The Bridge as a Connection

Why were the
bridges built?

The Bridge as Machine

How did they
build the bridges?

The Bridge as Art

Why do the bridges
look like they do?
  People of the Bridge
Who designed
the bridges?

Tacoma Narrows Bridge Lesson Plans

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.

Time: 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:

  • Explain why you (and the ship you are on) are making this arduous journey. Why are you here?
  • Describe your journey, including the route your ship is taking to the West Coast of North America.
  • Include a drawing (map) of your route.
  • With as much historical accuracy as possible, include descriptions of your ship, such as materials used, size, etc. Describe what you’re wearing and eating, your activities, sights that you see along the way, descriptions of the weather and whatever other relevant details you can come up with.
  • Explain the impact of your ship’s voyage to the Pacific Northwest, including claims to the region, place names, etc.
  • Perhaps include your ship’s encounters with the natives, and describe the ravages of scurvy among the crewmen on your ship.
  • Include at least ten journal entries of at least one-half page each.
  • Include at least five illustrations, including the map.

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:

  • Contains strong historical content;
  • Information is historically accurate;
  • Includes clearly detailed illustrations;
  • Well crafted map, carefully drawn;
  • Explains reasons their character and ship came to the West Coast of North America;
  • Describes explorers’ impact, including place names;
  • Well organized, neat, project has a professional appearance;
  • Colorful and creative;
  • Shows investment of time and effort;
  • Includes at least ten journal entries.
  • Includes at least five illustrations, including map.

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


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