By Tim Leeds
Students at St. Jude Thaddeus were following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery yesterday and today.
The footsteps they were following were marked out on the floor of Karen Kamla's seventh-grade class in the Havre Central building at the school.
"I think it's really important (that they know about the journey) it's coming up," Kamla said. "I think it's important for our students to know about it."
Kamla said she holds the exercise to show the importance of the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. She said its important to be knowledgeable about the exploration right now since there will probably be quite a few tourists coming to the area during the bicentennial celebration of the voyage in the next few years.
The activity comes at the end of a unit on Montana history including the voyages of Lewis and Clark. Kamla said she has done this for about 10 years now.
The students randomly picked who of about 20 characters they would play, including Meriweather Lewis and William Clark, President Thomas Jefferson, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte of France, personnel from the corps and people they met on the way.
The group then reenacted the journey, from the making of the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon to the choosing of Lewis and Clark, from choosing Sacajawea as the guide to the journey through Montana, from the arrival at the Pacific coast to the return to Washington. Kamla said in 10 years she's only had one time that the students didn't make the journey back.
"The most difficult part of this, for me, is to let the students play it out and avoid correcting them until they're finished," she said.
The desks were cleared out of Kamla's classroom for the journey, with a map of Montana marked in with masking tape. The students marked the route the corps took through the state with more tape, acting out important events during the entire journey as they went.
Kamla said that while the students don't know who they will play in advance, they do know what characters will be in the enactment and have to be ready for any of them.
"You have to be prepared," she said.
The students can rely on each other as members of the corps, Kamla said.
The students have done quite a bit of work on the subject before doing the enactment. They have visited the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls and created a newspaper about the visit; listened to lectures, watched a video and read material in class as well as doing work on worksheets; wrote journal entries, and studied Montana geography. The unit also ties into a literature unit they studied, the historical fiction book "Seaman: The Dog Who Explored the West with Lewis and Clark" by Gail Langer Karwoski.