Nature Trails

Native Americans lived off the land, using plants and animals for food, clothing, and shelter.  Explain to the class that these people had a unique bond with nature, immersing themselves daily in the sights, smells, and sounds of the earth.  Take students outdoors to quietly observe nature.  Have them record in science notebooks what they hear, smell, and touch.  For extra fun, take students to a nature trail and simulate how Native Americans used landmarks (i.e. an unusual tree stump, a bee hive, a stream) to keep track of the paths traveled.  Extend learning by having students write or share creative stories about life in the wilderness.  Encourage them to include in the story the sights, smells, and sounds they observed during their outdoor expedition.


Native American Farmers

Tell students that many Native Americans were farmers as well as hunters, growing such foods as maize (corn), beans, and squash.  Farming tools included pointed sticks for digging and hoes made of wood, bone, shell, or stone.  Give each student a cup of planting soil, a plastic bowl with holes punched in the bottom, and a dried corn kernel.  Invite students to use their supplies along with "farming tools" (i.e. sticks, shells, or stones) to plant the corn in the bowl.  Place the planted seeds in sunlight and have students add water to the soil when needed.  Invite students to monitor their plant's growth and record their observations in a science journal.


Natural Dyes

Discuss how Native Americans used plant pigments for tribal "makeup" and to dye fabrics.  Invite students to use natural dyes to color various materials, such as white or light-colored paper strips, white fabric pieces, string, and yarn.  Prepare the dyes in advance: place each kind of plant in a separate pot of water, boil the mixture until the water is the desired shade, strain the plant material out of the colored water (dye), add small amounts of salt and baking soda to the dyes (to preserve the color), and store the dyes in baby-food jars.  Invite students to put on aprons and color various materials by dipping the items into the jars of dye.  (For larger items, pour the dyes into bowls for students to use.  Note that strings and yarn need to soak for about two hours.)  Let the colored materials dry overnight.  Invite students to use their dyed materials for other theme-related art projects.


Plant Material


grapes, tree bark (hickory, alder, dogwood, mahogany)


alfalfa flowers, sunflower seeds, larkspur petals


birch bark, walnut shells


algae, juniper berries, moss


blueberries, raspberries, blackberries


beets, cranberries, sumac berries


onionskins, sunflower or marigold petals, peach leaves, sagebrush








Courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society