Connections to the Peoples - Grade 4 Program

Explorers Session Pre-Program Activity Instructions

Revised/Edited May 22, 2018 Joseph


The Explorers pre-activity program introduces the students to the map on Canada, the main bodies of water and the river systems. Students will learn the importance of rivers as the main routes of transportation during the fur trade era. The activity also requires the students to make decisions regarding the best route to travel from one destination to another. The departure point and destination on the map are those of the explorer David Thompson, although he also traveled to all areas of the west as he made his maps.

Curriculum Connections:


Students will:

4.S.2 develop skills of historical thinking:

4.S.3 develop skills of geographic thinking

4.S.4 develop skills of decision making and problem solving

Materials Required:

Colour copy of the pre-program activity map  (Print out a color copy of the pre-program activity map and save to your desktop in order to print the best copy of it).

1 red pen/pencil, 1 black pen/pencil for each student.


Introduce class to activity: With today’s activity , you will plan a route from Fort William, a Northwest Company Trading Post, to Fort Astoria on the west coast of North America. Imagine that you are planning the route 200 years ago, when there were no roads, railways or other types of modern transportation. Use two colours to mark your planned route, RED for travel along the rivers, and BLACK for an overland route. Use rivers and lakes whenever possible and remember to mark the River/Lake route in RED. Sometimes you will have to go overland (also known as portaging). Mark the overland route in BLACK.

Mark the route that you would take from Fort William (number 1 on the map, present-day Thunder Bay) to Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River (number 2 on the map).

Part 2.

Get into small groups, and discuss (Think-Pair-Share) your route with your partners, and from the discussion come to a group consensus as to the best route that David Thompson would take.  Compare the group decision to your own.


Why was the least amount of overland travel the best?

Which rivers did you follow for best access to the west?

How many portages did you have to make?

NOTE: Disregard the White Lines on the Map. They are not rivers, but indicate the local “watershed” for a particular River System. For example, the large area bounded by white lines south of the Alberta/US Border indicate the area where all water feeds into the Missouri River System.

Please bring your coloured maps with you, on the day of your program, so you can compare your route with the routes that the famous explorers took!