Westward Expansion Project Choices

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Westward Expansion Project Choices

Our study of the Westward Expansion era is an opportunity for you to do some independent study on topics of interest to you. Your job over the next 2 weeks will be to research then complete 2-6 projects from the list below. Our culminating event will be a Westward Expansion Days Exposition where you’ll have a chance to share your work and see what other students have created.

There are 60 points possible in this unit. Most students will complete 3 projects in working towards the 60 point mark. All projects listed below are worth 10-25 points a piece. If you’d like to persuade your teacher to make any of the projects worth more points,, you must fill out a Project Proposal form. See your teacher for this form. If you would like to complete more projects, they must be well done and your final grade cannot exceed the full 60 points in total. No extra credit, but you may work up to the full 100%.


  1. Research the states added to the Union between 1800-1860. Create a timeline to show these additions. 20

  2. Slavery played a significant role during the Westward expansion movement. Create a timeline of events and people that were involved in slavery issues from 1820-1860. 20

  3. Track down a picture of John Gast’s painting entitled “American Progress”. Using this as a springboard, create your own interpretation, using any medium you wish, displaying what you believe American progress will look like in the 21st century. 20

  4. Research and explain Native American / US Government relations in the Westward Expansion period. Choose at least three treaties made between Native Americans and the United States Government that characterizes what you believe is the nature of this relationship. Write a 4-8 paragraph expository essay. 20

  5. Research and report on the contributions of Chinese Laborers who worked on the railroads. What was their life like? What did they do, etc. Write a 4-8 paragraph expository essay. 20

  6. River Boats played a significant role in transporting goods throughout the Mississippi River valley. Find out what goods they carried and where they went. Record this information on a chart. 15

  7. Research the life story of Chief Joseph. Write a letter to the Chief telling him your thoughts about the events that happened in his life. What would you say to him if you could do so? Be sure to consult his “I will fight no more forever” speech. 15

  8. In 1844 F.B. Morse invented the telegraph. Explain how this invention worked. Use words and pictures to prepare a poster which teaches about the telegraph and its use. The social studies book has an excellent section on this topic. 20

  9. There are several legendary places from the period of Westward Expansion. Ever heard of Dodge City? Jackson Hole? St. Louis? Choose one place you find legendary in the west and write an explanation telling why the place has achieved legendary status. 15

  10. Report on one important person who contributed greatly to the Westward Expansion of the United States. Write a 4 – 8 paragraph expository essay about this person’s part in the expansion. Include a photo or picture of the person. 20

  11. Create a detailed salt and flour relief map tracing the route of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery. Include a map legend which details prominent geographic features you include. The final component of the project requires that you choose 5 of the most significant moments from the journey, noting on the map where these events took place. Include a paragraph of your own for each journal entry analyzing why you felt this was one of the 5 most significant events. 25

  12. Make a list of the songs that became popular during the days of Westward Expansion. Choose three to five songs and write a 4 – 8 paragraph essay, explaining how the songs were a “sign of the times.” You and a partner might sing or perform a song in class or act as a disc jockey and play a tape of several songs explaining the background of each. 25

  13. Draw detailed pictures of the popular fashions during the time of Westward Expansion. Be sure to include captions describing important features. 15

  14. Create a time line to show the major events surrounding the gold rush. 15

  15. Technology boomed during the time between approximately 1800 – 1850. Research the role of what you believe was the most significant technological advancement of the time and write a 4 – 8 paragraph persuasive essay explaining your argument. 20

  16. Research and create a timeline to show the major events which lead to the Mormons settling near the Great Salt Lake. 15

  17. The role of women began to change dramatically during the time of Westward Expansion. Research the evolving role of women and the changes and important events that characterized this period. Write a 4 – 8 paragraph essay. 20

  18. Watch Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and write a 4 – 8 paragraph expository essay explaining Native American/US Government relation in the 19th century. Use specific examples from the film to support your thesis. 25

  19. Create and post a web essay site describing at least three events or aspects of life during the Westward Expansion era. Your site must include a statement of purpose, your written analysis three aspects of life, links to outside sources, and at least one separate page in your web for each aspect you study. See Mr. Simmons or Mrs. Tomasetti for details and guidance on this project. 25


  1. Develop a board game around a topic of your choice. You can adapt a well-known board game like Trivial Pursuit, Life, Clue, Pictionary, etc. around your topic. 20

  1. Design a series of comic strips depicting a major event. Use word balloons and illustrations as you go. 15

  1. Construct a diorama of a scene from history. 10

  1. Make a location map of an historical event and label what happens there. 10

  1. Draw or paint a mural to depict a scene from history. Create something that could be used for display in the classroom or school. 15

  1. Make a scrapbook for a person in history you find interesting. Include artifacts and explain in caption form why you included each. 15

  1. Dramatize an event that several historians have researched and record it on video. 20

  1. Impersonate a character from history. Dress up as the person and tell their story. Either video tape your performance or present this as students rotate through to see other Westward Expansion projects. 20

  1. If you play and instrument, research and find a piece of music from an era in history you are studying. Record yourself playing the music. Include a brief written or verbal explanation of the piece. 10

  1. Create a ballad or song telling of an historical event. Write lyrics and music or adapt words to the melody of a well-known tune. Include an audio tape of your song. 15

  1. Create a visual display that compares and contrasts the technology of the time period you are studying with the technology of today. 15

  2. Make a newspaper that could feature one person or event from history. Include several articles that would regularly appear in newspapers. 20

  3. Develop a claymation or puppet video (simple hand or finger puppets would be appropriate) showing an important event or concept from the Westward Expansion era. 15

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