Monday, April 9, 2012

Lesson Plan: Prehistory of Minnesota for ages 4-6

Lesson Plan for Preschool/Kindergarten (Ages 4-6)
The Land (Almost) Before Time

Objective: To teach the children about a traditional lifestyle of people in Minnesota thousands of years ago, as well as explain that people in various parts of the world still rely on such a subsistence plan. Additionally, children will learn about what kinds of animals were hunted, and what kinds of plants were gathered. Children must work together to complete a common goal.
Academic Standards Acquired: 4. History > 1. Historical Thinking Skills > 1. Historians generally construct chronological narratives to characterize eras and explain past events and change over time.

            This lesson is to teach the students hunter-gatherer societies in the past. Hunter-gatherer is a term used to define a group of people that had a subsistence style pre-agriculture, meaning that they did not grow their own food, but rather hunted large (and sometimes small) game such as bison and deer, as well as gathering naturally growing plants, such as squash, juniper, hazelnut, red and blackberries, thimbleberries, choke cherries, parsnip, wood nettle, blueberries, basswood, potherb, and ginger.
It is important for the children to start to be aware of where their food comes from and that there used to be other methods.  Hunting and gathering societies are still around today and it would be good for them to get a better understanding of them and how the process works.  Also, it is good for them to learn more about the early occupants of Minnesota, how hard they worked, and how resourceful they were. 
            Starting from twelve thousand years ago, there are five notable time periods: the Paleoindian (nine-twelve thousand years ago), the Archaic (two-nine thousand years ago), the Plains Woodland (one-two thousand years ago), the Plains Village (600 years ago to one thousand years ago), and the time up until contact. Starting with the Paleoindian, people of the plains relied heavily on hunting and gathering. In the Paleoindian period, people hunted big game, such as bison, sloths and mammoths, as well as gathering some wild plants. Evidence of hunting large game is found through caches, or groups of artifacts left behind, such as projectile points found, and can be dated to the Paleoindian period.
In the Archaic period, foraging became more common and better utilized, as well as hunting smaller game, such as rabbits. These smaller animals were not hunted until later, when the larger animals were scarcer to come by, as the effort put in to the pay-off of meat was very low. Plants were easier to find and had a wider variety, as the climate changed and more variety became available.
The Woodland period saw advance in hunting with the invention of the bow and arrow, and better projectile points. Hunting and gathering were still both used at this time, however small scale gardens were implemented, and therefore need for foraging became lessened. The Plains Village time period saw the continuation of hunting and gathering, but plant life had diminished, and garden horticulture became more important, as the Plains Village people began to grow crops such as maize, beans, and squash.
            As stated earlier, early inhabitants used projectile points to hunt, and collected wild plants.  There was no agriculture or horticulture.  While they were probably opportunistic and went after smaller game, there is evidence that they also went after large game.  In order to get large game (like mammoth, mastodon, or elk) they needed to be able to work in a group.  There is also some evidence that they collected wild berries and edible plants.
Hunter-Gatherer Lesson Plan:
Time: 30-40 mins.
  • Bandanas/flags/strips of fabric [1 per child]
  • Fruit (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries) [1 or 2 cartons of each]
  • Nuts (walnuts) [a small handful for each child]
  • Animal Crackers [1 bag]
  • Baggies [1 per child]
  • Dixie Cups [approximately 15]
  • Playing area outside or inside for a running game

1.      Gatherers: For the gatherer group, put a small handful of berries or nuts (leaving out any foods that could be allergens in your classroom) into several small Dixie cups, creating approximately one cup per child participating. Place cups around the classroom, a little hidden but not too difficult to find.
2.      Hunters: If you don’t have bandanas or flags, cut long strips of fabric for each child playing. It will need to attach loosely to the child, such as tucked a little into a pocket or waistband of pants.

