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The People of Kansas - Who Are They?

Why Are They Here?


Investigating first hand accounts of why people came to Kansas.

Grade Level:

Middle and High school

Mennonite coupleOverview:

This lesson brings together the ideas of Manifest Destiny (the students should be familiar with this concept before starting this lesson), emigration, and the issues that made Kansas Territory the center of national attention in the 1850s.

Standards addressed:

Kansas History, Government and Social Studies Standards:

3. Societies are shaped by beliefs, ideas, and diversity.

  • 3.2 The student will draw conclusions about significant beliefs, contributions, and ideas, analyzing the origins and context under which these competing ideals were reached and the multiple perspectives from which they come.

KCCRS Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies

RH.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

KCCRS Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies

4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

KCCRS Speaking and Listening Standards

SL.4:  Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.



  • Understand the settlement experience through first-hand accounts of pioneers to Kansas Territory


  • Using primary sources (letters, photographs)

Gathering Buffalo ChipsEssential Questions:

  • How would your life be different if you lived in Kansas Territory in the 1850s?


  • Write an 1850s-style letter or skit using primary source documents.


  • Investigate and share themes and messages in the painting American Progress.
  • Review (from Lesson 1) the reasons why people emigrate and what the students learned from the 1855 census.
  • Students analyze letters and photographs from the territorial period using the “Assessing Primary Source Documents” worksheet.
  • Students write a historical fiction letter or skit based on the territorial documents.
  • Students share letter or skit with class.

Download the Complete Lesson Plan 

Primary sources required for this lesson plan were introduced in the previous lesson, "The People of Kansas: Where did the come from? Why did they come?" and may be accessed through Kansas Memory or through Territorial Kansas Online. The lesson also calls for American Progress a painting by John Gast. Copies of this painting can be found easily through a Google search.

Return to ready-to-use lesson plans

This lesson plan was originally prepared by the Education and Outreach Division, Kansas State Historical Society for Territorial Kansas Online. The standards cited in the pdf form of the lesson plan were those from the 1999 Kansas State Standards. On this preview of the lesson we have made every attempt to match them to the current Kansas History, Government, and Social Studies Standards and Kansas College and Career Ready Literacy Standards.