Lesson Plan

The People and the Land (On the Move)

Native Alaskan filleting a fish
Native Alaskans have long used the land and resources of the Denali area

NPS Photo / Neil Blake

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Grade Level:
Fifth Grade-Sixth Grade
American Indian History and Culture, Anthropology, Archaeology, Climate, Geography, Social Studies, Sociology
Three 90 minute sections
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
National Standards for ...
Social Studies:
Standards I, III, IV, VII

Elements 1, 4, 5


In "People and the Land (On the Move)," students will learn the concept of meeting needs to survive; reasons for human migration; and the affects of geography on travel.

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 1 of the unit.


Guiding Question: Why did Alaska Natives in the Denali area move about? How does geography affect the movement of people?

Critical Content: Reasons for native moment in the Denali area. The affects of geography on travel routes.

Student Objectives: Students will ...

  • infer reasons for movement.
  • plot information on a map.
  • provide reasons to support decisions.



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


Four different colors of construction paper, with enough of each color to make one 3x3 inch square for each student in your class. (If this is an activity that you will repeat in the future, you may want to laminate your paper or use poker chips or colored tongue depressors in place of the paper squares.)

Masking tape and marker.




To make the activity non-movement oriented: Begin activity with the same opening discussion about what humans must have for survival. Divide students into groups of 4. (If you have a group larger than four, you will need to add at least one more of each of the following cards to the group's card set: Food, Water, Shelter, Clothing.) Print out On the Move Game Cards(pdf), copy, cut them out, and give each group a set of the cards.

To play:

1. The object of the game is for the students to get one card of each survival need (Food, water, shelter, clothing) to win.

2. The dealer deals out five cards to each student and then places the remainder of the cards face down in a pile in the center of the group. Students must have five cards in their hands at all times until they are ready to go out of the game.

3. The student to the dealer's right begins the round by discarding one card face up in a second pile and drawing from the face down pile. Players may choose to draw from the face up pile or the face down pile, but must always draw one card and discard one card for every turn.

4. Players may receive cards that have "skip your turn" on it. They discard the "skip your turn" card into the face up pile and pass the play onto the next player. "Take another turn" cards may NOT be picked up from the face up pile after a player discards them.

5. To win, student must collect one card of each need (food, water, shelter, clothing) and will discard their 5th and final card to the face up pile. Teacher may choose to mark this as the ending of the game OR the game can continue until all participants have their needs met.


1. Limit the number of each color of squares available and repeat the game. After the round, discuss what happens when resources run out or aren't enough to support the population. How do humans respond? Make a prediction of what the natives in the Denali area did.

2. Have students break into small groups of four or five students. Each group must come up with an addition to the game that will include an item of trade found in their area.

Last updated: April 14, 2015