Classroom activity: Westward Expansion


This era is defined by “Manifest Destiny,” which was the dream that the United States was destined to expand across the North American continent. During the first half of the nineteenth century, territory was added to the original United States extending the borders of the U.S. east to west from the Atlantic to the Pacific and north to south from the Canadian border to the border of Mexico. This “can do” pioneer spirit was critical in the development of the continental United States.

Directions: Use the content from the Citizen Bee website and inferencing skills to answer the following questions.


John James Audubon

  1. How does the work of John James Audubon illustrate the pioneer spirit of the Westward Expansion Era?

Sam Houston

  1. What aspects of Sam Houston’s life made him a good choice for Alexis de Tocqueville to use as an example of what it meant to be American?


Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

  1. How did the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo play a role in the fulfillment of the dream of Manifest Destiny?


Louisiana Purchase

  1. What were the benefits of the Louisiana Purchase to the United States?
  2. What problems did the purchase create?

Lewis and Clark Expedition

  1. What did Lewis and Clark hope to find on their expedition of the Louisiana Purchase?

Acquisition of Florida

  1. Why was Spain willing to cede Florida to the United States for $5 million?
  2. How did the acquisition of Florida make the Indian problem worse?

Manifest Destiny

  1. How would you explain the meaning of “sea to shining sea?”
  2. How did the advancements in transportation such as the railroads, roads, canals, and bridges support the idea of Manifest Destiny?

Oregon Trail

  1. Explain the meaning of “54°40’ or Fight!”

Mormon Trail

  1. Describe the route of the Mormon Trail and how the Mormons contributed to the development of the United States.

Texas Annexation

  1. What issue kept some in the United States from accepting Texas into the Union?

Mexican American War

  1. How did the annexation of Texas lead to war with Mexico?

Gold Rush

  1. Who were the Forty-Niners and how did they get their name?
  2. What role did Forty-Niners play in the settlement of California?

Gadsden Purchase

  1. What is the major reason that the U.S. paid the Mexican government $10 million dollars for approximately 30,000 square miles which is desert?


Connection Questions

  1. How did the completion of Manifest Destiny change the United States politically, economically, and socially?
  2. What problems did the acquisition of new territories cause for the United States?

Click here for a PDF copy of the questions.