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Museums and Resources for K-12 Students

Opportunities abound for learning more about La Salle, La Belle, and Fort St. Louis, whether you choose to visit museums with special exhibits on these topics or explore lessons and other educational materals online or in print sources. In this section we highlight a selection of these materials.

La Salle's Odyssey Trail: A Collaboration of Museums

Map of museums participating in the La Salle Odyssey Trail
photo of a display at the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History
The Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History features exhibits on the native peoples encountered by early Europeans, as well as interpretive displays on numerous shipwrecks from the Texas coast, including La Belle.
photo of a display at the Calhoun County Musuem at Port Lavaca
Shipwreck artifacts at the Calhoun County Museum at Port Lavaca.
photo of a display at the Texas Maritime Museum in Rockport
Exhibits at the Texas Maritime Museum in Rockport.

Seven museums along the Texas coast as well as the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin have joined in a unique partnership to tell the story of La Salle, La Belle, and the French settlement, Fort St. Louis, in 17th-century Texas. Following the trail and visiting the museums provides a special opportunity to see the environmental context—bays and barrier islands, marshes, streams, and prairies—in which these historic events played out.

With the support of the Texas Historical Commission, each museum has showcased different aspects of the La Salle saga accompanied by distinctive historical artifacts and materials. The Odyssey partnership is a continuation of the extraordinary efforts by local volunteers, cities, organizations, foundations, and businesses along the coast who contributed time and funding toward the excavation and analyses of La Belle shipwreck and the Fort St. Louis site.

Visiting hours vary widely at each museum, so it's wise to call ahead before planning your journey (follow the links in the map above to the museums' webpages, which list visitor information, directions, and phone numbers). To learn more, download a brochure and map of the La Salle Odyssey Museums from the Texas Historical Commission.

photo of a volunteers of a museum participating in the La Salle Odyssey Trail
Local French and Spanish living history reenactors volunteering at the THC's Fort St. Louis Archeological Project sidewalk fair.
photo of a display at the Museum of the Coastal Bend in Victoria
Cannons from La Salle's Fort St. Louis on display at the Museum of the Coastal Bend in Victoria.
photo of a display at the Texana Museum in Edna
Display on coastal native lifeways at the Texana Museum in Edna.
photo of a display at the Calhoun County Musuem at Port Lavaca
Maps and interpretive exhibits at the Calhoun County Museum at Port Lavaca.
photo of a display at the La Petit Belle, Palacios Area Historical Museum in Palacios
Shipwreck items on display at the Matagorda County Museum.
photo of students at the Museum of Coastal bend
Students listen to a talk on artifacts from La Belle at the Museum of the Coastal Bend.
photo of a display at the Bob Bullock State History Museum
A ghostly image of La Belle appears to float over an exhibit case at the Bob Bullock State History museum in Austin. The museum will display the reconstructed hull of the ship once conservation is completed.
photo of a display at the Bob Bullock State History Museum
Reconstruction of the skeleton found by archeologists in the bow section of La Belle..

Learning about La Salle, La Belle, and Fort St. Louis: K-12 Resources from other Museums and Websites

In this Section:

Numerous online resources for K-12 teachers and students are available for learning about La Salle, La Belle, and the colony at Fort St. Louis. A selection is these is listed below, as well as links to regional museums that host field trips for students and educational programs based on La Salle.

Online Lessons for Teachers:

THC's Online Lesson Plans for La Salle Projects
The Texas Historical Commission offers twelve lessons correlated to their La Salle Projects. Focused on historical archeology, these lessons build social studies skills and understanding about this significant time in Texas history. Among the topics are "Mapping La Salle's Travels," "Learning from Primary Source Documents: One Day at a Time," and "Examining Events from Different Perspectives."

A Line About Time
Students construct a timeline of cultures and events on the Texas coast during the Age of Exploration. From the Museum of the Coastal Bend, Victoria.

Voyage of Doom
The companion Web site to the NOVA program "Voyage of Doom," originally broadcast on November 23, 1999 chronicles the discovery and excavation of La Belle. Includes classroom activities, such as "Buoyancy Brainteasers" and "Build a Cofferdam," and a teacher's guide.

Expedition to the Texas Coast
An integrated compendium of lessons on La Belle and Fort St. Louis from the Bob Bullock Museum of Texas History

"Hard Luck" La Salle
A 4th-grade lesson focused on how La Salle contributed to the establishment of Catholic missions in Texas. Star of the Republic Museum.

