Seaman's Journal (Gail Karwoski)

Teacher's Guide Author: Verena K Bryan, 3rd grade teacher, Steve Cozine Elementary School, Clark County School District

This teacher's guide is for the book Seaman's Journal by Gail Karwoski. Additional teacher's Guides are available for Patty Reed's Doll, Sallie Fox, Sarah, Plain and Tall, and other exploration children's books.


Book Overview: In the summer of 1803 Merriweather Lewis purchased a Newfoundland dog, for $20, named Seaman. Over the next three years Seaman would accompany Lewis on an expedition to map and collect data of the land gained during the Louisiana Purchase. Together they traveled over 8,000 miles. Seaman’s Journal: On the Trail with Lewis and Clark is an account of their travels, as told by Seaman. Seaman vividly retells stories of the people he met, the animals he encountered, and trials and tribulations of such an amazing journey.

Book Themes: The Louisiana Purchase and western expansion; Animal companionship and the codependency of owner and animal; Characteristics of the early explorer.

Suggested Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Primary Source Creative Writing
      • Students will use primary source documents to establish a framework for their writing. Once factual details have been identified students will then bring in their own supporting details to develop the information from the primary source documents. All information, primary source and students own ideas, will then be combined to create a historical fiction narrative.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)5.2 locate, acknowledge, and use at least three sources to write an informative paper [NS/PS 5.3.1]
        • (3)5.4 write a narrative or story that moves through a logical sequence of events, provides insight into why the incident is notable, and includes relevant details that develop the plot [NS 5.3.3]
    • Dramatic Retelling of an Excerpt of Seaman’s Journal
      • Students will select an excerpt or passage from Seaman’s Journal to reenact. Students will write a dialogue that corresponds to the events chosen from the journal. Students will then use a variety of props, to act out the specific passage.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)9.3 present ideas and supporting details in a logical sequence with a beginning, middle, and ending [NS/PS 9.3.3]
        • (3)9.1 use specific vocabulary and apply standard English to communicate ideas [NS/PS 9.3.1]
  • Mathematics
    • Map Distances Traveled During Expedition
      • Using student maps and recreations of the maps illustrated in Seaman’s Journal students will calculate the distance traveled during each section of the expedition. Students can be separated into small groups with atlases and copies of the trails that Lewis and Clark travels. Each group will determine the distance travels on their portion of the expedition. Students will then reconvene, whole group, to recreate the entire journey.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)3.1 estimate and use measuring devices with standard (customary and metric) and nonstandard units to measure area, volume/capacity, and weight
        • (3)3.6 select and use appropriate units of measure [NS 3.3.2]
    • Calculate Duration of Expedition by Calendar Day
      • Allow small groups or partners to determine how many days each portion of the journey took, based on the dates outlined in Seaman’s Journal. Students will then graph their findings in a large, whole class, bar graph.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)5.1 pose questions that can be used to guide data collection, organization, and representation [NS 5.3.1]
        • (3)5.2 use graphical representations, including number lines, frequency tables, and pictographs to represent data [NS 5.3.1]
  • Social Studies
    • Compare and Contrast
      • Students will compare and contrast life during the expedition to their daily lives. Students will use a double bubble map to draw conclusions about things that may be similar between life in the early 1800’s and life today and things that may be different.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)3.27 compare the wants and needs of people in different communities and the means used to fulfill those wants and needs [NS 4.3.7]
        • (3)3.33 list examples of how people use and manage natural resources within their communities [NS 5.3.7]
    • Create a Time Line of Lewis and Clark's Expedition
      • Students will use the information provided in Seaman’s Journal as well as other primary sources to create a time line of Lewis and Clark's travels. They will include landmark destinations and encounters to organized their time line.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)4.14 create time lines that show people and events in sequence using days, weeks, months, years, decades, and centuries
        • (3)4.15 read and interpret historical passages
  • Science
    • Writing a Description of a Plant
      • Students will write a description of a plant, just as Lewis and Clark did during their exploration. In small groups or partners students will be given a plant to describe. Students will use sketches, diagrams, and written explanations of the plant they were given to offer an objective outline of the plants characteristics.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)4.7 investigate, compare, and contrast identifiable structures and characteristics of plants and animals that enable them to grow, reproduce, and survive [L5B1; L5C5; L5D1]
        • (3)1.5 use science notebook entries to develop, communicate, and justify descriptions, explanations, and predictions [N5A1; N5A3; N5A4]
    • Animal Exploration
      • Students will, in partners or small groups, choose an animal that Seaman came across during the expedition. Students will then describe that animal in relation to their environment and ecosystem. Students will present their information to the whole class as part of a graphic and written presentation.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)4.3 investigate and describe the interactions of organisms with each other and their ecosystem [L5C2]
        • (3)4.2 investigate, compare, and contrast life cycles of various living things [L5B2]
Historical Overview of Book Themes

Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition

The Louisiana Purchase was essential for American economic growth during this time. Without access to the mouth of the Mississippi River, in Louisiana, the movement of goods and materials to and from the eastern coast would be crippled. As shady negotiations over control of this area went on, behind America’s back, between Spain and France, it was clear that we needed to make an offer. With a few million dollars and very little information Robert Livingston and James Monroe traveled to Europe to make a deal. And, what a deal it was. In 1803 America purchased the Louisiana territory from France, an area of 827,000 square miles, for a meager 15 million dollars. This acquisition increased the American territory by 140%.

Lewis and Clark were commissioned by President Jefferson to lead an exploration expedition of the lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. Along with a 40 person crew and $2500 dollars they set out to find trade routes and gather data. Receiving aid along the way from Native American tribes the Corps of Discovery traveled for 28 months traveling approximately 8,000 miles to the pacific coast and back. They were able to make their journey with one single casualty and achieved their goal of mapping the region for further settlement and expansion.

Additional Resources


Note: This teacher's guide was developed as part of one of the Clark County School District's Teaching American History grants. In this grant module, teachers focused on using children's historical literature to teach cross-curricular concepts relating to 19th century westward movement. For more information about this blog, related teacher's guides, or the grant module, please contact Dr. Christy Keeler.


LaToyshia Parson-Bass said...

Thanks for the wonderful activity ideas. I will definitely be doing the compare and contrast activity. This is actually something that the students can do with each of the books. I also like the animal exploration project. My students love to do research projects, and to be able to research the animals from this story would be right up their allies. I can see them fighting over the computers now.

Kristen Rizzo said...

I love this book and thanks to you I now have so many great activities to do with my students! I really like the dramatic retelling activity. I know my kids would really get into using props and performing for eachother. As an extension I would even have the students perform for other classes in the school to share the information they have learned. Nice Job!

T. Russell said...

I think this guide is great. I could see it being adaptable to other grade levels and books. I would like to see the bar graph actvity in action. I might want to show it as a time line instead of a bar graph.

Christy G. Keeler, Ph.D. said...

For the primary source creative writing activity, could you supply (and link to) some example sources you recommended?

For the re-enactment (which sounds really fun!), perhaps you could work with the art teacher to develop a back-drop in front of which the students would perform.

What a terrific idea to have students document a plant as Lewis did! Maybe you could even have a botanist come and speak to the class! How cool! Hey, could you have students compare Lewis' descriptions and drawings to the real thing (perhaps by looking at pictures on Google images)?