Utilization Strategies

Lesson Plans

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by Karen Tharp


SUBJECT MATTER: Social Studies; History

In the 1800’s, an increasing number of non-native people began to move into the Idaho Territory. In 1805, Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on the now famous journey to the Pacific Ocean that paved the way for expansion. Fur traders and trappers hunted the valuable beaver until fashion tastes shifted and the fur was no longer popular. The Gold Rush ushered in droves of men seeking their fortunes. The population of women and children increased markedly as pioneer families packed their belongings and traveled west in covered wagons to begin a new life. Through the activities presented in this lesson, students will become familiar with the early explorers of our state. In addition, they will conceptualize life during the 1800’s in relation to their own personal histories and knowledge of 19th century events.


Students should be able to:

  • Conceptualize life in the 19th century based on previous knowledge and personal history.
  • Identify major reasons that people settled in Idaho.
  • Describe living conditions of early Idaho explorers during 19th century.
  • Compare life in the 1800’s to life today.
  • Define artifact and explain how it can be important to future generations.


From the National Standards for History, grades K-4 www.sscnet.ucla.edu/nchs/standards

Students will :

  • Think chronologically and will be able to distinguish between present and past events. (NSH 1A)
  • Compare and contrast family life now and family life in various places long ago. (NSH 1A)
  • Explore the history of indigenous people who first lived in his or her state or region. (NSH 3A)
  • Examine the reasons that brought the first explorers and settlers to the state or region. (NSH 3B)
  • Visual data will be examined in order to describe ways in which early settlers adapted to, utilized, and changed the environment. (NSH 3B)


Prior to the teaching, bookmark all of the web sites used in the lesson. Load any plug-ins necessary to run the web sites. Cue the videotape to the appropriate starting point. Copy the worksheet that will accompany the lesson. Collect sample specimens of items that could be used for the time capsule. Access authentic diary excerpts via books, libraries or the Internet. Have excerpts available for students to read.


Per student:

Per group of five:

  • Various items representing the group of 19th century explorers students choose to research. (Specimens can either be authentic items collected from homes or relatives, or students may create items that are modeled after the genuine article. )
  • Each group will place items in a box. The boxes represent time capsules constructed by the people the group researched.


Proceeding on… Visions of Idaho, Episode 6: Early Exploration


Westward Expansion edtech.kennesaw.edu/web//westward.html Research and information site.

Pioneer Life
Describes favorite pastimes of pioneer families; includes descriptions of toys, games, and songs.

Idaho History www.encarta.msn.com

Hat fashions of the early 19th century www.pinedale.com/misc/settlement.shtml

Diary entries www.isu.edu/~trinmich/00.n.dairies.html
Full text diary excerpts from individuals who traveled along the Oregon Trail.


The following activities will prepare students for a lesson on the early exploration of Idaho and allow them to explore the differences between the present and past.

Step 1: Establishing Personal Connection to History Explain to your students that you will be discussing historical events in the state of Idaho beginning in the year 1805. How many years ago was 1805? Ask your students to calculate (___ years).

Draw a timeline on the board to span the years between 1805 and 2001. Use yourself as an example. Mark your birth date on the timeline. Continue back with your father and grandfathers’ birth dates. Continue this process back to the beginning of the 19th century. Estimate the birth dates of ancestors if exact dates are unknown.

The intent is to get a general idea of how many generations of people have lived since that time. If an individual were born in the year 1850, how old would he or she be right now? Is it possible to interview anyone born then? How do we know what happened in their lives? Ask students to think about how we determine what life was like that long ago.

Discuss ways to record daily activities. Based on their existing knowledge of technology, ask students to brainstorm various ways to record events. Enlist the students’ assistance in creating a Venn diagram to list ways of recording events in the present as compared to the 1800s. Ideas may include: videotape, digital camera, tape recorder, letters, diaries, and pictographs. Ask your students if they know when their families came to Idaho.

Family research is a popular pastime in our area. Be prepared to let children share information. Do any of them have diaries written by ancestors? Explain to students that diaries and other artifacts left behind help future generations understand what life was like during different time periods. Read authentic excerpts from diaries kept by pioneers. Discuss the subjects recorded. Note the things the person wrote about: weather, visitors, daily chores, etc. Note the things the person did not write about: movies, television, Nintendo, McDonalds, etc.

Step 2: Establishing Lifestyle Context for History Ask the students to think about the ways in which their lives are different than the lives of children of the 1800s. Write K-W-L on the board and have children brainstorm for ideas about what the class already knows about pioneer life. Explain to the students that the class will be able to list additional facts that they discover (Learn) after completing the following activity.

Ask students to log on to the following Web site: http://tqjunior.thinkquest.org/6400/toys/html (A Pioneer’s Journey to the Frontier)
They will read about the lifestyles of pioneer children.

