Scholastic Explorer







Grades 4–5

This lesson can be taught in 3 weeks.

Lesson Introduction:
The focus for students in this age group is on the values, lifestyles, and cultures of varied Native American groups. Students will practice their reading comprehension, note taking, and writing skills. Depending on the amount of time you have for this lesson, you can follow one or more of the expeditions. For more lesson plan ideas for these grades see: Be an Archaeologist by June E. Monroe, Why People Move by Frank Cerutti, and The Oral History of the Skagit River Watershed by Suzan Frampton.

Introduction to the Mission
  1. Encourage students to share what they may already know about Native American cultures. Ask them to explain what they think they might learn by participating in this project.
  2. Have students read the “Your Mission” section, and listen to the audio presentation. Afterwards, lead a class discussion (See discussion questions below)
  3. Go over the different components of the project with students. Explain that they will
    • read about research at the field sites
    • read field reports from team members at the site
    • read interviews with field experts
    • conduct their own research and prepare a presentation of their findings. 
  4. Suggest that a good strategy to keep track of all the new information they learn about is to organize it in a chart. In advance, make copies of the Learning Chart (PDF) graphic organizer and hand it to each student.
Prehistoric Pueblos, Utah Canyon Rock Art, Skagit River Oral History
  1. Give students a choice in learning about one of the field sites — Prehistoric Pueblos, Utah Canyon Rock Art, or Skagit River Oral History.
  2. Once they have made their individual decisions, have students read the corresponding online "Field Sites" pages. Remind students that later in the project they will be conducting their own research on Native American cultures. Have them keep in mind what they want to find out while they learn about the Explorer missions.
  3. Allow students time to add new information or questions to their graphic organizers.
  4. Group students according by the sites they have chosen and by ability. After they have read the field sites information, instruct students to go into their smaller groups and share the information they have gathered. Encourage students to talk about the collaborative nature of the field missions. Explain that team members work together to uncover artifacts and piece together clues. Tell students that they can collaborate with each other by sharing questions and ideas. Encourage them to add any new ideas or questions that appeal to them to their graphic organizers.
How to Use the Field Reports
  1. Explain to students that field reports were posted by the explorer/teacher or scientist at the field site at the time of their exploration. Each field site has different teachers and scientists posting reports on their expedition. Follow the expedition by reading a daily field reports with your class during the course of the project.
  2. Suggest that students keep a logbook of their responses to the field reports. They can keep track of such things as:
    • Any questions about the culture of the specific Native American tribes focused on in the field sites.
    • Any new information they learn about cultural clues and how the researchers are gathering those clues.
    • Any discoveries that are made at the field sites.
    • Any information that they can use to answer their own research question.
  3. Have students regroup into their small groups to discuss what they learned with the field reports. Present to them some guided questions to start their discussions.

    Prehistoric Pueblos questions:
    Why are the Pueblo ruins like "time capsules"?
    What might you have in common with people from an ancient culture?
    Summarize the steps archaeologists take when excavating a site.
    What can an ancient seed tell archaeologists about Native American culture?
    Why is the discovery of similarities in pottery designed by people separated by a distance of 300 miles important?

    Utah Canyon Rock Art questions:
    What are the challenges for the team in this particular environment?
    Summarize the steps archaeologists use to document this site.
    What does the color of the rock tell us?
    What types of images have been found, and what do we know about them?
    What can we infer about the Native American cultures that created the rock art? What can’t we assume about those cultures just from the rock art?

    Skagit River Oral History questions:
    What is the importance of the Skagit River?
    What are the challenges for the salmon to survive?
    How has the culture of salmon fishing influenced the lives of the Native Americans who have lived by the river both in the past and today?
    How have Native Americans lived in the area in the past compared with the present?
    What are some of the environmental problems facing the Skagit River and the salmon?
    How does interviewing Native Americans help scientists?

Meet an Explorer
  1. The explorer from each field site participated in a live interview. You can read the transcripts of the interviews of Shayne Russell, Sally Coles, Dr. Edward Liebow, and archaeologist Karl Laumbach.
  2. Begin by having students read the biography of Sally Coles, Dr. Edward Liebow, Shayne Russell and Karl Laumbach.
  3. Explain to students that you will be recreating the interview of these explorers. Have students write three questions they'd like to ask the explorers. Suggest that they refer to their Field Report logs for any questions they may have noted. During a class discussion, list student questions on the board. Have the class vote on a list of top ten questions for each field expert.
  4. When students have determined which questions they'd like to ask, hold a mock interview. Print out the interview transcripts for each explorer, and chose a student to play that explorer. Have those chosen students sit in the front of the class and take questions from their peers. For each question, the student should scan the interview transcript and give the stated answer. If the answer is not within the question, students should write it on the board for further research.
Be an Explorer
  1. Have students read the online introduction to “Be an Explorer.” Explain that students will conduct research on a Native American culture that is found in their home state. They are going to use their imagination to pretend that they are an archaeologist working on a field site. They are going to visit a museum or do online research to get an idea of what their field site would look like and write a report on their findings.
  2. Have students explore the map and pinpoint a local Native American culture that they can explore further. Regroup students into their smaller groups and ask them to decide on one culture to explore. Tell students that they are going to go out to the field — either through a class field trip to a museum, individual field trips as homework, or virtual field trips online — to write their own Field Site description and Field Reports on their discoveries.
  3. Have each group write a list of questions they want to answer through their field trip. Remind them that they will write a new mission, describe their field site, and report on their findings through field reports. Suggest that each member of the group concentrate on a different section of their project.
  4. Before students go to the field whether in a real museum or on the Internet, review the group's list of questions to make sure the questions are focused on local cultural aspects. Some examples of questions would be: what are the living conditions of this Native American tribe? What are some of the cultural objects they made? What are these objects made of? What are their purpose?
  5. If students are going to the museum with the class or on their own, hand them a blank Reading Comprehension: KWL graphic organizer. Remind them to focus on their approved question list. If students are going online, guide them to some websites that would be useful in their research. See Planning the Lesson for Internet resources.
  6. When students complete their museum trip or their Internet research, guide students to write their own mission, field site, and field reports. Encourage them to be descriptive and creative but stick to the facts. For example, if the Native American culture was landlocked, they cannot describe the field site as being by an ocean. They should follow the style of each of the Scholastic Explorer expeditions — Prehistoric Pueblos, Utah Canyon Rock Art, or Skagit River Oral History.
  7. If there is time, have students recreate one of the artifacts they have "found" in the field, for example, a mask, drawing or basket.
  8. Once they have written their report and re-created an artifact, each group of students should present their findings through an oral report to the rest of the class. They should talk about their mission, describe their field sites, and explain each field reports, and their findings.
  9. Launch a wrap-up discussion by asking questions such as:

Discussion Questions:

Why do they think an organization like Earthwatch is important?
Why is it a good idea to have ordinary people participate in these kinds of explorations?
How did the Native American cultures they researched compare and contrast to the cultures they visited as part of the Earthwatch expeditions?
Are present-day Native American cultures similar to the cultures of ancient Native Americans? In what ways? How are they dissimilar?
What proved to be your most effective research strategy? Explain.
What was the most interesting thing that you discovered?
What do you think was the most important field discovery? Why?
What other explorer missions would you like to participate in?