< Back

Teacher Notes
Museum of Native American Cultures
A Project-based WebQuest
by Margaret Hill

Duration of the Unit
This lesson may be done both in an outside of class, depending on the skills of the students and the availability of online computers and print resources. In total it should take about two weeks.

History –Social Science Content Standards - Grade 5
5.1 Students describe the major pre-Columbian settlements, including the cliff dwellers and pueblo people of the desert Southwest, the American Indians of the Pacific Northwest, the nomadic nations of the Great Plains, and the woodland peoples east of the Mississippi River.

Describe how geography and climate influenced the way various nations lived and adjusted to the natural environment, including locations of villages, the distinct structures that they built, and how they obtained food, clothing, tools, and utensils.
Describe their varied customs and folklore traditions.
Explain their varied economies and systems of government.

History-Social Science Analysis Skills
Chronological and Spatial Thinking
Students place key events and people of the historical era they are studying in a chronological sequence and within a spatial context; they interpret time lines.

Historical Research, Evidence, and Point of View
Students pose relevant questions about events they encounter in historical documents, eyewitness accounts, oral histories, letters, diaries, artifacts, photographs, maps, artworks, and architecture.
Students distinguish fact from fiction by comparing documentary sources on historical figures and events with fictionalized characters and events.

Historical Interpretation
Students identify the human and physical characteristics of the places they are studying and explain how those features form the unique character of those places.

English Language Arts Standards - Grade 5


Understand how text features (e.g., format, graphics, sequence, diagrams, illustrations, charts, maps) make information accessible and usable.
Analyze text that is organized in sequential or chronological order.
Discern main ideas and concepts presented in texts, identifying and assessing evidence that supports those ideas.
Draw inferences, conclusions, or generalizations about text and support them with textual evidence and prior knowledge.
Distinguish facts, supported inferences, and opinions in text.


Create multiple-paragraph expository compositions that establish a topic, important ideas, or events in sequence or chronological order.
Use organizational features of printed text (e.g., citations, end notes, bibliographic references) to locate relevant information.
Edit and revise manuscripts to improve the meaning and focus of writing by adding, deleting, consolidating, clarifying, and rearranging words and sentences.
Draw inferences, conclusions, or generalizations about text and support them with textual evidence and prior knowledge.
Write research reports about important ideas, issues, or events that frame questions that direct the investigation.

Purpose of Lesson
The purpose of this project-based lesson is for students to come to understand the diversity and complexity of the histories and cultures of the people who lived in America before European contact. Ideally, the whole classroom, the school multi-purpose room, or the library will be transformed by students into a pre-Columbian museum. Teachers should look to this museum as a learning tool in itself to provide a context for deeper comprehension of further reading and study of Native Americans in the interactions among settlers and native peoples. The students who experience this unit will not automatically link “Native American” with the stereotype of the tipi nor will they be as unidimensional in their study of the westward expansion of the U.S. and of 19th century Indian policy. It will also make a wonderful venue for cross-age activities where younger students may come to read Paul Goble or Byrd Baylor stories. The inclusion of California Indians in this study has a two-fold purpose: to provide a valuable teaching venue for 4-5 combination classes, and to round out the understanding of students of the rich number and variety of Indian cultures in California in relation to the rest of America.

Teacher Materials
Citing sources was the most difficult part of the development of this lesson. The numbers are huge and teachers will find many more than are given here. A valuable reference will be:

Techniques for Evaluating American Indian Web Sites
The purpose of this Web page is to provide some guidelines useful for evaluating and identifying Web sites that contain accurate information and that are not exploitative of American Indians. Note that these guidelines are not all inclusive nor are they foolproof. Web site evaluation must also include the knowledge that one already has about Native peoples and brings to the Web. If you don't know if a site is presenting accurate information, find a source that you trust, online or offline, and compare what you find there with what you find in the Web site.

Slapin, Beverly, Doris Seale (Santee/Cree), and Rosemary Gonzales (Ojibwe), How to Tell the Difference: A Guide for Evaluating Children's Books for Anti-Indian Bias. 1996, b/w illustrations.
Reproduced from Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children, the goal of this 30-page book is to make it easier for parents, students, teachers or librarians to choose undistorted books about the lives and histories of indigenous peoples.

The Smithsonian series Handbook of North American Indians by William C. Sturtevant is available form online bookstores and provides a great reference for the teacher.

SCORE 2006