Lesson Plan

Housing:  Activities in an Hidatsa Home

Earth lodge collage
Collage of Earthlodge Photos
NPS photo collage

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Grade Level:
Fourth Grade-Eighth Grade
History, Language Arts, Reading, Writing
45-60 min
Group Size:
Up to 24
National/State Standards:
Social Studies:
Fourth Grade
Eighth Grade
8.1.1 ,8.1.2 

Language Arts: (writing)
Fourth Grade
Eighth Grade


Students will know that different tribes had different types of homes and lifestyles.  They will learn about life in an earth lodge from Wahanee and  have an opportunity to visit an earth lodge at Knife River and to design and build a replica tipi. 


The students will:
Examine  life in an earthlodge through reading Waheenee.
Compare and contrast the types of homes Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara people lived in during the Knife River Village days and the present time.
Interpret the concept of "extended family" and how this impacted earthlodge living.
Construct a replica tipi


Magnet Summaries involve the identification of key terms or concepts - magnet words - from a reading, which students use to organize important information into a summary. This activity should be done prior to visiting Knife River or to scheduling a Distance Learning Program to provide students adequate background information. 

This lesson engages students through text analysis, interactive discussion and hands on approaches. They will gain practice synthesizing and translating key concepts of what they have read into their own words.


Student Background Reading

Book - Waheenee

Index cards

Directions for making a tipi.




Setand setting

Read Chapter Five, "Life in an Earthlodge" to the class or ask for volunteers to read sections out loud to givestudents an overview of what life in an Earthlodge is like.


Ask students: What did you learn from Waheenee andher experiences about living in an earth lodge?


Introduce the idea of magnet wordsto students by inquiring what effect a magnet has on metal. Just as magnets attract metal, magnet wordsattract information (Buehl, 2001). Informstudents that magnet words often appear in titles, headings or may behighlighted in bold or italic print, but caution students that not all words inbold or italic are necessarily magnet words.



Write a magnet word on the board orprojector. Ask students to recallimportant details from the passage that are connected to the magnet word. As you write these details around the magnetword, have students follow the same procedure on an index card. Example: Students may choose the word tipi and surrounding words may include temporary,traveling, hunting, when the earth lodge was being repaired.



Ask students to complete thebackground reading. Distribute three orfour additional index cards to each student for recording magnet words. For younger students, indicate that theyshould identify a magnet word for each paragraph or section following a heading.


Have students work with a partner orin a cooperative group to identify the best magnet words and supportingdetails. When they are finished eachstudent should have four or five cards with magnet words and relatedinformation.



Model for students how the information on one card can be organized andcombined into a sentence that sums up the passage of text. Omit any unimportant details form thesentence. Example: Tipiswere temporary homes used mostly when hunting, traveling or when the earth lodgewas being repaired.


Step 6

Have students work with theirpartners or cooperative groups to construct similar sentences that summarizeeach of their cards.


Step 7

Direct students to arrange the sentences in the order they wish their summaryto read. You may need to model insertingconnectives and other language that integrates the sentences into a summary.


Step 8

Pass out the materials and instructions for students to make a replicatipi.


Step 9

When student tipis are complete, display them in the classroom wherethey can look at them and reflect on live at Knife River throughout theremainder of the unit.


Students ask questions duringreading as they create magnet summaries. 


Student magnet summaries contain allof the pertinent information conveyed in the assigned reading.

Tipi construction is complete and thorough.

Park Connections

Earthlodges sprang to life in the Northern Plains allowing people to survive and prosper along the Knife River through the ages. Understanding the traditional life ways of the Hidatsa people connects the places where the Three Affiliated Tribes live today to where they lived for hundreds of years along the Knife River. Preserving the knowledge of how earth lodges are built can raise cultural awareness of visitors, and help to preserve the cultural identity of the people and maintain a sense of community for years to come.


Visit an earth lodge if at all possible, or schedule a distance learning program with a Ranger at Knife River via Video Teleconference by visiting out website and submitting a request. 


When you enter the earth lodge,check to see if it feels alive to you. What are the smells? Write down key words related to impressions and observations you have in regard to the earth lodge.


Look around the earth lodge. How many people would you want to live with you in the lodge?



Using the key words you compiled at Knife River, compose an essay on your impressions and observations in the earthlodge.


Instruct students to ask their parents to share stories of their ancestors and how they lived during the sameera.

Additional Resources

Book: The Indian Tipi


Quilled designs, buffalo robes, moccasins, life spirit, tipi, brain tanning, lodge pole pine, extended family