Lesson Plan

Our Common History

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Grade Level:
Third Grade-Fifth Grade
American Indian History and Culture, Anthropology, Hispanic or Latino American History and Culture, History, Language Arts
30 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 36
indoors or outdoors
National/State Standards:
Colorado Social Studies: 4th grade 1.1, 1.2
Colorado Reading/Writing: 3rd grade 2.2; 4th grade 2.2; 5th grade 2.2


Students will understand through chronological problem-solving and reading skills a summarized account of the human history of Great Sand Dunes.


Students will understand through chronological problem-solving and reading skills a summarized account of the human history of Great Sand Dunes.


A great variety of archaeological and anthropological evidence of human presence has been discovered in and around the Great Sand Dunes, revealing parts of a rich story that has unfolded here over thousands of years. That story includes chapters added by many different cultures. It is interesting to note their unique perspectives and experiences in and around the sand dunes as well as the commonalities among their day-to-day experiences.

Large projectile points found near the dunes in association with mammoth and prehistoric bison bones indicate that Clovis people once hunted these animals here. Extensive scatters of manos andmetates suggest that pine nuts, small grains, and roots were gathered and processed throughout the area for thousands of years. Large scars on living ponderosa pines and stories from regional tribes point to the use of this tree's inner bark as food and medicine by early people. Written accounts of this high desert wilderness from 17th Century Spanish explorers are the first historical records of the San Luis Valley. Information from oral histories and the remnants of settlements and structures develop details of the homesteading years, when people made their livings from sheep, cattle, and to a lesser extent mining.

Although the story of humanity as individuals, generations, and nations never ceases to be unique, it is also interesting to examine the broad commonalities among people which are essential for the understanding of ourselves. What different cultures and societies have called this same landscape "home"? What do we have in common with the peoples of recent history and with those of the ancient past? Does history really repeat itself? This activity may help you and your students discover some answers as they investigate the chronology of diverse societies that have inhabited the region around Great Sand Dunes.

Explore Great Sand Dunes' web page on History and Culture to learn more about early peoples of the dunes area.


History Story Segments (PDF)



Students' ability to work together and organize themselves correctly will assess their ability to chronologically organize historical events and cultures.


Have each group research the period of history that was on their card and write a new story segment with expanded details. Read the new, expanded version of the story together.

Where does the story begin and where does it end? What did any of the people in the story have in common? Do you have anything in common with the people in the story? (Give an example from your life or your family.)


archaeologist, Clovis, hunter-gatherer, nomadic people

Last updated: February 24, 2015