Exploring the Northwest Territory

Exploring the Northwest Territory
Anna Harrison: Economics, Discovery and Daily Life

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: 1-2 class days

Required Documents
Northwest Territory Informational Comic
Northwest Territory Today Worksheet
Northwest Ordinance Worksheet
Northwest Territory Worksheet


For a majority of her life Anna Harrison the wife of President William Henry Harrison lived in North Bend, Ohio which is located in Hamilton County near present day Cincinnati. She lived there while the area was nothing but frontier and part of a large United States territory called the Northwest Territory. Ohio was the first portion of the Northwest Territory to become a state in 1803. Eventually the Northwest Territory also gave us the states of Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota.


The students will identify the five states that were created from the Northwest Territory; will interpret information from primary source documents; will identify the provisions of the Northwest Ordinance; will identify important modern locations such as physical features and important cities located in current states that were part of the original Northwest Territory.

Materials Required:

Computer with internet access; Northwest Territory Work Sheet; Northwest Territory Today Work Sheet; Northwest Ordinance Work Sheet; Northwest Ordinance Informational Comic


1. Introduce the lesson by showing the YouTube video on the Northwest Territory (below). Have students write down the information that they think is important. After the video discuss what the students wrote. Make sure to briefly discuss what states were created from the Northwest Territory and the importance of the Northwest Ordinance as they are the focus of this lesson. The Northwest Territory work sheet should be distributed and completed during this whole group discussion.

2. Introduce or review the concept of primary sources. Explain to the students that they will be using primary sources or quotes from the actual Northwest Ordinance. The students will use these quotes found at the website listed as #1 of the linkable resources section of this lesson plan. If computer access is not available the site can be printed and used as a handout. The info graphic comic is also necessary to complete the Northwest Ordinance Work Sheet. This is located on the site or is available as a PDF with this lesson. This portion of the lesson can be completed individually, in pairs or small groups depending on teacher preference.

3. The final component of this lesson is for the students to take a look at the Northwest Territory today and see what major cities and waterways are located there. They will do this by completing the work sheet entitled Northwest Territory Today. They will use a current map to locate important cities and waterways located in the area once known as The Northwest Territory.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson could be extended by examining other land acquisitions of the United States. Areas such as the Louisiana Purchase, the Mexican Cession and the Oregon Territory could be examined in the same way. It is always beneficial to teach the geography of the United States so our students know where various states, waterways, and natural features of our country are located and how these lands were acquired. 

Sources & Resources:


The Northwest Territory Review

The Northwest Ordinance



This lesson was developed by Robert McClelland, Cleveland Metropolitan School District.