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Hale Library: Manifest Destiny -- 8th-Grade Inquiry Project

Guiding Question -- What was the driving force behind Manifest Destiny?

The goal of this inquiry project is for students to be able to analyze an event that had an impact on the westward expansion of our country.  Students will be able to select from these events...

Transcontinental Railroad

Gold Rush

Homestead Act

Texas Annexation

Mexican-American War

Trails West: Oregon, Mormon, California, Santa Fe

Native American Displacement

So, the student's research question may look like this.

How did the _________________________ impact America's westward expansion?



Primary Sources Vs. Secondary Sources

For this project each student will locate, read, and take notes on two primary sources about their event.  

Primary Sources -- a primary source is an original, first-hand, or eye-witness account offering an inside view.

Examples of Primary Sources:

diaries, interviews, letters, raw data, official documents, legislation, and court records, photographs, journal articles, newspaper articles, autobiographies, and speeches.

Secondary Sources -- a secondary source provides second-hand information that has been digested, analyzed, reworded, and interpreted.

Examples of Secondary Sources:

encyclopedia articles, non-fiction books, commentary-style websites, textbooks

Noodletools! Noodletools! Noodletools!

Don't forget to cite your sources!

Don't forget to use the app Noodletools to help you out.  

1. Go to your email in Office 365.

2. Click on the "waffle."

3. Do a search for Noodletools.

4. Important: Remember to select the Noodletools with the lowercase "t"!

5. Click on your name.

6. Create a new project.

7. Title -- Westward Expansion

8. Style -- MLA

9. Level -- Junior

10.  Go to the menu bar and click on "sources" 

See the green button?  You are ready to create a new citation.


Good Luck!

 You've got this!

Taking Notes On The Primary Sources

In their notes, the students will answer these questions...

1. What type of primary source is it?

2. What is the date of this primary source?

3. Summarize what the primary source is about.

4. Who are the key people connected to this primary source?

5. Does this primary source say anything about how your event impacted westward expansion in America?  If so, what did it say?

Suggested Websites for Primary Sources

What Will Students Do With This Information?

Students will complete RAFT activity demonstrating understanding of Westward Expansion.  

Role Audience Format Topic
Native American Native Americans Letter



President Settlers Editorial Homestead Act
Military Personnel U.S. Congress Speech Texas Annexation
Settler Immigrants Poem/Song



Prospector Hispanic Citizen Narrative Trails West
Land Agent Religious Group PowerPoint

Native American


Religious Leader Business Owner Office Mix Gold Rush
Immigrant President Diary Entry Student Choice

Students also will answer a Level 4 question about the unintended consequences of Manifest Destiny.

Student Resources in Context

Don't forget that the database Student Resources in Context would be a very good place to visit for this project.  With a little effort, Mrs. Tetschner was able to find primary sources for all the possible Manifest Destiny events or topics.  Just look...

Transcontinental Railroad -- 8 primary sources found

Gold Rush -- 8 primary sources found

Homestead Act -- 3 primary sources found

Texas Annexation -- 2 primary sources found

Mexican-American War -- 3 primary sources found

Trails West -- 2 primary sources found (Hint: search each trail individually)

Native American Displacement -- More than 30 primary sources found (Hint: search "Native American Reservations," "Trail of Tears," or "Indian Territory."  

Remember a database is like a bucket.  It carries lots of incredible sources to you in one, handy-dandy container.  Using Student Resources in Context, you might just find...

1. Reference materials -- such as encyclopedia articles or almanac information

2. Biographies

3. Newspaper articles

4. Magazine articles

5. Academic journal articles

6. Images -- such as photographs, paintings, and maps

7. Website suggestions

8. Court case overviews

9. Audio clips

10. Video clips

11. Essays

12. Creative Works -- such as books, poems, and songs



Britannica School Middle

Don't forget to try the online encyclopedia called Britannica School Middle.  This is one of the OPS online resources and might just help you find primary sources.  

Why start with the OPS online resources?

1.  The information is reliable.

2.  Finding a primary source is fast and easy.

3.  Both Student Resources in Context and Britannica School Middle provide commentary about the primary source!  What is commentary, you ask?  Commentary is a summary, explanation, or description of the primary source.  Basically, it is a gift -- a gift that helps you understand what you are about to read.  Thank you commentary!

4.  The citation information is provided.

Omaha Public Schools does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, age, genetic information, citizenship status, or economic status in its programs, activities and employment and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups. The following individual has been designated to address inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Superintendent of Schools, 3215 Cuming Street, Omaha, NE 68131 (531-299-9822).

Las Escuelas Públicas de Omaha no discriminan basados en la raza, color, origen nacional, religión, sexo, estado civil, orientación sexual, discapacidad , edad, información genética, estado de ciudadanía, o estado económico, en sus programas, actividades y empleo, y provee acceso equitativo a los “Boy Scouts” y a otros grupos juveniles designados. La siguiente persona ha sido designada para atender estas inquietudes referentes a las pólizas de no discriminación: El Superintendente de las Escuelas, 3215 Cuming Street, Omaha, NE 68131 (531-299-9822).