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Field Day Activities for Studying Lewis and Clark

written by: Pamela Martin • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/5/2012

Supplement a class lecture about the Lewis and Clark expedition with field day activities to provide students with hands-on experiences, making the lesson more meaningful, memorable, and fun.

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    In these activities students will learn more about the life of Native Americans and the journey of Lewis and Clark.

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    Activity 1: Winter Counts

    Native Americans told the story of their year through winter counts. They drew pictures on animal hides to represent events of the year. Some important events depicted on Native American winter counts included meteor showers, great medicines or the capture of animals.

    Use large, brown paper bags as the animal hides. Encourage students to tear the bag in the shape of an animal skin. Crumble the paper and wet it, then spread it to dry to make it look even more like leather. Have students draw pictures of events that have occurred during the school year or as a mini-autobiography.. Provide students with a few suggestions for starters such showing a new friend with two people holding hands. A special birthday can be depicted with a birthday cake and candles. A trip the student took can be highlighted with a suitcase. Use paints or chalks to draw and color the designs.

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    Activity 2: Soap Carvings

    Both Native Americans and the Corps of Discovery created wood carvings. Use softl bars of soap and plastic knives to bring the activity to your classroom. Encourage students to carve a something that Lewis & Clark might have seen on their expedition. Suggest using the explorers' journals for ideas and pictures. Cover the soap scraps with water for a day to make liquid soap for hand-washing.

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    Activity 3: Speaking in Sign

    Lewis and Clark used sign language to communicate with the Native Americans they encountered. Teach students a few basic signs, such as the sign for buffalo, made from fists with both hands, leaving the index finger out and slightly bent. Place hands on the sides of your forehead. The curved fingers represent the buffalo’s horns. Some Native Americans displayed the sign for friend by holding the right hand, palm forward, next to the right shoulder. Cross the index and middle finger, like your crossing your fingers for good luck. The sign for mountain is created by folding your hands into fists above your head. Bring them down, one at a time, to the side of your chest. Slowly move them upward, demonstrating the effort required to climb a mountain. Encourage students to come up with other signs Native Americans might have used to communicate.

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    Activity 4: Rubbings

    Lewis and Clark created rubbings of new plants and leaves they encountered on their expedition. Supply students with a variety of leaves and grass to create rubbings. If time permits, allow students to gather some of their own leaves and grass. Cut white computer paper in half, and provide a variety of crayons or map pencils for students to use in creating a rubbing. Provide students with the names of leaves and grasses, writing them on the bottom of the rubbing.Use the rubbings as wall hangings or make them into journal covers. Age the paper inside the journals with tea or coffee, and ask student to compose entries that a member of the Corps of Discovery might have written.

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    Outdoor Fun

    Give students a taste for the difficulty of the journey by letting them "port" a canoe through an obstacle course, to mimic carry them over the mountains.

    Combine social studies with science when students extract salt from seawater or from a prepared salt solution in the way the Corps members did at Fort Clatsop.

    Provide bows, arrows and targets so children can try their hands at shooting their own meals, or give them the chance to strike flint to make arrowheads.