This lesson is made for middle school or high school history students. This lesson can be included in discussions of Westward Expansion.
In this lesson, students will look at a map and explore how the United States pushed west over the course of about fifty years.
Question to Ask Students Before the Lesson:
What were some reasons that the United States expanded west?
This discussion can include the concept of Manifest Destiny, the California Gold Rush, the railroads, etc. This discussion is important because it engages students in questioning the reasons for westward expansion.
This also is an opportunity to discuss the effects the push west had on native populations. After all, the land was not uninhabited when America pushed west. This allows students to engage in critical reflection of certain actions taken by America while also acknowledging a history that is often ignored.
The map below has different areas that the United States gained as the nation expanded west.
Students can click through the different layers of the map to see the land America gained along with a small explanation on how the land was acquired. This activity can be done individually or as a class with discussion happening on each layer of the map. As a possible group activity, the teacher could have students examine the different lands gained and have students research and add more information to the map as class collaboration.
To see the different layers, click on the icon in the top left corner below:
Here is the link to the map: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?mid=11iH7VUlZuRAkUQFY2UJBEAH53O6OtajL&usp=sharing