Manifest destiny: beat the textbook/expert caption

Students find this a fun lesson in which they not only consolidate their knowledge of the people who crossed the Plains but also present their understanding of the order in which they came, by custom animating annotations on a PowerPoint slide. To fully appreciate the nature and provenance of the source, students put you, the teacher, in the hot seat as John Gast himself. Don’t worry! there are briefing notes.

Learning objectives

  • to consolidate understanding of the different groups that crossed the West in the mid 19th century
  • to draw inferences from a painting as to the meaning of the painting
  • to consider the purpose and audience of its creator

Step 1

Show the students the image of John Gast’s painting on the screen and give them a black and white copy of slide 3 of the PowerPoint presentation to work on in pairs . Ask them to take it in turns to find evidence that this is a picture of America in the second half of the 19th century. Quickly take their ideas and then pose the harder question about what the painting is meant to show.

Step 2

The caption for the picture just says ‘ Manifest Destiny’ 

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