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Posted 2/2/2016

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By Ann Marie R. Harvie
USACE, New England District

Park Rangers Viola Bramel and Claudia Hixson traveled to the Alice Barrows Elementary School in Reading, Massachusetts on Dec. 10, 2015 to teach third graders about the Corps of Discovery, otherwise known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

The Park Rangers presented three, 50-minute sessions to about 75 third grade students. The sessions were hosted by the 3rd Grade Teacher’s Core Group. "The youth learn about how the Corps Discovery Team took on this military expansion mission for President Thomas Jefferson by learning about how the explorers prepared for a trip," said Bramel. "Preparation included their assembling their packs with comfort and essential items."

Bramel and Hixson displayed artifacts during their presentation. They narrated some stories about the trip which allowed the children to experience good and bad days on the journey. The Park Rangers discussed how long it takes to paddle and walk across the United States and the children were able to dress in period costumes as soldiers with special skills such as a hunter, cook, medical officer, astronomer, marksman, seamstress and engineer. Students also had the opportunity to taste test flavoring still used from plants the Lewis and Clark Discovery Team found and identified for the nation. These plant flavors included sassafras, ginger and birch. Special guest, Operations retiree Joan Gardner, assisted the Park Rangers with the day’s presentations. At each session, she selected her "engineers" to build a "bridge." She also picked children to form the battalion that would cross the bridge.

New England District Park Rangers have been visiting the Alice Barrows Elementary School for about nine years as part of the Massachusetts Westward Expansion Program. The Corps Discovery presentation continues to be a high demand event. "This exploration of the Louisiana Purchase is a critical part of our nation’s history," said Bramel.

According to About.com, on May 21, 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark left from St. Louis, Missouri with the Corps of Discovery and headed west in an effort to explore and document the new lands bought by the Louisiana Purchase. With only one death, the group reached the Pacific Ocean at Portland and then returned back to St. Louis on Sept. 23, 1806.

In addition to the traveling presentation that is presented at no charge to any school that requests it, West Hill Dam offers Lewis and Clark campfires during the summer for the public to learn and enjoy.