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        3-5, 13+

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        Montana | Activity 1.2: Lewis and Clark Find the Great Falls of the Missouri River

        Students watch a video about the Great Falls of the Missouri River without sound. They generate a list of adjectives to describe the Falls before re-watching the same video clip, this time reading along with narration provided from the journal of Meriwether Lewis. This will lead to a discussion of the concepts of “wilderness” and “civilization,” and how the definition of these words can vary according to one’s perspective.

        Lesson Summary

        Students watch a video about the Great Falls of the Missouri River without sound. They generate a list of adjectives to describe the Falls before re-watching the same video clip, this time reading along with narration provided from the journal of Meriwether Lewis. This will lead to a discussion of the concepts of “wilderness” and “civilization,” and how the definition of these words can vary according to one’s perspective.

        This lesson is part of "Great States: Montana | Unit 1: Introduction to Montana" which will give students a nuanced introduction to the state of Montana. Students will be introduced to key events and people from Montana, as well as learn how boundaries are established and maintained, and how culture influences one’s perspective and experience in the world. 

        Time Allotment

        25 minutes

        Learning Objectives

        Standards:

        4.1: Identify and use various sources of information (e.g., artifacts, diaries, photographs, charts, biographies, paintings, architecture, songs) to develop an understanding of the past.

        4.3.: Examine biographies, stories, narratives, and folk tales to understand the lives of ordinary people and extraordinary people, place them in time and context, and explain their relationship to important historical events. 

        4.6: Recognize that people view and report historical events differently. 

        Supplies

        Directions

        1. Remind students of the definition of “adjective” if needed. Then, ask what adjectives they could use to describe Montana today. What adjectives would have been fitting before explorers and settlers came to the region?

        1. Tell students that they will be watching a short video clip without sound (Note: video should be muted before play). Play the video, Moments in Time: The Great Falls of the Missouri River. [1:08] As they watch, they should imagine that they are the first people ever to see what is shown. You may want to show the clip twice.

        1. In a notebook or on loose-leaf paper, ask students to write a list of adjectives they would use to describe the waterfalls shown in the video to other people. Ask some students to share their words aloud. Write the adjectives on the board.

        1. Explain that the video is about the Great Falls of the Missouri River. Ask if any students have visited the Great Falls of the Missouri River and have them share their impressions. Then, ask students what name would they give to the Falls based on their list of adjectives.

        1. Explain that Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and members of their expedition were some the first people ever to record findings of what we now call the state of Montana, and were also among the first to see the Great Falls of the Missouri River. Ask students if that made Lewis and Clark the first people to see these sites. Clarify that they may have been the first western explorers but that American Indians had long lived in this region.

        1. Distribute the transcript of Meriwether Lewis’s June 13, 1805, journal, which can be downloaded from the video page. Indicate that it is a primary source—an eyewitness account of the past. Replay the video with sound. Have students follow along with the transcript and circle adjectives used to describe the waterfall.

        1. Ask students to compare their list of adjectives to Lewis’s journal entry. You may want to teach the following vocabulary:

          1. Sublime – awe-inspiring

          2. Enlightened – aware, modern, informed

          3. Commencement – beginning

        1. Analyze the journal entry by asking students to respond to such questions as:

        • What did Lewis mean by “concealed from the eyes of civilized man?”

        • What assumptions might Lewis have made about the people who were already living in the area?

        • What might have been Lewis’s definition of “civilized?”

        • Note that this area was considered “wilderness” at the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Is it possible for “civilized” people to live in a “wilderness?”

        • Why does Lewis refer to the Falls as an “object?”

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