The Lewis and Clark expedition was filled with scarcity issues. They made life and death choices based on scarcity. In this lesson, you will travel back to the early 1800’s in a time machine and travel with Lewis and Clark. See if you can spot the economic concept of scarcity!
The Lewis and Clark expedition (1804-1806) provides many examples of scarcity issues. As expedition leaders, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark often made life-and-death decisions based on consideration of scarcity. In this lesson, you will travel back to the early 1800s in a time machine and join Lewis and Clark. See if you can spot events and issues that might be described by the economic concept of scarcity! Students will view a simulation on the National Geographic website. They will be asked to make choices at important points during the journey. Students will keep a journal of the choices they made and note what was scarce in the choice situation. After the simulation, the students will write a paragraph about their choices and the consequences of those choices.
- Define scarcity as the condition of not being able to have all the goods and services one wants.
- Analyze choices by reference to present and future consequences.
- Time Machine: This website details information about coins and includes activities revolving around coins.
- Go West Across America with Lewis and Clark: At this site you’ll find yourself in a position to make choices aimed at getting the Lewis and Clark expedition to its destination. This website is also meant to test your new knowledge of scarcity.
- Lewis and Clark Worksheet: Students will fill out this worksheet as they go through the U.S. Mint website.
Scarcity is the condition of not being able to have all the goods and services one wants. Scarcity is basically having unlimited wants, but limited resources. That really describes conditions during the journey of Lewis and Clark. Facing scarcity, those two explorers had to make some big choices based on considerations of scarcity.
Have the students predict what Lewis and Clark might have wanted if they were able to have all the goods and services that money could buy in 1805.
Now look at the list. Why was there a scarcity of the items identified? [Not enough cargo space to pack the item, not enough men to carry the items, inadequate knowledge of the need for the items, etc.]
The students should fill out this worksheet as they go through the Lewis and Clark portion of the time machine (Note: User will need to select 1805 from the timeline at the top of the time machine). The following link provides an alternative activity to the website: activity.
1. When the raccoon hat became popular, what do you think happened to the raccoons in some areas? [They became scarce.] The human wants for the raccoon had exceeded the available resources. So what choice did some hunters make? [A possible answer would be that the hunter chose to hunt where there were more raccoons.]
2. On the river the men had trouble with the canoes because of a scarcity of a natural resource. What resource was that? [The river became a stream, with less water to float the canoes .]
3. What choices did the men have when they thought there was going to be a scarcity of horses? [They would have had to figure out how to survive the winter or how to cross the mountains.]
The choices people make have both present and future consequences. What would the consequences have been if Sacagawea had not been allowed to join the Corps of Discovery? [The explorers would not have been able to communicate with the different tribes. No one knew that her brother was a chief of the Shoshone. Any logical consequence when the student takes these considerations into account is fine.]
You have learned that scarcity is the condition of not being able to have all of the goods and services one wants. Scarcity exists because human wants exceed what can be made from all the available resources. The choices people make have both present and future consequences. Just think what America would be like if Lewis and Clark failed to make the choices they did!
Go back to the time machine website and this time click on “Time Trackers” to discover the different kinds of money used in the story (plus other historical facts).
Students will view a simulation on the National Geographic website called, https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/history/lewis-and-clark/, to see if they can make the correct choices to get the Lewis and Clark expedition to its destination. They will be asked to make a choices at important times during the journey. Students will use the expedition journal they printed to keep track of the choices they made and note what was scarce in each choice situation. After the simulation, the students will write a paragraph about their choices and what the consequences were.