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Lewis and Clark and the Language of Discovery
Lesson Plan 1
Animal Encounters - Your Animal

Your Animal

Lewis and Clark wrote about animals in the West for readers who had never seen them. The words in quotation marks below were written by Meriwether Lewis to describe a black woodpecker, now called Lewis's woodpecker. Read his words and think about the questions that follow. This might help you write about your animal in the way that Lewis and Clark wrote about new animals.

"He is about the size of the turtle dove."
What size is your animal? Can you compare your animal's size to another animal's size?

"The beak is one inch in length, black, curved at the base and sharply pointed."
Would it help your description to use inches, color, and shape to describe your animal's mouth (or its beak, if it's a bird)?

"The top of the head, the back, the sides, and the upper surface of the wing are glossy green."
Can you describe the body of your animal?

"The tongue is barbed and pointed."
Does your animal have a strange-looking tongue?

"The eye is rather large, the pupil black and the iris of a dark and yellowish brown."
Can you describe your animal's eyes?

"The tail is equipped with ten feathers."
Does your animal have a tail? How do you think it helps your animal?

"The legs and feet are covered with scales."
Does your animal have some kind of protection like scales?

"He has four toes on each foot, two in the rear and two in the front."
What can you say about your animal's feet?

"The nails are much curved and remarkably sharp." Can you write about your animal's toenails?

Now that you've finished writing, do you have a picture of your animal in your head?
Draw it exactly as you imagine it, then ask a friend to draw it as you read the description.
Compare your drawing to your friend's. How did he or she do?

Bird drawing

Heath Cock or Cock of the Plains (Sage Grouse) by William Clark, 1806.

Missouri Historical Society Archives, Clark Papers.

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