Roadrunner with lizard in beak
Roadrunner with lizard in beak
Photo by: NPS

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Grade Level:
First Grade-Seventh Grade
American Indian History and Culture, History, Social Studies
60-70 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 24 (4-8 breakout groups)
indoors or outdoors
National/State Standards:
Subject: Social Studies

Grade 7: Benchmark I-A—New Mexico

Grades: K-4 Benchmark II-E
K-4 Benchmark III-B


This lesson was designed to get students thinking about ancient Native culture-how it survived, and how it compares to the current culture today in New Mexico.


KnowAncestral Puebloan Culture in reference to: food, art, symbolism, traditions, religious ideologies, and lifestyle

Understand: culture through lifestyle and petroglyph understanding

Be Able to Do: discuss and write about different facets of culture including practices, survival, food, and symbols. Students will write about their cultural upbringing in relation to Ancestral Puebloan culture.

Guiding Questions: What similarities do they see? What differences? Why are these aspects important?



This lesson can be applied to our past, present and future knowledge and understandings of our surrounding area and how this knowledge can be a good stepping stone for future generations of learning.

It is important to understand where our culture begins, to then understand how it functions and still is alive today. Our past shapes and molds our present and future.

Background prior to lesson: definition of culture, southwest cultural aspects, pueblo language introduction, art and Ancestral Puebloan culture: petroglyph understandings, symbolisms, as well as mesoamerican influence.


For this lesson you will need:

Ancestral Puebloan Introduction in the Southwest

Worksheet: Culture and Region

Petroglyph Graphics



The teacher should begin EACH OF THESE  lessons by talking about National Parks all over the United States. Possible questions proposed: Why is it important to preserve National Parks? What about a certain place gives it meaning? Here in Albuquerque we have a national park known as Petroglyph National Monument. What about this park makes it special? Why do we care about preserving National Parks?

These are questions that prompt students to start thinking about the importance of the land in which they live, and how this land and its surrounding cultures helped shape our current idealogies and ways of life that are still active today.


Step 1: Concept Formation:

The teacher will pass out culture worksheet and ask students to answer the first TWO questions. Bring class back as a whole and ask them what they wrote down and why.

The teacher will generate a list of survival techniques on the smartboard: FOOD, WATER, SHELTER, AND CLOTHING. (ex. under the category, food, students should come to the conclusions that the Ancestral Puebloans were both hunters and farmers, and that both were needed to survive). This step can be done in groups or as a whole class.

Step 2: Process

After the list is created, the teacher will either pass around pictures of petroglyphs or talk about the culture and ways of life from each item listed on the board. (refer to information on Ancient Puebloans for guidance) Students should be taking notes at this time. The petroglyphs are not meant to be interpreted just one way, but they are used as a building block to understand culture and how it intertwines our ways of living today.

Direct students back to the worksheet and ask them to answer question number THREE.

Step 3: Check for Understanding

Students should now be thinking about today’s culture in the Southwest. Have them get into groups of three and look at a few examples of petroglyphs that were taken from the park. These petroglyphs are ancient symbols to the culture that is being discussed. Ask students to give their interpretations of 1 or 2 petroglyphs and what they might have meant to the Ancestral Puebloans given the information they have learned about their lifestyles. (ex. a certain petroglyph that looks like a yucca pod might have resembled a food source) Have them make charts to put interpretations of petroglyphs into categories: Variety if images, purpose of images, role images played in historical context, etc.

Have students fill in an empty Venn Diagram on board, as they compare their images to other images that other groups have chosen.

Step 4: Sum it All Up

Direct students to the final question on the worksheet that asks them to individually or in groups come up with two or three petroglyph symbols that might be found in todays society to help signify the current culture in the Southwest. (keeping in mind the importance of survival) Have students present their petroglyphs to the class.


Students will complete the objectives by filling out their completed worksheets as well interpretation of petroglyphs based around cultural and natural resources present during the time of the Ancestral Puebloans. Students will do this by presenting their posters with petroglyph images.

Park Connections

This and subsequent lessons tie in the importance of environmental education, as well as its connection to Ancestral Puebloan culture, resource, and geology of the Albuquerque area



EXTENTIONS: Either before or after lesson is taught:

Have a ranger from Petroglyph NM come and present the Ancestral Puebloan traveling trunk OR bring your students to our park. Information about this and other trunks available are found by calling 899-0205 ext. 332 and scheduling a visit!  All traveling trunks are alligned to Common Core Standards and Benchmarks.

(for older students) For further research, have students look at another national park in New Mexico and compare and contrast the culture of that region to the culture at Petroglyph National Monument. (These parks below are also located on the right side of the screen) What to do these parks have in common with Petroglyph NM?

Bandelier NM, Aztec Ruins NM, Chaco Culture NHP, El Mapais NM, Pecos NHP, Gila Cliff Dwellings NM, and Salinas Pueblo Missions NM

This final follow up is a good lesson if a teacher wants to discuss the importance of carbon footprinting in the classroom. The lesson can be taught any way or manner depending on age appropriateness. The idea of this lesson is to get students to develop their understanding of how we live today, the use of resources and how these impacts have resulted in changes in our culture, living and lifestyle choices as compared to the Ancestral Puebloans. This lesson uses digital game-based learning to introduce the topic of carbon footprinting. Have students take this quiz either with a partner or individually, and then follow up with a comparison of our different cultural lifestyles:

Additional Resources

Teacher resources:

Bruggmann, Maximilien. Pueblos: prehistoric Indian Cultures of the Southwest. Facts on File inc,: New York, 1990.

Keegan, Marcia. Pueblo People: Ancient Traditions Modern Lives. Clear Light Publishers: Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1999.



Culture: A set of shared beliefs and traditions in a given commnity that have been passed down from one generation to another. Culture is so complex and multi-faceted that it can be taught as a single lense of focus the entire Social Studies curricula to understand our past.
Symbolism: Objects and/or abstract ideas represent something larger to a particular group or groups of people.
Petroglyphs: A petroglyph is a carving on a rock. A petroglyph image is made by chipping away a layer of a rock’s surface and exposing a lighter color underneath to be able to see the image. Petroglyphs are unique in that they are found ALL over the world, all representing different parts of our past. Through these images, we are able to uncover ideas about cultural developement in New Mexico.