Lesson Plan

Housing:  Early Homes

Phases of earth lodge construction NPS Sketch
Phases of earth lodge construction NPS Sketch
NPS Sketch
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
earth lodge, fire-pit, stringer posts, rafter poles, smoke hole, bull boat, willows, extended family


Students will gain deeper understanding about earth lodge construction by visualizing life in a Hidatsa village through guided imagery and by viewing the building an earth lodge video.  They will have an opportunity to design and build their own replica earth lodge. 


The students will:
Develop empathy for others as theymake connections through photographs.
Design and construct a replica earth lodge


You Ought to Be in Pictures prepares students to read a passage using pictures and guided imagery to process newlearning. It primes them to learn from text materials that may otherwise be regarded as cold and impersonal.
Photographs can evoke a sense of mood and convey meaningful information that communicates far beyond written description.
Guided imagery using photographs provides an excellent opportunity for students to record observations and thoughts in writing.   


Student Background Reading

Pictures and drawing of earth lodges from the Internet




Tell students that over the next few lessons they will be learning about Housing and Transportation. Today the main focus will be on housing including: types of housing, and how earth lodges are constructed.



Pass around the earth lodge photographs provided in the kit, other images can be located on our website and other websites to project on a smart board or overhead.



Select a photograph that will introduce or extend important ideas or concepts for the overall unit such as people in an earth lodge village and guide the students with the image. First, examine the location of the photograph. What do you observe about the countryside? About the Land? The plants? The vegetation? What time of year might it be? What does the climate appear to be like? What type of day doesit seem to be?


Now focus closely on each person in the image. Pay particular attention to what each person is wearing. Look at the way family members carry themselves, their posture, and their facial expressions.


Next choose one individual in the photograph and imagine you are this person. What might you be thinking while this was happening? Describe what you might be feeling, what emotions you might be experiencing. What has the day been like for you? Imagine what might have happened before the scene presented in the photo. What do you see happening later during thisday and following days?



Tell the students it is now many years later. You are showing this photograph to a grandchild. What would you tell this child about your memories of the day?  Write what you would share as an entry in your notebook.


Draw an earth lodge. Create yourown design for the interior.


Step 5

Ask students to read the background information for lesson 1 quietly tothemselves or ask for volunteers to read out loud.


After reading the backgroundinformation ask the students the following questions:
1.      What was the main difference in how the Mandansbuilt their homes before they were influenced by the Arikara and after?
2.      Who owns an earth lodge?
3. How did people keep rain from coming into the earthlodge through the smoke hole? They put a bullboat over the smoke hole.


Students ask questions during reading and discussion.
Students ask questions during the planning, design and construction of a replica earth lodge.


Student constructed earth lodges exhibit thought and consideration of Hidatsa values and culture discussed during the lesson.

Park Connections

KnifeRiver Indian Villages National Historic Site contains some of the best preserved examples of remnant earthlodge villages along the Missouri River in North and South Dakota. The three main sites are Big Hidatsa National Historic Landmark (Hidatsa Village), Lower Hidatsa (Awatixa Xi'e) Village, and Sakakawea (Awatixa) Village sites.


Invite a Mandan, Hidatsa, or Arikara speaker to your class for a presentation. 

There is a video in the production stage, which will be located on our media website when it is complete. It would be good to show the video in lesson1 as an opening or closing activity.

Additional Resources

A Song for the Horse National Park Service

The Lewis & Clark Expedition

Hidatsa Language CDs


Earth lodge, fire-pit, stringer posts, rafter poles, smoke hole, bull boat, willows, extended family