Lewis and Clark Unit Study for Early Learners

A Lewis and Clark Family-Style Unit Study for Homeschool Morning Time and Family School

This Lewis & Clark unit study about the Corps of Discovery Journey across the Louisiana Purchase uses Living Books, and hands-on STEAM activities along with English Language Arts, History, Biography, Fine & Gross Motor, Poetry and Folktales.

In this Family School Unit Study, your students will learn:

  • Build a keelboat
  • Make skillet bread
  • Count grizzly bears
  • Make a small world river
  • Learn new vocabulary with original, hand-drawn vocabulary cards
  • and so much more!!

This Lewis & Clark Unit Study for Early Learners is generally for students at the preschool to second-grade level.

To add in older students for a family-style unit study, see the Lewis & Clark Upper Elementary and Middle to High School posts.

Some links in this post may be affiliate links. This means that if you click on them, I may make a tiny commission, at no extra cost to you.

Lewis and Clark English Language Arts

Read Aloud Living Picture Books

The Picture Book of Lewis and Clark by David A. Adler (illustrated by Ronald Himler) is the perfect introduction to your Lewis and Clark unit study. It has short biographies of both captains and a brief background of the Louisana Purchase before detailing the expedition.

Bad River Boys: A Meeting of the Lakota Sioux with Lewis and Clark by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve was written by a member of the Sioux Tribe and based upon Captain Clark’s journal. The author describes what 3 young boys might have seen and heard during the four-day encounter between the Lakota Sioux and the Corps of Discovery which nearly ended in bloodshed. Be sure to read the Historical Notes at the end for an explanation of the difference in the names used for the tribes. The illustrations by Bill Farnsworth are lovely and worth a close examination.

Living Biography

The Picture Book of Sacagawea by David A. Adler (illustrated by Dan Brown) tells the little bits that are known of Sacagawea’s life before and after the expedition with Lewis and Clark. This book also describes how Sacagawea was vital to the success of the expedition.

The author’s note at the end states that there is conflicting evidence regarding when and where she died. Most of the other sources state that she died after her daughter was born. Some sources spell Sacagawea with a “j” instead of a “g”, but most historians today agree that the hard “g” sound is more consistent with her Native American name’s pronunciation.

Independent Reader

Lewis and Clark: A Prairie Dog for the President by Shirley Raye Redmond describes the hilarious ways the member of the Corps of Discovery tried to catch a prairie dog. They finally succeeded and sent the prairie dog on an adventure of his own to meet President Jefferson.

Read Aloud Living Books

Pick one of the two following books for a read-aloud. You’ll use this read-aloud biography for a literary analysis type of book report for 2nd and 3rd graders.

Sacagawea: American Pathfinder by Flora Warren Seymour is from the Childhood of Famous Americans series. This book begins as an imagined account of what Sacagawea’s life was like before the Lewis and Clark Expedition. This book has been republished under the name Sacagawea: History’s All-Stars, it’s the same book and same author, just with a different cover and name. My early elementaryaged daughter loved this one.

Meriwether Lewis: Off the Edge of the Map by Janet and Geoff Benge is one of the Heroes of History series. This biography of Lewis starts off during his childhood and is told in an engaging narrative story format. Audible has the audiobook version, which is free with an Audible trial.


Raven Steals the Light is a Native American folktale from the Haida people of the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. Stories Podcast shares an audio version of this Native American creation tale here.

Literary Analysis of a Biography

Lewis and Clark

Use the Lewis and Clark Biography Report Form for a literary analysis of the book you chose for Read-Aloud. You can either have your children answer orally or for older students, in writing. Get the Lewis and Clark Biography Report Form for Early Students in the Free Resource Library.

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    Lewis and Clark

    Research: We used The Lewis and Clark Expedition (A Kaleidoscope Kids Book) by Carol A. Johmann as our spine for researching the historical figures from the expedition. Going Along With Lewis & Clark by Barbara Fifer is another good resource.

    Most non-fiction books about the expedition from your local library should cover the information your child needs for this research writing project. Grab the Corps of Discovery Report Forms for Early Learners from the Free Resource Library.


    One of the main missions of the expedition was to describe the plants and animals that were “new” to the white men. They sent scientific descriptions of 122 animals and 178 plants to President Jefferson as a result of their exploratory trip.

    Have your kids memorize this poem from Christina Rossetti: Hurt No Living Thing.


    Copywork and narration are a real-life way to work on grammar skills. Use the Lewis and Clark Narration for Early Learners from the Free Resource Library. After your child has written the sentence from dictation, let her see the original to check it with her work. Have her correct her work, so that she knows how it should look.

    As an extension of the narration, have him find the nouns and verbs in each sentence. My kids loved the grammar videos from School House Rock to help them remember the parts of speech.

    Not a member of the Whole Child Homeschool Tribe yet? Scroll up to the dark pink box above to sign up and get immediate access to the Free Resource Library.

    Phonemic Awareness

    This week, work on segmenting syllables with your little ones. An easy way to explain it to preschoolers and kindergartners is to tell them that different words have different numbers of claps. Say “cat” and clap once as you’re saying it. Next, say “eagle” while clapping twice, once on each syllable. Say “elephant” and clap for each of the three syllables. The animal pictures for this task all have one or two syllables.

    Help your child decide if the animal name has one or two claps and place them on the chart. Get the Lewis and Clark Animal Names Syllable Sort pages from the Free Resource Library.


    Try this hands-on spelling practice for your kinetic learners. Place either play-doh or kinetic moon sand in a tray or plastic pencil case. Use alphabet stamps to make words in the play-doh or sand.


    Lewis and Clark

    Use the Early Learners Lewis and Clark Vocabulary Cards from the Free Resource Library to learn new Lewis and Clark themed words like “expedition” and “trading post”.

    Your children will also learn the difference between native and non-native (things like plants and animals that originated in a geological area). You can use the vocabulary words as spelling words, as a word wall to practice copywork, or as flashcards to work on memorizing definitions or just making sure that they understand the concepts.

    Not a member of the Whole Child Homeschool Tribe yet? Scroll up to the dark pink box above to sign up and get immediate access to the Free Resource Library.

    Did you know that you can make your homeschool life super simple with just one download?

    You can when you buy The Lewis & Clark Unit Study Curriculum Bundle!

    This bundle includes all of the printables available in the Free Resource Library in a single download PLUS BONUS vocabulary worksheets and answer keys, not in the Free Resource Library.

    You will also get 10 days of daily lesson plans all laid out in an easy-to-understand chart with a printable book list and direct links to all of the videos, podcasts, and activities (these lesson plans are only available in this bundle).

    Lewis and Clark STEAM


    The 122 animals that Lewis and Clark cataloged on their journey all belonged to the Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, which just means that they were all animals with spines (or vertebrae).

    Help your kids sort animals into two groups: vertebrates and invertebrates. Use the Lewis and Clark Vertebrates and Invertebrates Sorting page from the Free Resource Library.

    Have your kids gather up plastic and small stuffed animals to sort into the two groups. There are three other phyla (arthropods, mollusks, echinoderms) but for the Early Learners level, we’ll just sort everything by whether or not it has a spine. This video from Learning Junction is best for the preschool set and this longer video from Free School will keep the elementary kids’ attention.

    Not a member of the Whole Child Homeschool Tribe yet? Scroll up to the dark pink box above to sign up and get immediate access to the Free Resource Library.

    But Why? Podcast has an informative episode of Hoots and Screeches and Whistles, sounds that the members of the Corps of Discovery probably heard every night during their journey.


    Lewis took a sextant to determine latitude, a chronometer to calculate longitude, and a compass to tell directions. His chronometer quit working, however, so he relied upon a method that used the stars to measure where the expedition was and how far they’d traveled each day.

    This was very complicated, however, so he mostly just estimated the distance traveled. At the end of the journey, he was only off by 40 miles in his calculations!! Isn’t that amazing?

    Have your kids learn how to use a compass. If you don’t have one at home, you can make one with these easy directions from How Stuff Works.


    The Lewis and Clark Expedition (A Kaleidoscope Kids Book) by Carol A. Johmann has detailed instructions on building your own model keelboat from balsa wood.

    If you can’t locate a copy of this book at your local library, you can watch this video that uses those same instructions to see how to build it.


    Fine Arts

    Newell Convers Wyeth was a realist American painter and one of America’s greatest illustrators. He lived from 1882 to 1945 and attended Howard Pyle’s school for illustrators. He imagined how Sacagawea guided Lewis and Clark on their journey in his painting, “Sacagawea with Lewis and Clark during their expedition in 1804-06.”

