Tacoma Narrows Bridge lesson plans - History - Early travel routes

Early travel routes

Lesson objectives

Students will be able to:

  1. Explain the factors that led the European explorers to the Pacific Northwest;
  2. Describe the journeys of the major early seafaring explorers of the Pacific Northwest and explain the contributions made by each;
  3. Explain the historical significance of Northwest place names;
  4. Understand the cause and effect of scurvy on early seafaring explorations;
  5. Analyze the significance of seafaring exploration in the Northwest;
  6. Understand how competing claims in the region by various nations were resolved.


3-6 days or class periods, including 1-2 days research, 1-2 days writing journal, and 1-2 days preparing illustrations.

Materials needed:

Copies of entries from primary source journals dating from this time period, such as those of George Vancouver, Charles Wilkes or Archibald Menzies. Other useful materials might include textbooks, reading/research material of other types, Internet access, white drawing paper, colored markers and pencils, rulers, construction paper, string, and glue sticks.

Lesson steps

1. Ask students to research the early seafaring explorations to the West Coast of North America, and choose a voyage that seems particularly interesting to them.

2. Ask them to imagine that they are a crew members of their choice, say doctors, botanists, cabin boys, Chinese eunuchs or captains, on one of the Russian, European, American or Chinese ships that explored the west coast of the North American continent between 499 A.C.E. and 1800 A.C.E.

3. Have them create a journal of their travels, beginning in their country of origin. Ask them to include the following information:

When the students have completed their work, ask them to prepare a short presentation of their journals to the rest of the class, perhaps reading an entry or two.


After the students have been working on their projects for a day or two, bring them together in a large group and ask them to help create a grading rubric. Ask them what attributes a top-quality journal might have, and list those attributes on an overhead projector or white board. Possibilities might include:

Evaluate each attribute on an appropriate scale based on your own school's grading system, for example giving points or letter grades.