Map Making
Submitted by: Christine McCoid
Lesson Overview
Concept This lesson introduces the concept of composite maps, one type of map created by William Clark.  Students will use information they gather from individual maps to attempt to make a composite map of the West.
Performance Objectives

Students will be able to:
1.  Gather and evaluate maps of the Lewis and Clark Trail.
2.  Create a composite map.

Student Prerequisite Skills Students must have completed the research matrix from "The Men of the Corps of Discovery" lesson.

1. Folder or notebook for storing maps
2. Poster paper or butcher paper
3. Markers, rulers, pencils
4. Computer(s); E-mail software


1.  Before beginning the study of the Lewis and Clark expedition, give each student a map folder or notebook.  Explain to students that throughout the unit they should collect maps and map information in the map folder.  Instruct students to take notes on each map to remember the location, its importance, what was discovered there, relevant people associated with the area, etc.

2.  At the close of the cartography portion of your study, have students look through their map folders and review (as a class or in small groups) the features and key components of each map.

3.  Read with the class the following expert from the "Mapping on the Trail" article:  

"The final type of maps compiled on the trail were composite maps of the West. Two were prepared. These were compiled by Clark during the long winter camps at Fort Mandan (Oct. 1804-April 7,1805) and Fort Clatsop (Dec. 7, 1805-March 23,1806). Both cover the entire West from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Coast.

The Fort Mandan map is the first map of the West derived from personal observations and measurements. It was based partly on the explorations of Lewis and Clark and partly on Indian information. The depiction of the lower Missouri River was taken from Clark's finished traverse surveys and is quite accurately portrayed. The vast region to the west of Fort Mandan and the Missouri River was derived from Indian maps and verbal descriptions. The rivers shown are quite distorted because of the Indians' different concepts of space, time, and direction.

Nevertheless, this information was extremely valuable to the explorers. It provided Lewis and Clark with an improved mental map of the West that helped them in planning the final leg of their journey."

4.  Explain that a composite map is made of components taken from several different areas.  As you have read, Clark made his composite map from observations, measurements, and Indian information.  Tell the class they will make a composite map of the Lewis and Clark Trail using the information in their map folders and group discussion and cooperation.

5.  Divide the class into groups.  Each student should share with his/her group the information in his/her map folder. The small groups should take time to evaluate the maps and notes from each member and decide what to include on the composite map.  Instruct the class to pay close attention to events, dates, and landmarks to help them compile their information and create an accurate map.

6.  Have each group draw, on poster or butcher paper, a large size composite map of the Lewis and Clark Trail.  They should include as many land formations, bodies of water, key towns, etc. as possible, in as much detail as possible.  Their maps should include a key, compass rose, scale, and title.

7.  When the maps are complete, share them as a class. 

8.  Display the composite map made by William Clark and compare it to student maps.  Evaluate accuracy of the maps, and look for features students may have missed.  Discuss the value of creating a composite map, and how Clark's map gave us information that was necessary for the development of the nation.

Teacher Notes

Refer to content found in the "Mapping of the Trail" article.

Student Assessment Tools Visual presentation

Students will be assessed on:
1.  Class participation and group work.
2.  Completeness and accuracy of composite map.
3.  Completeness and accuracy of map folder documents.

Related Web Sites Lewis and Clark TrailLinks and resources about the towns and sites along the trail.

The History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition: Detailed history of the expedition.

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