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Using Night at the Museum as a Starting Point for a History Lesson

written by: Noreen Gunnell • edited by: Pamela Rice-Linn • updated: 9/11/2012

Night at the Museum starring Ben Stiller is a great vehicle for teaching history. Lesson plans for key characters, historical eras, or geographical locations can be created using this movie as a starting point.

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    Preparing the Lesson

    Are you trying to find an innovative way to teach about Teddy Roosevelt? How about Sacajawea or Attila the Hun? All you need is a lesson plan on Night at the Museum and you’re off to a good start in teaching about these, and other historical figures, time-periods, or fascinating places.

    Title: Lesson Plan and Night at the Museum

    Lesson Focus: Who was Sacajawea? Sacajawea

    Grade Level: 6 through 8

    Time Needed: 2 class periods.

    Materials Needed: Internet Access to visit the following Web Sites:

    • http://www.pbs.org/lewisandclark/inside/saca.html
    • http://www.mathcs.bethel.edu/~gossett/DiscreteMathWithProof/sacajawea/quotes.html
    • http://education.boisestate.edu/compass/Kidscompass/Sacajawea.htm,
    • http://www.lewisandclarktrail.com/sacajawea.htm
    • http://www.enchantedlearning.com/explorers/page/s/sacajawea.shtml)

    Important People, and Vocabulary Terms and Words: Shoshoni, Corps of Discovery, Cartographer, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, Toussaint Charbonneau, Louisiana Purchase

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    Lesson Outline

    Watch the movie as a class. Have students take notes regarding how Sacajawea is portrayed with special attention to comments made by the character Rebecca about Sacajawea.

    Students should read information about the teenage Sacajawea on the Internet sites listed above. They should take notes and pay special attention to any details regarding her role in the Corps of Discovery and how she came to be on the expedition.


    Students should answer the following questions. Answers should be in full sentences and supported by detail.

    After watching the movie, answer the following:

    1. How would you describe Sacajawea’s importance to the Lewis and Clark expedition?
    2. What specific quotes or scenes from the movie helped you to form your opinion of Sacajawea?
    3. Was Sacajawea married while a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition?
    4. Do you know how she came to be part of the expedition? If yes, explain how the movie provided this information.

    After reading the assigned Internet sites, answer the following:

    1. What did you learn about how Sacajawea joined the Corps of Discovery from your reading on the assigned websites?
    2. Did Lewis and Clark mention her often in their journal entries?
    3. Considering their references to Sacajawea, do you believe Lewis and Clark thought of her as an indispensable member of their expeditionary team? Explain your answer.
    4. Who was Sacajawea married to?
    5. Did her marriage have anything to do with her being on the expedition?
    6. Do you think Sacajawea and her role in the Corps of Discovery are presented accurately in Night at the Museum?

    Other lesson plan combinations for Night at the Museum could explore the life of our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt, the statues of Easter Island and its geography. Lesson plans could also be created on the life and conquests of Attila the Hun, the history of Ancient Egypt, or early man.