Keywords: cultural impact on the environment, uses for wood, wood products, environment; Lesson Plan Grade Level: seventh through twelfth grade (could be used for elementary grades as well); Total Time Required for Lesson: one class period; Setting: classroom

Goals for the Lesson

  • Students will explore the Native American views on our natural environment.
  • Students will explore our contemporary view on the environment.
  • Students will become familiar with the many uses of wood as a natural resource.
  • Students will reflect on the spectrum of views on the natural environment.

Materials Needed

  • Native American Stories ( "Koluscap and the Water Monster" and "Manabosho and the Maple Trees" )
  • six dry erase boards with water-based markers
  • "Pictionary" game cards
  • notebook

State Standards Addressed: 8.1.12C, 8.4.9D, 4.2.10D

Teaching Model: W.H.E.R.E ( Where Are We Headed?, Hook, Explore, Reflect, Exhibit )

Subjects Covered: social studies, history, ecology

Topics: people's effect on the natural environment; cultural views on the environment


Step 1: Where Are We Headed?

  1. Introduce the lesson by saying, "A culture is more than artifacts, pictures, and inventions, it's a lens through which people see the world. In this lesson we will compare the views of Native American Cultures, with our own. We will examine several questions
    • What importance does our culture place on the natural environment?
    • What importance did/do Native American cultures place on the environment?
    • How and why are the answers to these questions different?"
  2. Have students place the three questions from the introduction into their notebooks. Discuss possible answers to each of them. Stress that they should not answer the questions in writing until the end of the period.

Step 2: Hook

  1. Read students traditional Native American stories. Help students analyze the meaning behind the story. Why did this culture place such importance on the environment?
  2. Discuss personal views on the environment. Do students think about the environment? Why or why not? Was the environment more important to Native Americans than to us?
  3. How would students describe the natural environment of Pennsylvania? ( forest ) What natural resources are found in our forests? (Focus on wood products, have students think of uses for trees and lumber.)

Step 3: Explore

  1. Tell students,"You have described many uses for our forests, but you may be surprised how many more uses there are for this resource. We are going to try something a little different now. I will place you in six different groups. We are going to play 'Pictionary'! Each group should have a dry erase board and a marker. You also have a deck of cards that contain products that are made up of wood. Remember, you may draw a picture, but you may not use any letters of words.
  2. Allow students 15 to 20 minutes to play the game.

Step 4: Reflect and Rethink

  1. Ask students the following questions:
    • How important are our forest resources?
    • How could we maximize this resource?
    • Is the environment less important to us than to Native Americans?

Step 5: Evaluate

  1. Have students answer the questions in their notebooks.
  2. Discuss answers. Did the students views change or remain the same during the lesson?


Bruchac, Joseph and Michael J. Caduto (1996). Native American Stories . Golden, Colo.: Fulcurm Publishing.

Smith, Sanford S. "Tree Treasure Chest." Natural Resources and Youth Program, Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, The Pennsylvania State University.


Scott McCamley, West Branch Area Junior Senior High School