Learn With Us
The Interpretive Center offers a series of curriculum-based education programs during the school year. Our programs align with the educational standards set by the state of Montana for Social Studies, Science, and the Indian Education for All initiative.
Our standard program is a two-hour presentation, consisting of a 30-minute classroom activity, a 60-minute exhibit hall tour, and a 20-minute interpretive video, Confluence of Time and Courage: Portage at Great Falls. Advance reservations are required for every program. Cost per student is $2.00. We admit one teacher or chaperone free for every ten students. Additional adults pay the standard entrance fee, $8.00, but the Center accepts Federal Recreational Passes.
To help rural schools traveling long distances, the Lewis & Clark Foundation offers admission scholarships for students coming from distances greater than 100 miles, during the off season of September through March. The Foundation also operates the Portage Cache Store, and is happy to accommodate students who may wish to purchase a memento of their trip, by sending in advance a list of popular items with prices (generally from $1 to $20). Contact the Foundation at 406-452-5661 for more information on either of these programs.
Programs are offered Tuesday through Friday from September through April, and Monday through Friday in May and the first two weeks of June. Call the Interpretive Center at (406) 727-8733 to schedule your visit. Please schedule your visit at least two weeks in advance. Program spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Be aware that tour spaces in May fill up rapidly. Please consider alternative months.
Have the following information available when you call: choice of dates and time, school name and contact information, grades/ number of students (80 max), program choice, method of payment, and any special student needs.
Once your reservation is made, we will e-mail you:
Guidelines for a Successful Tour to review with your students and chaperones
Bus unloading/loading instructions so students stay safe
A pre-visit activity for the education program you selected
Before Your Visit
Ensure you have one adult chaperone for every 10 students. Chaperones are admitted free. Groups with special needs students can make arrangements for additional chaperones. Brief chaperones on their responsibilities to help organize students and maintain discipline. Prepare students for their learning experience and remind them that best behavior is required.
On the Day of Your Visit
Divide your class into groups of ten before you board the bus. Assign chaperones to their group before you arrive. Please have students wear visible name tags on their clothing. Instruct your students to leave food, jackets, beverages, or gum on the bus. Students may carry notebooks. If your students are using electronic devices, please instruct them to use such equipment with discretion.
Please have fees ready to present at the fee window. Fees may be paid by cash, personal check (made out to USDA Forest Service), credit card, or purchase order. Please do not mail payment in advance. We do not make refunds.
Primary Grades (K-2)
Home, Sweet Home
Lewis and Clark met many American Indian tribes on their journey across North America. They discovered tipis were only one style of Indian home. Indian tribes used nature’s materials to fashion their homes, and those materials changed with the landscape. Students become familiar with Indian homes from the Plains, Plateau and Coastal regions. They create their own miniature home as a remembrance of their visit. Curriculum connection: (Indian Education EU 1, 2), (Art 5.1, 5.2), (Social Studies 3.4, 3.7, 6.4)
Intermediate Grades (3-5)
Let’s Make a Deal!
Explorers of the American West interacted and traded with American Indians for diplomacy and commerce. Students learn how and why Captains Lewis and Clark exchanged gifts and goods with Indian tribes they met. Students negotiate their own trade using beads provided by the Center, then create their own necklace using beads they collected in their simulated trade. Curriculum connection: (Art 5.1, 5.2), (Social Studies 3.3, 3.4, 5.1, 5.2, 6.3, 6.4)
How Did They Get There?
Lewis and Clark used several modes of transportation during their 4,000-mile journey to the Pacific. Indian transportation varied as well. Students learn how both cultures traveled the West, and compare transportation in the 1800s to modern systems. Students carve their own dugout canoe. Exhibit hall tour assesses modes of travel. Curriculum connection: (Social Studies 3.3, 4.5, 6.4), (Science 5.1, 6.1)
A Private’s Life
The Corps of Discovery was a military enterprise mostly made up of privates. Students will learn about the equipment carried by privates in the army of 1804 and learn how to roll a candy cartridge. Exhibit hall tour focuses on military life and the Native American cultures encountered by the expedition. Curriculum connection: (Social Studies 2.6, 3.3, 3.4, 4.1, 4.3, 6.3, 6.4)
Symbols in Society
Throughout history, people have used symbols to represent larger concepts or ideas. Many cultures utilized symbols found from nature to illustrate life events or beliefs. Students learn the meaning of some symbols and how American Indians and Lewis & Clark used symbols in the 1800s. Students decorate their own miniature tipi with symbols they design. Curriculum connection: Indian Education (EU 1, 2, 3), (Social Studies 3.3, 3.4, 3.7, 4.1, 4.5, 4.6)
Middle & High School Grades (6-12)
Reading the Past
American Indians recall the past through oral histories, winter counts, pictographs and petroglyphs. In Indian country, symbols and geometric shapes have significance. Students learn the way Indian tribes recorded their past and what symbols represent, then use these skills to decipher a winter count. Curriculum connection: Indian Education (EU 1, 2, 3), (Social Studies 4.1, 4.5, 4.6, 6.2, 6.4)
To Bleed or Not to Bleed
Learn about typical ailments experienced by members of the Expedition. Compare and contrast the medical treatments with current day techniques. Practice applying and predicting results of medical treatments “then & now” in simulated situations. Visit includes the introductory movie. The exhibit tour emphasizes medical treatment of the 1800s. Curriculum connection: (Social Studies 1.1, 1.3, 4.5, 4.7) (Science 5.1, 5.4, 6.2)
Mapping the Way West
Captain Clark created fantastic maps of the West for President Jefferson. Students learn the primary instruments used by mapmakers to chart their course, then use these newfound mapping skills to determine the distance and direction along the Corps’ portage around the Great Falls. Curriculum connection: (Math 1.1, 1.2, 5.1, 5.4), (Communication 2.2, 3.1), (Social Studies 3.1, 3.4, 4.5)
Calling all Lewis & Clark Junior Explorers!
If you are between the ages of 5 and 12, Come to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive center and become a Junior Explorer to the Corps of Discovery! Each successful Junior Explorer earns a certificate and a patch as well as the honor of calling themselves a Junior Explorer! Just follow the simple steps below:
Step 1: Stop by the front desk and say, "I want to be a Junior Explorer!"
Step 2: After listening to the instructions, go through the exhibit hall and fill out three pages from the booklet.
Step 3: Go back to the front desk and receive your official certificate and badge!
Teacher Continuing Education Programs
In addition to our classroom programs, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center periodically offers continuing education/recertification classes for educators.
Our main offering is in collaboration with the annual teachers conference. Typically, we provide 1-hour course that offers different aspects of the Lewis and Clark story, along with hands-on exposure to the classroom programs offered to students during the school year. The program is aimed primarily at intermediate-grade elementary school teachers and it can also be useful for secondary-level teachers who want deeper background on the story of Lewis and Clark. Contact the Center's Education Coordinator at (406) 727-8733 for additional information.
Educational Brochure - Winter 2021-22