  • Introduction (5 min.)
    • How did people used to live in Minnesota a long, long time ago? How did they get their food? Were there grocery stores, or did they have to get their food some other way?
    • Two main ways; they hunted animals and they gathered safe food that grew around their homes. What kinds of animals and fruits? Let them discover by becoming hunters and gatherers for the lesson. Either break the classroom into two groups (if 15+) with one group of hunters and one groups of gatherers or start with everyone being hunters.
  • Hunters (10-15 min.)
    • Designate (or ask for one volunteer) to be the hunter, and bring home food for everyone. All of the other children then become a herd of bison, and get a bandana to mark them as such.
    • Tell the hunter that to bring home food to feed everyone, he/she needs to capture all of the bandanas while the herd is runs around to try to avoid getting tagged and losing their bandana.
    • Ideally, there will be approximately ten kids in this group, making it very difficult for one child alone to tag all of the herd. After a few minutes of struggling, designate another hunter to join the hunting party, and take their bandana; now there are eight bison and two hunters as the game starts over. This should make it a bit easier for the hunters, but still not quite easy. Keep adding another hunter until the group is split in half. Once all of the “bison” are captured, give the hunters a large bag of animal crackers to take back to their camp—a designated table in the classroom.
  • Gatherers (10-15 min.)
    • Tell the group of kids that there are really good natural foods hidden around in the classroom (give them an exact number). Tell them to find all of them, and bring them back to a table in the middle of the classroom (if doing subsequent style, the same table as the animal crackers).
    • Once all of the cups of fruits and nuts are gathered, the gatherers and hunters may all take their seats.
  • Follow-Up (5 min.)
    • Snack time! Pass out the fruit, nuts and animal crackers, and explain for the children that hunters and gatherers needed to work together to live off of food this way. They had to gather food together and share it, as well as divide up the labor—they had to cooperate as a group through every step of the process.
      • Was it difficult for the lone hunter? Did it get easier when there was a group? What about gathering? How many cups did you find yourself? Would it have taken a lot longer to find all of those cups on your own?
      • Was there a job you’d rather have? Are you a hunter or a gatherer?
      • Some people in hunter-gatherer societies “specialized,” meaning they were better at one type of task, and so they did that all the time. What would your specialty be?

Variations: Based on class size, the hunters and gatherers can run simultaneously or subsequently. If a large class, have one half be hunters and the other gatherers for approximately ten minutes, and then switch. If a smaller class, have all be hunters and then all gatherers. If there are any children that are having a difficult time in the gathering section, have each child get a partner to find things.

Early Mammals:
Objective: To teach the children about what animals were native to Minnesota 7000-3000 years ago, with a primary focus on mammoths and bison. Children will learn about the use of bison and mammoths to people living back then, how the pelts and meat were used as well as other parts of the animals. They will also learn about mammoths being extinct, and when they became extinct.
Academic Standards Acquired: 4. History > 1. Historical Thinking Skills > 2. Historical inquiry is a process in which multiple sources and different kinds of historical evidence are analyzed to draw conclusions about how and why things happened in the past.

Mammoths used to be inhabitants of Minnesota.  They were large, furry (and sometimes wooly) mammals that grew up to 13 feet tall and weighed over 8 tons!  They existed as late as 12,000 years ago but died out at the end of the last Ice Age.  They were herbivores and to be hunted people needed to form large groups.  These large groups would work together to kill a mammoth and would use weapons such as spears to do it.
The people that were hunting the mammoths were some of the first inhabitants of the area and they were know as the Clovis people.  These were not so much a specific culture but a group of people that lived around the same time and made similar projectile points.  It is important to note the Clovis people because they were the people in the area and were literally the first people to Minnesota.  The people were not limited to Minnesota and Clovis tools can be found in various sites throughout North America.
Today, anthropologists often find mammoth bones with either human remains or tools.  Projectile points and scraping tools are the most common to be found.  A mammoth hand the capability of feeding and providing supplies for a fairly large group of people and needed to be eaten rather quickly because methods of preservation were not in use.  Things that people would use from mammoths included the bones, teeth, and tusks for tools, the fur for clothing (there is even some evidence of early sewing!), the meat for eating, and the fats for oil.  By killing a mammoth the group would be set for food for a long time and replenish their supplies.
Mammoth kill sites in Minnesota are not all that common and there is some controversy as to how they became extinct.  Some say that they died out because of the drastic climate change at the end of the Ice Age.  Others claim that it was human over hunting that ended them.  Still, other say it was a combination of the two and that is the approach taken here. 
It is great for the children to learn about mammoths because they are present in pop culture, for example; the movie Ice Age, Mr. Snuffleupagus, etc.  The children might not realize what they are seeing is extinct or they might get them confused with elephants. The types of animals that existed prior to the historical period (1500 AD) are extremely similar to those found in historical periods, as determined by fossil assemblages.  In this way, it is fairly simple to determine what kinds of meats the Native Americans were hunting and eating.  Deer also played an important role, as well as fish, pheasant, turkey, and rabbits, which all are hunted in modern times.  Likely the most important, though, was the bison, which roamed the, plains in herds of thousands.  It was estimated that around 1700, there were over 30 million bison in the entire US, which decreased down to as few as 1000 in the 1880’s.  Due to commercialization, this number is back up to 500,000 or so.  The reason the bison was so important was because of the huge utility in each part of the animal.  For example, the ribs were used for arrow shafts, the stomach was used as a water bag, the sinew was used for thread and bowstrings etc.

