4-6, Unit Three, Activity 2: "Native Harvest"

Students will become familiar with some of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park plants used by Native Americans for food, medicine, and construction.

Grades: 5 – 6
Time: two 1-hour sessions, with research time between
Subjects: Language arts, visual arts, life science, social science

Teacher Background:
After introducing the general background, supply as much personal information about plant uses as possible. Jeff Hart’s Native Plants and Early Peoples is an excellent source of information, history, and stories about major plants used in this area.


  • Art Paper
  • Theme Paper
  • Colored Pencils
  • Native Plants and Early Peoples, Jeff Hart and Jacqueline Moore

1. After providing introductory information on Native American plant use, explain that the class is going to do some individual research and put together a book.
2. Emphasize the importance of respecting and preserving native plants in our environment and the respect we need to show for local tribes. We are not encouraging people to gather these plants, but rather to learn about them so that we might understand more about our environment and Native American cultures.
3. Read and discuss the background information provided by Jeff Hart for one or two interesting plants. Ask the students to each select a plant from Native Plants and Early Peoples or from their own experience that they would like to research. Explain that they will have to use at least two sources, oral or written, to make this research their own.
4. Ask students to keep in mind that they will be trying to locate specimens of as many of the plants as they can when they go outdoors.
5. Supply the students with the “Questions for Plant Research” listed below. Add additional questions that might be appropriate. The questions will provide students with some direction for their research.
6. When the students have finished writing, editing, and rewriting; ask them to do illustrations of their chosen plants.
7. Have the students present their research to the class and then bind the papers and illustrations into a class book. Use the book as a reference if you visit W-GIPP.
8. Present the book to the school library when completed.

Questions for Plant Research
1. List the common and scientific names and your local tribe’s name (if available) for the plant you have chosen to research. Give a physical description of the plant.
2. How is this plant used by native peoples? What parts were used and how were they prepared for use?
3. Were there any special ceremonies or rituals observed when gathering, preparing and using this plant?
4. Are there any special legends or traditional stories involved with the use of this plant?
5. How does the plant reproduce? How does it spread into new territory?
6. In what sort of environment would you look for this plant? Does it have special requirements for soil, moisture, elevation, shelter, etc.?
7. Is this plant usually found in association with other plants?
8. Does your plant have any special relationships with other plants or animals?
9. What special contributions does your plant make to its habitat?
10. Are there any plants or animals that make life difficult for your plant? Is it a rare or threatened species?
11. What other interesting information can you supply about your plant?

Have each student compose and tell a Native-style story about a their plant, fitting the answers to their research questions into the story.

Last updated: November 8, 2017

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