notes on their research.  The notes should include the natural resources, how the resource was introduced to the Corps, and for what each natural resource could be used.

8.  When all research is complete, discuss findings as a class.

9.  Have each student write a business-format letter to President Jefferson from Meriwether Lewis.  In the letter, Lewis should present his findings regarding natural resources and make a recommendation to President Jefferson in support of or against expansion to the Louisiana Territory based on the available natural resources.  Have students include facts about resources used pre-1804 and about those found on the Lewis and Clark trail.

Teacher Notes

Refer to content found in "The Mapping of the West" article.

Student Assessment Tools Written assignment

Students should be assessed on:
1. Class participation and group work; and
2. Business-letter format and factual accuracy.

Related Web Sites The History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition: A detailed history of the expedition.

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