Early Mammals Lesson Plan:
Time: 15-20 min.
  • Scissors [a few per table]
  • Glue [a few bottles per table]
  • googly eyes [2 per child]
  • glitter [a few containers per table]
  • markers [a few boxes per table]
  • individual sheets of brown felt with the outline of a mammoth drawn on them [1 per child]
  • pieces of wool [a few pieces, torn into smaller pieces at each table]
  • poster of a wooly mammoth [1]
  • mammoth decoration (anything you might want to decorate them with)
  • coloring sheets of mammoths [~20]
  • crayons [a few boxes per table]
Preparation: Make sure you have the poster to show them and all the other supplies at hand.  Also, make sure the sheets of felt have an outline of a mammoth on them so all they have to do is follow the lines.

Variations: To simplify the project, have the mammoth pre-cut, with the googly eyes on.

  • Introduction (5 min.)
    • Lead-in from hunter-gatherer activity; we just ate bison crackers! What other animals did people hunt a long time ago?
      • Bison
        • fur –clothing
        • meat- food
        • bones – tool
        • fat – nutrition, oils
      • Deer
      • Rabbits
      • Pheasants
      • Turkey
    • Have you ever seen bison? Deer? Eaten them? They also used to hunt mammoths. Ask them if they know what a mammoth is.  Have they ever seen one?  Where?  Are they big or small?  Do they live on land or water?  Ask them questions as long as you feel appropriate.  Then give them some information about the Mammoth.
      • They lived a long, long, long time ago in Minnesota
      • they could be up to 13 feet tall and 8 tons!
        • demonstrate how tall that is.
      • They only ate plants and probably travelled in groups
      • they do not live in Minnesota any more but there are still bones left over
      • Humans, especially the Clovis people, used to hunt mammoths for:
        • fur –clothing
        • meat- food
        • bones – tool
        • fat – nutrition, oils
        • teeth/tusks – decoration or tools
      • evidence of human eating them because they were found with projectiles and scraped bones.
      • They are extinct, probably due to climate change or over hunting.
    • They can look at the poster.
  • Activity (10-12 min.)
    • Lets make mammoths!  Have them cut out the mammoths from the felt that has outlines on them.  They can glue they eyes on and draw on the mouth.  They can also decorate them.  The felt is to be similar to a wooly mammoth but you can also pass around a piece of wool.  You could also use the coloring sheets if they get done early and want to color a picture.
  • Follow-Up (2-3 min.)
    • Ask them what they learned about mammoths.  Are there mammoths in television? (Ice Age, Mr. Snuffleupagus, etc.) Can you see a real, live mammoth today?  Any other information you might want to reiterate.

Objective: To teach the children that trade is important to get materials you need as well as to make new friends or to help your friends, and that sharing is important. Also, to teach them that archaeologists can tell where you’ve been and who you’ve talked to by the materials you own.
Academic Standards Acquired: 4. History > 1. Historical Thinking Skills > 2. Historical inquiry is a process in which multiple sources and different kinds of historical evidence are analyzed to draw conclusions about how and why things happened in the past; 2. Economics > 1. Economic Reasoning Skills > 1. People make informed economic choices by identifying their goals, interpreting and applying data considering the short and long run costs, and benefits of alternative choices, and revising their goals based on their analysis.

