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Westward Expansion Lesson Plan
Students will study the Westward Expansion of the United States during the period between 1840 and 1890 including different reasons people moved west, such as opportunity and adventure, gold and wealth, jobs provided by working on the railroad, the chance to homestead, or the lure to become a cowboy. Students will also study the impact upon the Native Americans as new people came and settled their lands. Student groups will plan and produce a short video emphasizing the life of the people and the impact the westward expansion had on the history of the United States.

Westward Expansion

On-line Resources

  • The American West: People
    A very comprehensive collection of links by University of Kansas organized by topic and maintained by the University. Especially noteworthy are topics of treaties, Indian women, and Indian removal.
  • American Indian People
    Concise summary of and explanation of topic by Museum of Westward Expansion, St. Louis, Missouri, including Manifest Destiny, buffalo hunters, reservation areas, and the tipi.
  • Camping with the Sioux
    1881 Fieldwork diary of Anne Cunningham Fletcher who lived with Sioux women in the Dakota Territory. Nicely done by National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, with illustrations and photographs although somewhat cryptic and lengthy (includes 40 days of journal entries.)
  • The Women
    Brief excerpts from diaries and letters of women who lived during the California Gold Rush (actress, hotel keeper, pie maker, mule tender, miner, washerwoman, etc.). The site is sponsored by JoAnn Levy, author of They Saw the Elephant, Women of the California Gold Rush, For California's Gold, and Daughter of Joy, A Novel of Gold Rush San Francisco.
  • Articles of the Gold Rush
    A collection of brief, magazine-style articles about the California gold rush by The Oakland Museum of California.
  • Central Pacific Railroad, Photographic History Museum
    An excellent collection of photos and illustrations with informative captions.
  • Central Pacific Railroad Organization
    Extensive list of links to other railroad sites on the Internet including early railroad posters, photos, maps, and documents.
  • A Brief Explanation of Homesteading
    This resource by E.A. Schwartz, Assistant Professor of History, California State University, San Marcos, is for the teacher and explains the homesteading act and describes its results.
  • Museum of Westward Expansion
    This site by the National Parks Service, St. Louis includes audio clips of narratives from William Clark (Lewis and Clark Expedition), a Buffalo Soldier who tells of his struggle after the Civil War, and a 1846 Overlander woman heading West.
  • Westward Expansion
    Historical overview (text) by with maps of trails. Also includes links to related pages for Lewis and Clarke Expedition, Pony Express, and Donner Party.
  • Los Angeles: Past, Present, & Future
    Click on "LA Yesterday" for menu of pages. This University of Southern California site has fascinating collection of information and photos on LA history including neighborhoods, landmarks, infrastructure, etc. Suggest starting with "Discovery and Settlement of Los Angeles."
  • Los Angeles Almanac, Given Place Publishing Company
    An almanac of the early history of Los Angeles, including headline news, historical sites and structures, and Mexican Los Angeles.
  • Westward Expansion
    This site by Kennewaw State University (Georgia) Educational Technology Center contains numerous links, including clip art and online activities, on the general topic of Westward Expansion.
  • People of Color on America's Western Frontier
    Good resource site by Lest We Forget Communications highlighting lesser known struggles and achievements of blacks, Indians, and others in American West. Includes many interesting links.
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