Students watch a video about Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette’s exploration of the Mississippi River. They map Jolliet’s and Marquette’s route, highlighting Iowa’s unique eastern and western borders (Mississippi and Missouri) and other geographic features.
This lesson is part of "Great States: Iowa | Unit 3: Explorers and Settlers." In this unit, students will learn about the various incentives and events that drew European explorers and early settlers to the American West.
G.SS.3.19: Create a geographic representation to explain how the unique characteristics of a place affect migration.
G.SS.3.21: Use map evidence to explain how human settlements and movements relate to the locations and use of various regional landforms and natural resources.
G.SS.4.17: Create a geographic representation to illustrate how the natural resources in an area affect the decisions people make.
G.SS.5.19: Create geographic representations to illustrate how cultural and environmental characteristics of a region impacted a historical event.
- Video: Louis Jolliet & Jacques Marquette | PBS World Explorers
- An interactive whiteboard, projector, or another type of screen to show videos to the class
- Class set of Jolliet and Marquette’s Route handout
- Pens, markers, crayons, or colored pencils
- Distribute the Jolliet and Marquette’s Route handout to students.
- Tell students they are going to watch a video that details the exploration of North America's mightiest river, the Mississippi. Explain that Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette embarked on an expedition that lasted over two months, and they explored over 800 miles of the river to open the center of the North American continent to European influence.
- Explain that the Mississippi River forms the eastern border of Iowa. Without Jolliet and Marquette’s exploration, European settlement in the land could have been delayed or greatly altered.
- Instruct students to take notes about the discoveries the explorers made and the route of the exploration as they watch the video.
- Play the video, Louis Jolliet & Jacques Marquette | PBS World Explorers, which details Jolliet and Marquette’s route from the Great Lakes down the Mississippi. [3:48]
- Have students answer the questions on the handout, and mark the explorers’ route on the map. Students can either re-watch the video or research the route to mark it on the map. For additional information on early explorers of Iowa, visit the Iowa Pathways site.
- Ask students, “Why was it important that Marquette and Jolliet follow rivers?” [Answers will vary, but can include: water and fertile land were important for survival, and they wanted to know where the waterways led.]
- Significant discoveries: Missouri River, Ohio River, Arkansas River junction with the Mississippi [2:30]
- Marquette—to spread Christianity; Jolliet—to explore and open trade routes [1:11, 1:38]
- 450 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico, because they heard there were hostile Spanish settlements [2:44]
- Confirmed that the Mississippi did empty into the Gulf of Mexico [2:53]