The Art of Communication
- Participate in communication decoding experiences;
- Experience the international language, Morse Code;
- Hypothesize how Morse Code may have impacted Lewis and Clark’s expedition if it had been available to them.
This lesson correlates to the national McREL standards located online at http://www.mcrel.org/ .
Standard 3: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
Standard 5: Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process
Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes
Standard 3: Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the
- A copy of the program Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery (To order, visit ShopPBS)
- A television and a VCR or DVD player
- Computers with Internet access
- Lesson 15 Student Activity Sheet
Two or three 45-minute class periods or one to two 90-minute class periods.
- Create interest by having students view the first section of Part II. This segment (0:05:30-0:12:20 ) tells the story of how Chief Cameahwait agreed to sell the Corps
of Discovery all the horses they needed to cross the mountains. This segment
illustrates the lengths that were necessary in order for the two groups to communicate.
- Point out that translating from Shoshone to Hidatsa to French to English was what
made it possible for the expedition members to communicate. Discuss how much
time the translation must have taken, the possible problems translating through so
many languages may have caused, and how remarkable it is that the Corps was able to
complete the transaction and obtain the horses needed.
- Next, introduce students to Morse Code. Created by Samuel F. B. Morse in 1838 and
still used today, particularly by amateur radio operators, Morse Code was used to
transmit messages via telegraph beginning. Explain to students that Morse Code
consists of a short sounds (dits) and longer sounds (dahs). Some students may be
familiar with Morse Code from involvement in scouting activities or use of walkie
- Distribute the Lesson 15 Student Activity Sheet . Review the letter chart and the series
of dits and dahs used to represent each letter.
- Have students decode the message on the sheet and record it in the space provided.
Check decoding for accuracy. The message should read: February 6, 1805 The
blacksmiths take a considerable quantity of corn today in payment for their labour.
- Have students write their own Morse Code message and have a peer decode it.
- After the Morse Code activity is completed, students should write a 1-2 paragraph
response to the following question: “How would Lewis and Clark’s journey have
been different if they had been able to communicate with others using Morse Code?
Give several examples.”
A Science Odyssey: Sending Messages
International Morse Code Chart
Morse Code Alphabet
National Association for Amateur Radio
- Assign participation grades for completion of the Activity Sheet and classroom
- Assign a completion grade for the written response paragraphs activity.
- Have your students learn more about how Morse Code is used by amateur radio
operators. Use the internet to research this or contact a local amateur radio operators
club or organization and invite a guest speaker in to discuss and demonstrate if
- Review photographs and information on various communication devices that have
been developed. Some to research might include the telegraph transmitter and
receiver, early telephone equipment, the first digital electronic computers developed
during WWII , the first model of the 45 rpm record player , An Apple 1 Kit Computer,
Robot Auto Factory, Digital/cellular telephones, and the Internet and email
communications systems. Use information learned from researching to construct a
timeline or display that illustrates the evolution of communication devices and the
impact they have had on communication and our culture.
- Draw on multi-lingual students or people in your community and have a short,
translated discussion in front of the class.