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by providing them with a worksheet with questions that can be answered using information from the web site. After the students have examined the site and recorded the answers to the questions, ask them to share their answers with the class. Record the pieces of information the students discovered under the L heading (what we Learned).


Step 1: Explain to your students that the class will now examine the lives of early explorers to the state of Idaho. The information will be presented in video format. Insert Proceeding On…Visions of Idaho (available through Idaho Public Television) into the VCR. Divide students into groups of two. Explain to them that one student from each group will act as the recorder. The video discusses the various groups of people that came to Idaho beginning in the year 1805.

Step 2: Provide the students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION and ask them to raise their hands when they hear the narrator talk about some of the things that interrupted the Native American seasonal round up and endangered their food supply. PLAY the video until the screen is filled with a picture of a wagon wheel with the sun shining brightly behind it. STOP the video.

Ask the students if they feel white people should have continued to do things the way Native Americans had or whether it was acceptable to bring new ways of doing things to the New Territory. RESUME the video. Step 3: Provide the students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, and ask them to raise their hands when they hear the number of schools that were in operation in the 1860s.

PLAY the video until the screen is filled with a black and white photograph of a group of school children. PAUSE the video and ask the students to think about the changes Idaho schools have experienced since that time. The narrator said Idaho had three schools. How many schools do we have in the town of ______ today? Ask the students to consider how schools in the 1800’s would be different from today’s schools.. How would they be similar?

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by having them write down the names of each major group of explorers as it is introduced during the rest of the video. RESUME the video until the end. When the tape is finished, ask the groups to list the main groups of explorers that the video discussed. The lists should include: The Lewis and Clark Expedition, fur trader, trappers, gold miners, and settlers.


Step 1:
Explain the following hypothetical situation to the students: If they were creating a time capsule today for someone to discover one hundred years from now, what types of things would they include in it? Suggest items such as toys, tools, diaries, calculator, cell phone, etc. Ask the students to brainstorm for other ideas. After listing the additional ideas on the board, ask the students if they feel that the items listed would give the person from the future a good idea of what our lives are like. Would he be able to guess the year from which thetime capsule originated? The decade? The century?

Step 2: Explain to the students that they will choose one of the groups of people discussed in the video and conduct research on the Internet. Ask them to be sure to answer questions such as: what did the group use for shelter, what did they do for entertainment, what did they eat, how did they communicate/correspond, why did they travel west (to trap beaver, to search for gold, etc.). As they gather information, the students will consider the following assignment: Students will pretend that they lived during the 1800’s. They are trappers, gold diggers, or settlers. Students will create time capsules with items used by the groups of people they researched.

Step 3: Explain to the students that the items placed in the time capsule need to be representative of the time period and lifestyle in which their chosen group lived. Do not include the year in diary entries. They don’t want to make it too easy to figure out! Perhaps the date was smudged or was burned. Theoretically, any person in the future that examines the items contained in the capsule should be able to deduce when and where the time capsule originated.

Step 4: Tell the students that the completed time capsules will be delivered to a fifth grade class (these students studied Idaho history last year and may be able to make accurate assumptions based on their recently acquired knowledge). The fifth grade students will examine the artifacts and try to determine their origin based on the contents. Their teacher will instruct them to guess what types of people created the time capsule and make deductions about the lifestyles and livelihoods of these “people from the past.” Their guesses will be recorded and placed in the time capsules. They will be returned to the 4th grade students.

Step 5: Explain to the students that they will discover how well they represented their chosen group by the inferences made by the 5th grade class. How accurate were their guesses?


S. Studies/Language Arts/Technology:
Students can create a “claymation” play based on events from Idaho history. Segments can be video-taped with a digital camera and presented to other students or parents.

Fine Arts:
Students can either create or bring in musical instruments used during the 1800s. They can also use the music to accompany the previously mentioned play. Drama: Students can role-play different characters from the 1800s in Idaho history (Lewis and Clark, Sacagawea, Shoshone tribe members, fur trappers, etc.). Have students research the reasons each group explored the Idaho territory.

Community Connections:
The Burley-Rupert area has groups of individuals that reenact wagon train journeys. Arrangements can be made for a field trip to visit and view the authentic materials used. Look for similar opportunities.

For additional lesson plans and ideas relating to this topic and many others try TeacherSource at PBS Online! You will find activities, lesson plans, teacher guides and links to other great educational web sites! Search the database by keyword, grade level or subject area! Mathline and Scienceline are also great resources for teachers seeking teaching tips, lesson plans, assessment methods, professional development, and much more!

The Idaho 2001 National Teacher Training Institute is made possible through the efforts of
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