Surviving the Big Storm: Activity 5.2


Native American Culture Curriculum Unit 5.2
Task Author: Bob Valiant
Task Title: Surviving the Big Storm
Grade Level: 4-5 Activity # 5.2
Geography Grade 5 Benchmark

Brief Overview of Task:
Students will be given a problem to solve as a member of an Indian band (circa 1700) located at the site of the school. They must use their knowledge of local landforms, flora and fauna to solve the problem. They will use local materials to construct models of solution designs and will then explore various resources to learn how Native Americans used the land and its resources to solve the problem.


Targeted Benchmark:
Understand how human activities are affected by the physical environment.
Recommended Prerequisite Student Knowledge and Skills:
Knowledge of local area
Drawing, writing and model building skills
Materials Needed:
Materials Generally Available:
o White butcher paper to cover a large area of the wall
o Art paper, construction paper, markers, crayons, glue, poster gum (to attach cutouts to background mural).
Special Items: (Teacher must provide)
o Local vegetation, rocks, etc.
Citation and Helpful Resources: (i.e. books, web sites, etc.)
Animals: Oregon’s Large Mammals
Geography: Oregon A-Z; USGS Columbia Plateau Maps and Graphics
Technology: Native Tech
Tribal Information: Cayuse Indians, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, Cultures of the Warm Springs Indians, John Day Fossil Beds
General Resources: Central Oregon Heritage Group
History: Celilo, Oregon’s Oldest Town
Plants/Food: Nez Perce Historical Park (Plant Uses), Culturally Significant Plants
Trade: Indian Trade Network
Recommended Classroom Time: (in hours)
4-10 hours.
Detailed Description of Task for Teachers:

1. The teacher begins with a narrative that sets the stage for the task. The time is about 1700 and the setting is the location of the school. Students are asked to assume roles as members of a band of Native Americans who find themselves at the site after a journey of several miles. A source of Native American names can be found at
2. Students each draw a background for the location as it would have appeared in 1700. Discussion leads to consensus for the wall-sized mural which will be used as a setting for the unit of study.
3. Students draw and cut out a 6″ to 8″ depiction of their character and write a biography describing key events of their life to this point. The cutout is attached to the mural using poster gum so it can be moved.
4. It is late autumn and the first signs of winter are evident. Students research weather and climate information for their location including prevailing winds, temperature information for November, etc. and write brief reports.
5. The class learns that a storm is coming and they need to create a shelter. They brainstorm solutions using local materials available in 1700, then draw pictures of their creations. Following discussion of their ideas, the drawings are cut out and posted on the mural.
6. Working in small groups, the students use the internet to research how Native Americans actually solved the shelter problem in the region where they live. They can then revise the drawings they made and post them on the mural. Small models of the shelters may be constructed of local materials and placed on a table in front of the mural. How should they be placed to take advantage of prevailing winds, water runoff, etc. How do they stay warm? Students write their “Surviving the Big Storm” stories from the point of view of their character.
7. Invite another class to come in. Students can describe their characters, their shelters and how they used the local environment to survive the storm.

Additional Contexts and /or Possible Extensions of Task:
A visit to the High Desert Museum near Bend or the Warm Springs Museum at Warm Springs will show the students full-size examples of the types of shelters used by the Native Americans of the Columbia Plateau.
A two-way video conference with a tribal elder from Warm Springs might be arranged so that students could ask questions about their problem.
The task can be extended to the construction of a large-scale model built outdoors.


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