Lesson Plan

The Arrowhead: Emblem of the National Park Service

NPS Arrowhead
What do the different pictures on this emblem mean?

NPS Photo

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Grade Level:
Second Grade-Eighth Grade
American Indian History and Culture, Ecology, Glaciers, Historic Preservation, Maritime History, Social Studies, Wildlife Management
1-2 class periods
Group Size:
Up to 36 (6-12 breakout groups)
National/State Standards:
Standards described on downloadable PDF lesson plan


In this lesson students will learn about the mission of the National Park Service and how it relates to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore through a guided exploration of elements represented on the NPS Arrowhead. Older students will also learn the difference between sites administered by the National Park Service and those administered by state and local governments.


After completing this lesson, the student will be able to

  • explain the meaning of the five elements represented on the NPS Arrowhead emblem.
  • give examples of each of the elements as they apply to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.


There are two versions of this activity aimed at different age/ability levels. The version for younger students involves viewing a PowerPoint about the Arrowhead emblem and Sleeping Bear Dunes, then creating their own emblem. The version for older students involves reading a brief piece about the significance of the Arrowhead, then visiting the park website to find out how the Arrowhead relates to Sleeping Bear Dunes. 4th and 5th grade teachers should examine both versions and decide which best matches the ability level of their students.

Although this lesson is intended as a pre-visit activity for field trip groups, it could also serve as an introduction to any NPS-related classroom activity such as research projects for older students.


The two versions of this lesson (one for grades 2-4 and one for grades 5-8) use the downloadable worksheets and introductions provided below.



Grades 2-4

Students can demonstrate what they have learned by sharing and explaining their designs with the class.  (If a document camera is available, designs should be displayed via data projector as they share.)  After designs have been shared and collected, the teacher may elect to give a quiz by again displaying the real NPS emblem and having students describe briefly in writing what the elements represent.


Grades 5-8

A basic assessment of student learning can be as simple as having students write descriptions of the meaning of each element of the Arrowhead emblem, and giving one or two examples of how each applies to Sleeping Bear Dunes.  Depending on the method of group reporting, the teacher may also choose to incorporate an effort grade to reward active participation.

Park Connections

Learning the significance of the NPS arrowhead emblem creates a context for students and helps them appreciate that park policies and regulations exist for the purposes of resource protection and preservation.


 Grades 5-8

  • During the process of hunting for the answers to their questions, many students will find other things about the Lakeshore that intrigue them. Have students choose a park-related topic to investigate in depth, then create a product such as a poem, the retelling of a story, a drawing, report, etc.
  • Have students explore statistics about the various types and numbers of parks within their county, state, or country.

Additional Resources

In-depth information on many park-related subjects can be found in an excellent series of Visitor Guides provided by Friends of Sleeping Bear at friendsofsleepingbear.org/projects/booklets/.