History of the West using the Digital Atlas
computer exercisesuggested grade levels: 9-12

view Idaho achievement standards for this lesson

This is an activity that would require the teachers to be familiar with the Digital Atlas of Idaho. It would also require that the students know how to use it and how to navigate around. It might not be wise to use this as a first lesson for using the digital atlas, but after they are familiar with it, this type of exercise could be very beneficial.

1. Students would be provided with a general outline map of Idaho, showing the state's waterways. Teachers can obtain this by going to Atlas Home, then on Idaho Maps. Click on the "paper stack" and remove the unwanted layers. General discussion could revolve around what the students already know about the unique features of south central Idaho and the geological events which have shaped it over the past 17 million years. The Digital Atlas can be used as a resource.

A. How and when did the Snake River Plain form? What evidence of its formation is still visible? How is the vast, arid nature of this area accounted for?
B. How and when did the Bonneville Event occur? What evidence of its formation is still visible? How was the landscape permanently altered by the event?

2. Students would now be provided with a large map (2) showing the local area and the watercourses of the area. The students will be familiar with the map so a third map (3) will now be provided showing the underlying lithographic features of the local area.

A. What are the major formations underlying the Wood River Valley? What are the events which created them? What are they in terms which anyone can understand? When did the events occur? What is the oldest? What is the newest?
B. How has water formed the valley? What evidence do we see of this and where?

3. Students will then begin individual and group projects, which result in a well developed, technically correct and organized essay on some aspect of the later changes made by man or as the result of man in the local area. Their resources will include the Digital Atlas, in particular "Rocks, Rails, and Trails" section eight which deals with specifically with the Wood River Valley and section three which contains some helpful geologic information. Also in the Digital Atlas are sections on "Native Americans in Idaho" and a section on "Immigration and Emigration". Another good source is A Teacher's Guide to the Natural History of Central Idaho (Sawtooth Science Institute, 1997) An excellent site where students may generate color maps to better understand geological information is available from ESRI at: http://www.esri.com/data/online/index.html

1. Ecological topics: How have the flora and fauna of the area changed over the last 10,000 years? How do we know this? Why did it happen?
2. Native Americans: When did Native Americans first arrive in the valley? What evidence establishes this? How long (annually) were they here? Do we know what tribes frequented the area?
3. The Mines: What was mined in the area? What mining towns were associated with particular minerals? When were the towns (individually) founded? How long did they last? Why did they die? What kinds of people lived in them? Where did they go? Where were the towns (individually and specifically) located? Does anything remain of them today?
4. The Settlers What attracted them to the valley? What did they contribute to the history of the valley? What problems did they encounter? How did they overcome them? What failures did they have? What conflicts? What was the outcome of those failures and conflicts? Who were the major characters who emerged out of all this? Why were they important?

Handouts/Activity links:
These are links to access the handouts and printable materials.
Idaho Maps

Related Lesson Topics:
Geography: Geography Topics

Lesson plan by J.C. Nemecek, 2001
Idaho Achievement Standards (as of 7/2001) met by completing this activity: