Native American Culture: Archeological and Anthropological Unit
Grades 4-8                Year Long Study – Gifted Students
Woodland Hills Dickson Intermediate School; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Deborah Firestone - Teacher
Note: The report of this Unit Plan does not follow the typical Unit Plan / Lesson Plan format.

Concept/Big Idea:
The role of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the anthropological and archeological history of the United States.

NSES: Content Standard A: Students should develop
Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
Understanding about scientific inquiry
Content Standard F: Students should develop understanding of
Characteristics and changes in populations
Types of resources
Changes in environments

PA Science/Technology:
3.2.4 Inquiry and Design
3.3.4    Biological Sciences
3.3.5    Earth Sciences

4.1.4    Watersheds and Wetlands
4.2.4    Renewable and Non-Renewable Resources
4.6.4    Ecosystems and Their Interactions
4.7.4    Threatened, Endangered, and Extinct Species
4.8.4     Humans and the Environment

Technology Standards:
Computer literacy standard D – “Demonstrate basic knowledge of desktop publishing applications”.

Social Studies/History Standards:

Geography Standards:
7.1.3 Basic Geographic Literacy
7.2.3 The Physical Characteristics of Places and Regions
7.3.3 The Human Characteristics of Places and Regions
7.4.3 The Interactions Between People and Places

1. Student use of information and making connections by research and reading: History of Pennsylvania,  abstracts of the Lewis and Clark Journals and letters, related publications
2. Criteria for internet and resource material use, note taking 
3. Development of a  power point presentation by student teams to share what they
Note: Since this unit covered a range of grade levels, various assessment were conducted at different levels.

Instructional Strategy: 

Science, Technology & Society by Green Design
  • Student research:  publications and internet
  • Hands-on activities:
    • Exploration of educational loan kit from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History
    • Description and dissection of the Osage Orange Tree/fruit
  • Cooperative Learning:
    • Study of the Native American Tribes encountered by Lewis and Clark on their expedition
  • Collaborative Learning
    • Development of a power point presentation by older students for younger students
  • “Read Aloud” of  “How We Crossed the West” - a book that contained many shortened original journal passages from not only Lewis and Clark and from other members of the Corps of Discovery

  • The First Americans, James Advasio
  • Mystery of the Mammoth Bones, James Cross Giblin
  • How We Crossed the West, The Adventures of Lewis & Clark, Rosalyn Schanzer, National Geographic Society
Kits (from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History):
  • “The Monongahela:  Prehistoric Pennsylvanians” 
  • “Archeology: Tools and Technology”
Field Trip:  
  • Meadowcroft Rockshelter, Avella, PA


As background for this unit I attended a lecture at the History Center by Archeologist Dr. James Adovasio, who discussed his recently co-authored book, “The First Americans”. As a follow-upon his lecture on the peopling of the Americas, I visited the Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Avella, PA After touring this site, which predates Clovis, I decided this was a perfect topic to begin the year’s study with my students.

The thematic unit selected was Archeology and Anthropology. The students were exposed to various cultural and historical peoples and periods including: African, Egyptian, Aztec, Inca, Mayan, Greco-Roman, Mesopotamian, Asian, and Native American. These lessons lend themselves to meet several standards in English, writing, science, technology, and history. Within the course of study of Native American culture, students learned about how our country’s founding father, Thomas Jefferson, played a role in the study of archeology in the United States. As part of this lesson, students participated in several activities directed towards the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Celebration.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition played a significant role in the study of anthropology and tied together the American interest in the exploration of land and culture that was present, but undocumented. Therefore, the study of this expedition was beneficial in relating how anthropology was important in the formation of our society today.

Lesson Plan Activities:
1. Students utilized the loan kit “Archeology: Tools and technology for an introduction to an understanding about archeology, its importance and how information is obtained.

2. The loan kit “The Monongahela: Prehistoric Pennsylvanians” from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History introduced the students to the Native American peoples who lived in our region about 900 AD. Among the materials provided were many artifacts and information about shelter, food, and other cultural lifestyles which could be interpreted as similar to the types of materials used by all of the Native Americans encountered in the Lewis and Clark journey. As the students examined the materials, it became very important to begin looking at evidence provided from an archeological point of view. The students were also introduced to selections of the letter written to Lewis and Clark by Thomas Jefferson relating to the expectations of the journey.

3. The 4th  and 5th  graders began a study of a novel entitled “Mystery of the Mammoth Bones”. It is a story about famous revolutionary War-era painter Charles Wilson Peale and sons, who excavated two large and mysterious skeletons in New York 200 years ago. This provided the students with information about the beginnings of the taxidermy and the role of Philadelphia as the museum center under the guidance of Charles Wilson Peale. Mr. Peale’s role is interrelated with the American Philosophical Society and the connection with Thomas Jefferson for all of my students was established.

4. The 6th, 7th, and 8th graders began researching the peoples involved with the beginnings of the Lewis and Clark expedition, A criteria was established which included using a variety of internet and other resource materials available, note taking and an end result being Power Point presentations for the younger classes.

5. I did a read aloud of “How We Crossed the West, The Adventures of Lewis and Clark”. This book, published by the national Geographic Society, provided many shortened original journal passages from not only Lewis and Clark but also from other members of the Corps of Discovery.

6. An activity modeled after a visit to a Phipps Conservatory workshop used the osage orange, the first tree sent back from the journey. The students wrote detailed descriptions, dissected it and created drawings of the fruit similar to the information Lewis and Clark recorded. The website was extremely useful in providing students with more information abut the fruit.

7. Later in the year the 4th and 5th graders used a website for the exploration of the various Native American tribes and their contribution to the Corps of Discovery. This particular activity interfaced with the 5th grade students’ social studies curriculum. Several classes researched the people involved with the journey using the www.pbs.org/lewisandclark website preparing a PowerPoint Presentation to share with other students.

Native American tribes to be addressed in the study:

Plains Indians: Blackfeet, Assiniboine, Crow, Hidatsa, Mandan, Yankton, Sioux, Arikara, Teton Sioux, Ponca, Omaha, Oto, Kaw, Missouri, Osage
Plateau Indians: Yakama, Umatilla, Walla Walla, Nez Perce, Flathead, Wishram, Wanapum, Palouse, Cayuse, Klickitat, Methow
Great Basin Indians: Shoshone, Bannock Pauite
Northwest Coastal Indians: Chinool, Tillamook, Clatsop, Salishan

8. The culminating activity of the year was a field trip to the Meadowcroft Rockshelter. There the students were able to try out an atlatl ( a prehistoric spear-thrower), view a short movie about the history of the area and tour the rockshelter. The students’ feedback regarding the year’s activities relating to the Lewis and Cark experience was most enthusiastic, especially the osage orange activity and the field trip to Meadowcroft. I look forward to relying heavily on the activities attempted this year.

Meadowcroft Rockshelter Sign Meadowcroft Shelter