Photo by: NPS at Petroglyph National Monument
Grade Level:
Kindergarten-Fifth Grade
American Indian History and Culture, Archaeology, Art, History
60 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 24 (4-8 breakout groups)
indoors or outdoors
National/State Standards:
Grade: 5
Social Studies Standards


Grade: 4

K-4 Benchmark I-A—New Mexico


This lesson is designed to teach young students about the many uses of tools over time. Students will not only understand how important tools were, but how they have been adapted and changed over time to fit our societal needs.


Know: The differences between needs and wants.

The differences and purposes for a variety of tools (1400-1800).

Understand: Function of tools today in relation to 500 years ago.

Be Able to Do: Students will identify tools during Ancestral Puebloan Era (1400-1800): 1- identification of tools, 2- what the tools were used for, 3- what materials they were made out of, 4- what purposes they served. Students will create their own thriving tool based on the following credentials: What purpose will the tool serve? How does it benefit you? society? Is it a need or a want in terms of survival?

Guiding Question:

How have our needs and wants changed due to our economic needs changing over time?


 Tools are important because they keep us alive. Without the use of tools, humans would have no weapons to fend off predators, kill their meat or farm their crops. Tools help us in our everyday lives. It is important to remember that tools have changed and developed over time to help ensure our survival. However, the reasons for having them has remained the same. Thanks to the various types of tools we use today, our lives are a little easier.

Something to keep in mind: Do all tools depend on our survival? How important are they actually? Students will delve into this topic by detemining the differences between our needs and wants, and how these will play a role in survival.


Tool Fact Sheet

Paper, markers, other materials for tool display


A tool is anything that is used to help complete a task

Step 1: Concept Formation

The teacher will start the class off by asking them the difference between a "need" and a "want".  A list of items from each category on the board is a good way to help distinguish the difference. (Ex. having a backpack to go to school is something that is valued but is not necessarily a need. Having water to drink is something we need to survive. Talk about how eating is something that keeps us alive) For the natives, the only way to get food was to cultivate crops OR slaughter large animals for meat. Tools were needed in order to fulfill this survival need. These examples help students really understand how important certain tools were to the indigenous people. However, as the lesson progresses, students will realize that not all tools had as much value in survival as others. Using this Concept Formation strategy, students will be working individually or in groups as they figure out the attributes associated with "needs" and "wants."

Step 2: Process

The teacher will talk about three types of tools (stone, bone, and wood) that were excavated in this area that were once used by the Ancestral Puebloans 400-700 years ago. The teacher will put an emphasis on the importance of the use of natural resources and their role in these ancient people's lifestyles. (In this part of the lesson, a good reminder for students is the recognition that Natives did not have access to metal until the arrival of the Spanish, which meant they had to rely only on the use of natural resources for every aspect of survival.)


Step 3:

The teacher will then ask students to get into small groups and ask them to either draw or write up tools that they can think of that are used today. Some examples to give to students to help get them thinking about the wide variety of tools we have today would be: a hammer for building a house, a spindle for sewing, screwdrivers to fix cars, knives for cutting a turkey, glue guns for putting pieces of fabric together, computers to work on homework. The tools we have today are so varied and are used for so many different tasks.

Looking Back: Step 4

The teacher will then follow this up with the question of whether these tools are needs or wants.

It is good for students to understand that many of the ancient tools such as bows and arrows and traps are still used today, though, they are no longer classified as "needs". For example, many people do not like rat or mice infestations in their homes and, therefore, might use a trap to kill the mice and then dispose of them. The natives would not use a trap to kill an animal to get rid of it. They might use that animal for its skin, meat or fur for different needs of survival.

Once students are getting an understanding of the difference between a need and a want, as well as what some of the ancient tools looked like and how they were used, students can now work individually or in groups and begin creating their own tools. As students are making their individual tools, they will follow these guidelines:

1)The tool will be given a name

2)The tool will serve a purpose

3) The tool can be from modern day and may be battery operated, plug in, solar operated OR can be more historic and can be hand operated- allowing students many options. The tool must be labeled a NEED or a WANT (or both) and students must be able to explain how their tool fits into one of the categories.



Students will create and label their own tools, giving them purpose by describing their function, as well as the materials they used to make them. (For this assessment, students can either draw or create using 'real' materials.) Depending on age, perhaps model an example of a real OR made up tool and how it might be used.

Park Connections

Ancestral Pueblo Lifestyles in the Southwest


Before or After lesson:

Ask for a ranger-led talk in your classroom to present our Ancestral Puebloan tools trunk by calling (505) 899-0205 ext. 332


Some good extension lessons include:

How Do We Survive? This lesson outlines the various ways in which Ancestral Puebloans were able to survive and thrive in the Albuquerque area beginning thousands of years ago. This lesson would be a good follow up or pre-lesson for this lesson.

The Introduction of Metal. This lesson introduces the idea of man-made materials into New Mexico upon arrival of the Spanish. This lesson focuses on the influences of Spanish Colonial culture into New Mexico during the 1600s. Perhaps a good extension would be to compare and contrast man-made vs. natural resources in terms of: needs and wants as well as survival.

Both lessons can be found by searching Petroglyph National Monument lesson plans

Additional Resources

Teacher resources:

McMaster, Gerald, and Clifford E. Trafzer. Native Universe: Voices of Indian America. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, in Association with National Geographic, 2004

Thomas, David Hurst., Betty Ballantine, and Ian Ballantine. The Native Americans: An Illustrated History. Atlanta: Turner Pub., 1993

Student resource:

Alexie, Sherman, and Ellen Forney. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. New York: Little, Brown, 2007 (This book is banned at some schools, be sure to ask before teaching)


Spear and Atlatl:Tool used by the Ancestral Puebloans dating thousands of years ago to help hunt large game such as buffalo, bear, and elk.
Mano and Metate: These grinding tools were used together to allow proper grinding of corn kernels to create a “flour” that was/is used to make various products including: bread, tortillas and tomales.
Obsidian: Obsidian is a glass-like volcanic rock that was found around New Mexico and used to make various arrowheads, spear points and various cutting knives.
Yucca: This state plant had various uses for the Ancestral Puebloans including: basket weaving, soap for shampoo, necklace rope and pottery
Deer Tendon: The muscle that runs along the deer leg that consists of a fatty substance that was good for holding items in place such as: tying on an arrow head to the end of a spear.
Clay: Clay is found underneath the ground, forming from rocks that have decomposed. The minerals in darker rocks (usually volcanic rocks) and weathering all play a role in the creation of clay. Clay is a hard material that is good for making various types of tools.