Home | Lesson Plans    
Establishing Borders:
The Expansion of the United States, 1846-48

Lesson 3 Legacy of Expansion
Lesson 3 - Questions Page [Preguntas Pagina]
  • Identify general political, social, and economic issues related to the expansion of the United States in the 1840s.
  • Interpret information from a variety of secondary sources.
  • Copies of the Questions Page [Preguntas Pagina]
  • Pens or pencils
  • U.S. history, language arts, geography
Note: Answers or suggested responses to discussion questions appear in italics.

1. Through some research of their own, in this lesson students will learn about a few of the issues related to expansion. Discuss with your students the many challenges faced by the United States after it gained vast territories in Oregon and the Southwest. Ask your students to think about some practical issues the new territories would have raised for Americans living along the East Coast. How far were the territories from the East Coast? What type of transportation and communications were available? Who was already settled in the territories? How would the territories be organized? Would they allow slavery?

2. This next step can be done as either a take-home or an in-class assignment. If the latter, divide your class into four or five small groups and give each student a copy of the Questions Page [Preguntas Pagina]. Instruct the students to work as a group to find useful information that will help them answer the questions. Direct students to sources that can help them find this information such as their social studies book, the collections in a school or public library, or the Internet.

3. After your students have completed the assignment, review their responses in a class discussion. In general, students should conclude that the vast distances between the new territories and the East Coast posed significant transportation and communications issues that were not adequately addressed until the railroad and telegraph were introduced. Additionally, students should note that American Indians and Mexicans inhabited the territories before they were acquired by the United States. Finish the review by asking your students over what issue the North and South disagreed. The sections disagreed over the status of slavery in the territories, an issue that contributed to the Civil War.

4. Conclude the activity by telling your students that the boundaries established in the 1840s continue to influence current events. Emphasize that during the nineteenth century, Americans crossed the frontier into Mexican territory seeking fertile farm lands. Today the movement is reversed, as Mexicans cross the frontier into the United States seeking better economic opportunities.

Start, Establishing Borders

| Lesson 1 | Lesson 2 | Lesson 3 | Resources
Home | Lesson Plans | Establishing Borders | Order This Publication
Smithsonain Center for Education and Museum Studies Home | Lesson Plans
Questions and comments: