Scholastic Explorer







Grades 6–8

This lesson can be taught in 3 weeks

Lesson Introduction:
The focus for students in this age group is to recognize the means by which culture is preserved and transmitted and the challenges faced by those cultures over time. 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: 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 and how those cultures have changed since the landing of the first Europeans. Ask them to explain what they want to find out 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 Reading Comprehension: KWL (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 — and have them read the Field Sites for their corresponding mission. Remind students that later in the project they will be conducting their own research on Native American cultures, focusing on the challenges and changes over time. Have them keep in mind what they want to find out while they learn about the Explorer missions.
  2. As students read through the field sites, encourage students to add new information or questions to their graphic organizers.
  3. Assign students into small groups. These groups should have at least one student who has read the Prehistoric Pueblos Field Sites, one who has read the Skagit River Field Sites, and one who has read the Rock Art Field Sites. Have the students in the group share information about their field sites.
  4. Afterwards, 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 clues to learning about the culture of the specific Native American tribes focused on in the field sites.
    • Any new information they learn about how researchers are gathering clues on Native American cultures. Students should look at these clues and keep them in context to the past and compare to the present.
    • Any discoveries that are made at the field sites.
    • Any information that they can use to answer their own research question.
  3. Once students have read and explored their individual expedition's field reports, have them return to their small groups to discuss the information they have learned. Some questions students should be asking one another are:

    Prehistoric Pueblos questions:
    Why are the Pueblo ruins like "time capsules"?
    What might you have in common with people from an ancient culture?
    What are the difficulties in comparing the culture of today’s Pueblo tribes to their ancestors?
    What can an ancient seed tell archaeologists about Native American culture?
    Can we make the same assumptions by looking at what Native Americans eat today?
    Why is the discovery of similarities in pottery designed by people separated by a distance of 300 miles important?

    Utah Canyon Rock Art questions:
    Compare what you learned about the field sites. How are they different?
    What are the challenges for the team in this particular environment?
    Summarize the steps archaeologists use to document this site. How are these steps different from the Prehistoric Pueblos 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?
    What can we learn from the rock art through the present art of the Hopis and Zunis tribes?

    Skagit River Oral History questions:
    What is the importance of the Skagit River?
    What are the challenges for Native Americans living along the river?
    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.
How to Conduct Your Own Research
  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 will look at the challenges faced by this local culture through history and how it has been  preserved and transmitted through today.You may want to organize a class field trip to a local history museum, assign library time, or allow extra time in the computer lab for carrying out their research.
  2. Have students read the "Big Six" process of conducting research for the mission that they are following. Explain that this is a step-by-step process that they can use to conduct their research. Go over the following steps with students:

    1. Task Definition
    Explain that the first step is to decide what they are looking for. Suggest that students use the information from their graphic organizers to help them define the question they want to answer. If students wish, they may also use the suggested question: "How has this Native American culture changed and evolved from their beginnings through today?”

    2. Information-Seeking Strategies
    Guide students to use the Interactive Map and find local tribes. Have students choose a tribe to research. Hold a brainstorming session in which students generate ideas of where to conduct research. Record student ideas on the board. Advise students to copy the final list to use as a tool when they begin their research.

    3. Location and Access

    Have students read the Location and Access section. Ask them to consider: What are other possible sources where you can gather information?

    4. Use the Information
    Have students read the “Use the Information” section. Encourage them to use as many different sources as possible for their research and allow them time to gather information. Explain to students that when they gather facts they should keep in mind the question that they want to answer. Remind them to keep careful notes about their source materials.

    5. Put the Pieces Together
    Have students read the “Put the Pieces Together” section. Suggest that they look over their facts and order them using a graphic organizer. Students may wish to organize their facts around common themes, such as food, clothing, shelter, trade, beliefs, and other themes that may arise.

  3. Have students ask themselves: Which facts answer my question? How will I present my information so that others can learn from it too?
  4. Students can prepare written essays and present them in oral reports. As an alternative, encourage students to present their information in a format that best lends itself to their findings. For example, if their findings are about food, they may want to prepare traditional dishes. If their findings are about Native American dwellings, they may wish to make models of the homes.
  5. Remind students that they need to provide a list of their source materials. That way if someone wants to learn more about the subject, they can look up the source. Explain that the most common formats to record sources are in the form of footnotes and bibliography. If necessary, review with students how to write footnotes and bibliographies.

Sharing Student Research Reports

1. Have students give their presentations to the class. Afterwards, students can go to the Writing Workshop in order to submit their work for online publication. Students of the Skagit River site can also publish oral histories online through the Writing Workshop: Oral History activity. Encourage students to read other students' reports that are posted there. Suggest that students add any information that they learn from other reports to their graphic organizers. 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?
Are present-day Native American cultures similar to the cultures of their ancestors? In what ways? How are they dissimilar?
What were the challenges Native Americans faced to maintain their culture?
Why is it hard for any culture to stay exactly the same over time?
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?