Teach PA History
Plants for Pleasure and Profit
What to Know
Teaching Time
1 class period, approximately 40 minutes
Grade Level
Elementary School
  • Ecology and Environment
  • Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening
  • History
Historical Period
  • Expansion and Reform - 1801-1855
One of Jefferson's objectives for the Lewis and Clark expedition was to identify agricultural resources in the West that might have economic benefit for the United States. To prepare Lewis for this aspect of his assignment, Jefferson sent him to Philadelphia, a center of learning and science, to study with the most renowned scholars of the day. Lewis worked with Benjamin Smith Barton, learning what plants to collect, and how to best collect, preserve, and label natural specimens. He also received advice from Caspar Wistar on paleontology, specifically in looking for pre-historic remains. Over the course of their expedition, Lewis and Clark identified 178 new plants and 122 new animals. Many of the plant specimens were given to Barton following the expedition, with the idea that he would prepare a volume describing the newly discovered flora and fauna of the West. Due to ill health, Barton was not able to complete the book. Many of the specimens were given to the American Philosophical Society, and later stored at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. Some were taken by a German botanist, Frederick Purch, who described 124 plants collected by Lewis in a book published in London in 1814. In this lesson, students will study about some of the specimens collected or diagrammed by Lewis and Clark, discuss their usefulness, and rank their importance.


Students will: 1. interact with images of primary source artifacts 2. learn about some of the plants found on the Lewis and Clark expedition 3. predict ways that these discovered plants might prove useful to people 4. consider information from multiple perspectives 5. write a brief persuasive essay

Standards Alignment

  • History

    8.1.3 B. Develop an understanding of historical sources.
    8.3.3. A. Identify contributions of individuals and groups to United States history.
    8.3.3. B. Identify and describe primary documents, material artifacts and historic sites important in United States history.
    8.3.3 C. Identify important changes in United States history.

  • Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening

    1.4.3 C. Write an opinion and support it with facts.

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