            Across all marked time periods, trade was a major factor in groups of people in the Plains. Trade was conducted for several reasons. First, it allowed material that did not occur naturally in a groups surroundings to be made available to them. Second, trade allowed for groups to make connections with other groups in various areas, creating allies. Third, trade allowed for not only materials, but ideas and customs to be exchanged in meetings of various groups.
            Many different types of items were traded during these times. Different types of rock were either traded or gathered by groups on their travels; this is evidenced by stones like obsidian discovered outside of its natural environment, and other stones used for tools and projectile points standard in areas where the material does not occur naturally. Shells and other beads were traded regularly, most likely as more of a ceremonial offering for becoming allies or such. Pottery designs and patters, such as using geometric shapes, was passed along, most likely due to contact with other groups for trade purposes, as were types of other artwork and methods of depiction.
            Trade is extremely important to understanding the history of the Plains people, as it shows how sedentary, or mobile, a group was, and the types of items traded illustrates what the purpose of that trade was (i.e., ceremonial or functional). Trade patterns allow scholars to see which directions groups traveled, and potentially when. Additionally, trade serves to show what types of items were valued in the past, and to which group, as well as show what knowledge people of those times possessed about creating items—for example, certain types of exotic rock were used to create very specific types of tools, which shows an understanding of Plains people in regards to what types of material they needed.

Trade Lesson Plan:
Time: 20 mins.
  • Play-doh or clay (in 3-4 different colors) [1 large handful of clay per child, or 1 container of play-doh per child]
  • Plastic baggies [3 per child]
  • Tumbled glass (in 3-4 different colors) [5 per baggie, 3 baggies per child at table]
  • Pony beads (in 3-4 different colors) [10 per baggie, 3 baggies per child at table]

Preparation: Divide the first color of play-doh/clay into three baggies, putting enough in each bag to create a small bowl. Do the same with the other two colors, until you have nine (or twelve, if using four colors) baggies. Do the same with the beads and the glass.

Variations: If making a bowl is difficult for any of the children, have them make a plate instead, by pushing the play-doh or clay flat.

  • Introduction (2 min.)
    • Ask the kids if they’ve ever needed a material they didn’t have. For that last activity, did someone else have the glitter when they had the scissors? Did you need to trade to get the material you wanted? What about a color of crayon?
    • Show the kids a finished piece of “pottery,” or a bowl shaped out of play-doh/clay with pony beads in one color and tumbled glass pieces decorating the sides. Tell the children that they’re going to make these, now, too, but they’re going to need to trade to get all of the pieces that they need.
  • Activity (10-15 min.)
    • Start by separating the kids into three tables; one table for play-doh/clay, one for beads, and one for tumbled glass pieces. Each person at the table will get their own color of the same material. For example, at the bead table, one person will get blue beads, one will get yellow, and one will get red. Each child gets three baggies of their color of their material.
    • Next, tell the kids they must trade with other kids around the room until they have one baggie of beads, one of clay, and one of glass, in any color (keeping one of their own original material baggies).
    • Once they have all three baggies, they may begin to make their bowls.
  • Follow-Up (3 min.)
    • While they craft their bowl, ask them again about trading; did you like the person that gave you the material you needed? Trading can be a great way to make friends through sharing your resources.
    • Trading can also teach us about the past. Point out exact instances; Sally, who sat at the bead table and had blue beads now has a green bowl with blue beads and white glass. You can see that she traded with Billy, who had green play-doh, and George, who had white glass. We can tell where people have gone in the past and who they’ve interacted with based on materials they’ve found.
    • What kinds of things used to be traded in Minnesota? Types of beads, some have come from the South, like Florida, as gifts, or types of rocks. Even ideas of pottery styles have been “traded” around by seeing how other people make things.
      • When you sit at your table, do you look at how other children are placing their beads? By being around other people, we get their ideas, too.

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