Through maps and graphs, students learn about westward expansion, and the role canals and railroads played in expanding the western frontier of the newly independent United States. Canals and railroads played another important role in U.S. history as well: they opened up markets between regions that had previously been inaccessible to each other, and this led to economic development and an increased unity among regions. This lesson focuses on a key economic concept: the law of supply and demand, teaching it in the context of new markets that were made possible through new modes of transportation. In the lesson, student groups play the role of either urban families in need of fresh food or rural families in need of buyers. The role play provides a forum for discussing the concept of supply and demand in various markets, and also personalizes the historical context to engage student interest. At the end of the lesson, students consider the “losers” in westward expansion--buffalo and Native Americans--and the collusion of the U.S. government in this process.
Read the full Lesson Plan 6 document.