“Students, please open your social studies textbook to pages 47 and 48 to read about the ‘Voyage of Discovery.’”

Within the confines of those concise pages, the lower-grade social studies class at Prairie Voyager Adventist Elementary School encountered the sole information provided about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Only two pages for an epic voyage that was pivotal in the growth of this nation! The students were left wanting more.

With the dedicated assistance of a parent volunteer, the teacher, Mrs. Leanne Erickson, invested an extended evening in decorating the classroom, transforming it into an engaging series of stations that would mirror the historic voyage.

Station 1: The expedition commences in the classroom with a letter from President Jefferson, elucidating the purpose and goals of the journey. The students are then handed a list of essential items for their voyage. The shopping experience involves a classroom-wide scavenger hunt for hidden objects. Once their imaginary boat is packed, the expedition proceeds to Station 2.

Station 2: Picture the Great Plains – a vast, green grassland adorned with images of American bison and prairie dogs. Here, the students engage in a unique activity: capturing a Prairie Dog to send back alive to President Jefferson. This aligns with the directive of the Voyage, which aimed to identify new species of animals.

Station 3: Enter Sacajawea and Pomp. They become companions to the travelers, staying with them at Fort Mandan (crafted by the students from Lincoln Logs) and accompanying them for the remainder of the imaginative journey.

Station 4: The first significant hurdle arises at the Great Falls in Montana. Unable to navigate their large boats over the falls, the voyagers creatively portage around them. Once on the other side, the journey continues with dugout canoes.

Station 5: Fortune smiles upon the voyagers. At the base of the Bitterroot Mountains, they encounter a band of natives eager to trade for horses. Initial reluctance turns to approval when Sacajawea recognizes Chief Cameahwait as her brother. Now, equipped with horses, the expedition triumphantly traverses the Bitterroot Mountains.

Station 6: The grand finale – the ocean at last! The expedition reaches the Pacific Ocean in time for winter. Fort Clatsop is constructed, and the beach is explored. Shells and a deceased whale are discovered. Echoing the historic moment when Lewis carved his name on a tree, the students inscribe their names on a tree ring to honor their own “Voyager of Discovery.”

This immersive learning experience allowed students to engage deeply with interactive stations, reliving pivotal moments from Lewis and Clark’s cross-country journey. Leaving their mark at the symbolic Pacific Ocean, they not only mirrored the historical significance of the original expedition but also embarked on their own unforgettable educational expedition.

Leanne Erickson is the teacher at Prairie Voyager, a grades 1-8 Adventist elementary school in Grand Forks, North Dakota.