Lesson Plan

The People and the Land (Coming Together)

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Grade Level:
Fifth Grade-Sixth Grade
American Indian History and Culture, Anthropology, Civic Engagement, Geography, History, Pioneer America, Westward Expansion
45 - 60 minutes
Group Size:
8 or fewer
National/State Standards:
National Standards for ...
Social Studies:
Standards I, II, III, IV, V, VII

Elements 1, 2, 4, 5

Standards 1, 2, 3

Topics, 1, 2 (Alaska only)
Era 8


In "People and the Land (Coming Together)," students will discover the need for cooperation to maintain the common good.

Our "People and the Land" unit is broken into five lesson plans, taking 30 - 180 minutes to complete, and targeted at varying grade levels. A class needn't complete every lesson in the unit - each lesson comes with its own set of objectives and resources. This is lesson 3 of the unit.


Guiding Question: Why did people begin living in communities in early times?

Critical Content: The need for cooperation to maintain the common good.

Student Objectives: Students will ...

  • participate in role-playing exercises
  • use available information to make decisions
  • compare and contrast concepts and information



Our "The People and the Land" unit is broken into five lesson plans, each taking 45 - 120 minutes to complete, and targeted mainly at fifth and sixth grade students. A class needn't complete every lesson in the unit, though some lessons do refer to one another and are better done in sequence. However, each lesson comes with its own set of objectives and resources.

The final lesson, "The People and the Land (Team Research)" can be done independently, as a research project, or as a final assessment after having done some, or all, of the other lessons in the unit.

Check out the other lessons:

Lesson 1: On the Move
Lesson 2: What is Community?
Lesson 3: Coming Together
Lesson 4: Changing Times
Lesson 5: Team Research


Poster paper for making a class compilation of individuals / smaller groups' brainstorm lists.


Students are frontiers people in the Denali area in the early 1900's. They are looking for a place to settle down for the upcoming winter. They must decide if they want to live as a group or separately. Students who decide to live in a group will work together. Students who decide to live individually will work in a second group for this activity, but will think from the perspective of someone who is living by themselves or with just their own family.

1. Have each group make a list of items they want to look for to determine a place to spend the winter.

2. Are the items the same between those who want to live in a group and those who want to live individually? Why or why not?

3. What might be another term for the above items? (Needs).

4. Have students work together to give a working definition of the term "need."

What needs do people have? Are there non-physical needs that people have (emotional, psychological and social)? Give examples of needs. (Examples - the need to feel safe, the need to interact with other people, the need to feel valued, etc.)

Working in pairs, have students write down a list of these needs that the class generated. Have the pairs do a word sort with their list. A word sort consists of listing these words and sorting them into various categories. You may want to have students write their list and then cut the list up to be able to easily move the words around when creating their sorts.

How many different ways can they categorize their list?

Students will look at many different ways to categorize, including spelling. Guide the students to look more at the meaning of the words rather than the spelling of the words. After students have worked on this for awhile, come together as a group to discuss the variety of ways the needs were sorted out. If a group or groups did not come up with something similar to "things we absolutely have to have in order to survive" and things that we'd like to have but don't absolutely need to survive" guide the discussion to lead them to this point.

What is the difference between "needs" and "wants"? Needs are necessary for survival, "wants" are desired items that would make life easier, but survival may not depend upon having these items.

Read the village histories. (You may want to have students work in small groups again and divide up the village histories.) Identify the clues in the histories that give support as to why that village formed where it did.

Have students compare their list for their village with the list they create from the readings .


Discussion Questions:

1. Do you think the reasons for creating communities have changed over time?

2. Were they the same or different thousands of years ago compared to the early 1900's ? Compared to today? Explain and support your reasons.

3. What is meant by the statement "to maintain the common good" or "for the good of the common" as it relates to community?

4. Beyond the physical needs of food, water, and shelter, what other needs might be filled with the creation of a community? Focus on both the physical and non-physical needs.

5. Do we have different needs as individuals when we are part of a community (ex. I need my own shelter)? What are they? Have these changed over time?

6. Do we have needs as a whole community? In other words, because we are a group of people living together, are there things we need to help manage the group (ex. a community needs laws)? What are they?

7. What are the benefits of living in a community? Are there disadvantages for living in a community? What are they if there are?

8. Why did communities form in the Denali area?