Smithsonian

Westward Expansion

This section is intended to supplement the curricula, textbooks, and materials you currently use for lessons on the expansion of the United States. The teacher-developed resources will enhance the classroom experience for both you and your students. You might get started by showing the video, in which Smithsonian art curator Richard Murray examines Emanuel Leutze’s epic painting Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way.

The lesson plans and DBQs are organized by grade level. The DBQ primary sources can stand alone in DBQ exercises. Images of the primary sources are independent of any extensive explanatory information, so that the images can be used as handouts.

Click on the links at right side of this page to find:

  • A middle school mini-DBQ and a high school DBQ on the effects of westward expansion on Native Americans after the Civil War
  • A set of lessons (elementary and middle school) on the Lewis and Clark expedition
  • Two elementary lessons in which students look at the ways the natural environment shapes history, and one in which they chart westward expansion by using U.S. postage stamps that commemorate statehood