    For a fine arts appreciation, you can view the painting “Sacagawea with Lewis and Clark during their expedition in 1804-06” in the Iowa State University collection and discuss it with your children. (I can’t post it here due to copyrights.)

    Practical Arts

    The explorers would most likely have cooked their bread in a castiron skillet to make a flat type of frying pan bread. Try this similar recipe of Skillet Biscuit Bread from This Week for Dinner.


    Preschool Math

    Play a “Race to Fill Your Cup” counting game. You can use counting bears (Lewis and Clark saw a lot of grizzly bears!) or any other small objects. Each player needs a cup of equal size (small solo cups or plastic drinking cups work well) and a die for rolling. Take turns rolling the die, placing that number of bears into your cup. Whoever fills their cup first, wins!

    Elementary Math
    lewis and clark homeschool unit study seaman dog
    photo cred: illryion CC

    Lewis took his dog, Seaman, on the trip with him. Seaman was a Newfoundland retriever who weighed 140 pounds! How much more did Seaman weigh than you do?

    Lewis and Clark History

    This whole unit study is history! LOL For even more history stories about Lewis, Clark and Sacagewea, listen to this podcast while you’re driving to practice or waiting at an appointment: Bedtime History’s Sacagawea: Noble Explorer

    Lewis and Clark Music

    Lewis took the keelboat down the Ohio River to meet Clark and the rest of the men in St. Louis. Down the River is an old river chantey song about the Ohio River. You can hear the melody by clicking on the blue “listen” button and see the lyrics at musicnotes.net.

    The only video I could find of this song is pretty cheesy, but it does give you an idea of how the song goes. We have the book and CD Wee Sing America, and Down the River is the last song in the book. You can hear a 30-second sample on Amazon or purchase just that song for less than a dollar. Down the River is a catchy tune that your little ones will love!

    Lewis and Clark Gross and Fine Motor

    Fine Motor: Let your child use a hole punch with some scrap colored paper to create a tiny pile of colored dots. A dollar store hole punch will work for most kiddos if they are just punching one sheet of paper at a time.

    If your child has limited hand strength, I recommend this Swingline brand punch. (I use it for punching multiple pages and laminated pages. It’s the best school supply purchase I’ve ever made!! LOL)

    Let them pick up the dots and glue them onto the Lewis and Clark Trail. Use this Lewis and Clark Trail Map from the Free Resource Library.

    Gross Motor: Use the Lewis and Clark Animal Trading Cards in the Free Resource Library for a gross motor brain break. Let the kids select a card and tell you how that animal moves. Then let them show you how to move like that animal. For example, the prairie rattlesnake might slither on the ground and shake his rattle tail.

    Not a member of the Whole Child Homeschool Tribe yet? Scroll up to the dark pink box above to sign up and get immediate access to the Free Resource Library.

    Lewis and Clark Sensory and Body Awareness

    If it’s nice weather out while you are studying Lewis and Clark, I highly recommend going to a local creek to play and explore in the water. My kids love to catch crawdads, watch the water bugs skate across the top of the water, and see the tiny fish flit around in the water.

    If it’s too chilly to play in the water, at least try to go on a nature walk where you can see a natural body of water, like a river or pond. Many states have turned old railroad beds into walking and biking trails that usually run alongside a river, like the Katy Trail in Missouri, which follows the Missouri River like Lewis and Clark.

    lewis and clark sensory bin small world

    Create a small world sensory bin with some finely chipped wood mulch or river pebbles. We used animals and figures from the Safari North America TOOB, the Safari Wild West TOOB, and the Safari River TOOB in our Lewis and Clark sensory bin.

    Or just use the animals and figures you have on hand. Add in some elements for the water (craft foam and glass gems) and trees (pine cones). You could also use some thick short sticks for the pirogues (dugout canoes).

    If your kids like to take brain breaks in between school subjects, check out this song from Jack Hartman. He’s our favorite YouTuber! Captain Lewis took his dog, Seaman on the journey with him. Seaman was a 140 pound Newfoundland retriever and was an invaluable member of the expedition. Learn what a dog needs to survive in this short video from Jack Hartman.

    More Ideas for your Lewis and Clark Unit Study

    Be sure to follow my Pinterest board US History: Westward Expansion for more great hands-on activities and ideas for your Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery unit study!

    And most importantly, pin this post so you can refer back to it during your Lewis and Clark unit study.

    Lewis and Clark
    Lewis and Clark

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