Lesson Plan

Pioneer Survival

White Snakeroot


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Grade Level:
Kindergarten-Fourth Grade
Biology: Animals, Biology: Plants, Environment, Family Life, Health, History, Nutrition, Social Studies
Group Size:
Up to 36 (6-12 breakout groups)
National/State Standards:
Indiana Curriculum Standards:  K.1.1, 1.1.1, 2.1.1, 3.1.2, 3.1.4, 4.1.6, 4.3.8


During the game “Oh No! Sickness!” students will collect the things the Lincoln family needed to survive.  They will learn that pioneers who got sick didn’t have the medicines we have today to help them get better.


Students will be able to:

1. Work productively in small groups to collect all the cards needed to make a home.

2. Make appropriate decisions to collect the needed cards.


Thomas and Elizabeth Sparrow, Nancy's uncle and aunt, with their 18-year-old nephew Dennis Hanks, followed the Lincolns to Indiana and moved into a rough shelter on the Lincoln farm until they could find land and settle. Their coming cheered Nancy and gave young Abraham a companion and Thomas another work hand.


Within a year, both Sparrows died as victims of the dreaded "milk sickness" (white snakeroot poisoning) that swept through southwestern Indiana in the late summer of 1818. No doctors lived nearby, and there were no known remedies. A few weeks later Nancy also became a victim of the "milk sickness" and died on October 5, 1818. Abraham was only 9 and Sarah 11.


36 cards total

6 Animals

6 Home (log cabin)

6 Water (ex. spring, well, stream)

6 Land

6 Food

5 Trees

1 Sickness


Park Connections

For the early 19th century Indiana pioneer, the forests where he moved were both a blessing and a curse. The dense growth of trees and underbrush were sometimes almost impenetrable and clearing the land was a seemingly never-ending chore. But it was also the forests that provided so much of what was needed. It was from the trees that he obtained logs for his home and the wood from which he fashioned tools, furniture, and other utensils necessary for frontier life.


One of the major necessities of life for the pioneers was clothing. Ready-made, store-bought clothing was scarce on the frontier. As a result, most of what they wore was what they could make themselves. Moccasins could be made of tanned buckskin and breeches and shirts of dressed skin worked soft and then by hand. Once cultivated, the flax plant was a good source of raw material for clothing. Wool was also very important in the pioneers' efforts to provide themselves with adequate apparel. The preparation of these materials and the production of homemade clothing was a significant part of the pioneers' lives.


Obtaining food to cook over the fire occupied a large amount of the pioneers' time. Hunting was the primary means of obtaining meat for the earliest settlers. Indiana in the early 19th century was rich in natural resources and game was abundant. Deer and bear were plentiful and pigeons were reported in flocks so large that they darkened the sky when they flew over. As the state became more heavily settled, hunting became more of a challenge and the pioneer came to rely more upon agriculture to feed his family.

Last updated: April 10, 2015