The French in Texas
Texas Beyond History's 4th-grade lesson aimed at providing a broad understanding of early French exploration in Texas and building research skills.

Online Activities for Students

Educational Materials- La Salle and Karankawa Indians
Word searches, vocabulary, and timelines from the Calhoun County Museum, an Odyssey partner.

Eyewitness to History: The Amazing Story of the Talon Children in Texas
A fun online slide show about three cultures in the Spanish-French frontier of Texas, from the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History, an Odyssey partner.

La Salle's Adventure
From the website of the Texas Archeological Society, a cool, first-hand account by a elementary school student who took part in the excavations at the La Belle shipwreck.

Interactive resources for students from the Bullock State History Museum, including an overview of the age of exploration, a glossary, and a digging game.

Flat Stanley Explores the Shipwreck and Artifacts
Join this globe-trotting character as he visits the Texas A&M University Conservation Laboratory and the Belle shipwreck site in an adventure created by Pat Clabaugh, Curator of Anthropology.

La Salle Field Trips for Classes

The Museum of the Coastal Bend, Victoria holds a number of key artifacts from Fort St. Louis, including seven of the eight brass cannons recovered from the site, as well as displays on the Spanish Colonial period in South Texas. Field trips can be self-guided or led by the Museum Education Director, and include hands-on activities and learning modules incorporating the exhibits.

The Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History incorporates the story of La Salle and the Karankawa within the larger context of early European exploration, shipwrecks, and cultural encounters along the Texas coast and North America. Numerous artifacts from La Belle and the 1554 Spanish shipwrecks are showcased. The museum also has extensive displays on coastal environment and wildlife. Schools may schedule field trips to be led by a program facilitator, which includes activities, or arrange independent field trips. An upcoming feature will correlate areas of the exhibits which meet TEKS criteria for Social Studies, math or science, and will inclide a printed teachers guide for the exhibit. A 30 minute Focus Program entitled "Voyage of Doom: LaSalle in Texas" is also available at a fee of $25 for up to 25 students.  The Museum is self-guided at no charge for students and teachers.

Print Sources and Children's Books

From a Watery Grave: The Discovery and Excavation of La Salle's Shipwreck, La Belle (Texas A&M Press 2005). Written by Belle Principal Investigator James Bruseth and Toni Turner, this beautifully illustrated book provides a wealth of information on La Salle and the wreck of his ship within the context of the times, an era of global expansion and competition for new trade markets. Along with a firsthand account of the ship's recovery and conservation, the book also details the craft of shipbuilding with numerous graphics. Suitable for students 5th and up.

La Salle in Texas: A Teacher's Guide for the Age of Discovery and Exploration by Pam -Wheat Stranahan, educator and Executive Director of the Texas Archeologocal Society. A companion to From a Watery Grave, this comprehensive resource is divided into four units covering La Salle, cultures and adaptation along the Texas Gulf coast, the recovery of the shipwreck, and the science of archeology. Included with the book is a DVD by Alan Governar on the story of La Belle and Fort St. Louis and the excavation of the shipwreck. Wheat-Stranahan also provides presentations to schools on The Story of La Belle/La Salle as well as teachers' workshops on teaching archeology.

Raising La Belle, by award-winning author and illustrator Mark Mitchell, artfully weaves the story of La Salle's 17th-century journey to the New World with the 20th-century discovery of La Belle into an engaging adventure for children. Mitchell also visits schools to provide presentations on the story incorporating "chalk talk," in which he draws illustrations on the blackboard. The author is not affiliated with the THC.

Primary Resources Online

The Portal to Texas History at North Texas State University offers an online version of The Journeys of Rene Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (two vols.) These accounts, written by La Salle's lieutenant, Henri de Tonty, and other of his companions, were compiled and created by Isaac Joslin Cox in 1905

Vol. 1

Vol. 2


Other Resources

La Salle Shipwreck Project
An overview of the project and findings from the Texas Historical Commission

Webpage dedicated to the La Belle conservation process at the Texas A&M University Conservation Research Laboratory

Musee National de la Marine, Paris, France
An interesting look at a French museum that displays a model of La Belle, built in Paris.

Presidio La Bahía
Web site focused on the Spanish presidio originally established in 1721 on the site of Fort St. Louis. This frontier fort was moved to its present location in Goliad to guard the coastal region from encroachments by the French and Spanish.