Lesson Plan

The FIRST Field Trip to Tonto National Monument

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Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
1.RI.3, 4.RI.10, 5.RI.10, 1.W.3, 4.W.3, 5.W.3
State Standards:
Arizona Common Core:SS03-S1C1-P03; SS03-S1C1-PO4; SS04-S1C1-C1-PO4; SS05-S1C1-PO3
Thinking Skills:
Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words.


Students will be able to state the differences between primary and secondary sources; students will be able to give examples of each type of source. After reading a primary source, students will be able to retell the story of the first field trip to Tonto National Monument.


Background Information on Ms. Angeline Mitchell

Throughout history women have been traveling, writing, and exploring, paving the way for future generations of women to make a difference in the world. In the late 1800's a woman named Angelina Mitchell did just that. Born in 1854, Angie lived a fortunate life, having the opportunity to become a woman of high education, attending two universities, now known as Kansas State University and the University of Kansas. While she was never able to graduate due to some financial strife in her family at the time, Angie was still able to pursue a career of becoming a teacher like her mother before her. Eventually her family relocated to Prescott, Arizona where was able to teach at several different schools.

Her reputable teaching skills were talked about all across the region, and in 1880, Angie accepted a job as a school teacher in Tonto Basin. After a rough wagon ride nearly killing the entire party, Angie arrived in Tonto Basin where she relied on the accompaniment of friends of her relatives to settle into her new home. Here Angie faced a life much different than what she had experienced before in Prescott. Her home and schoolhouse were made of local trees and plants in the pole house fashion, with pillows and mattresses made of hay. While she mentions some discomfort at these new changes in her everyday life at first, Angie eventually grew fond of life in Tonto Basin. This new life in the true "wild west" provided Angie with many adventures that she would write about in her daily journal entries, including skunks sneaking into her home and waking her at night, having a pet gila monster in her classroom, and getting lost in the surrounding mountains. 

Angie even took her students on a field trip to the nearby cliff dwellings to learn about the lives of past native peoples. Throughout her life, Angie expressed a passion for Native American cliff dwellings in Arizona in both her writings and scrapbooks found full of archaeology related newspaper clippings. She describes in her journal the magnificent structures she and her students explored, narrating the various materials and building styles of the structures, as well as artifacts they found along the way.

Ahead of her time, Angie understood that the dwellings she visited were once home to people who were like her, but who had very different ways of life than she was accustomed to. She wrote:

"It seemed strange to be chatting and laughing so gaily in a house built unknown centuries ago by people unlike us in appearance but who had known joy and grief, pleasure and pain same as our race of today knows them, and who laughed, cried, sung, danced, married & died, mourned or rejoiced their lives away in this once populous town or castle, or whatever one would call it! It made an uncanny feeling come over us as we rested til moonrise and talked of this long dead people and told the little we knew concerning them. By & by the moon rose & softened the marks of time on the scarred, weather stained cliff dwellings till it was beautiful."

Angie's description of the cliff dwellings she visited is the first written record of the Salado ruins now known as Tonto National Monument. Her well-crafted words, detailed recollections, and love for the mystery of prehistoric dwellings and archaeology has opened modern eyes to how these ruins were once viewed over a century ago when pioneers were first exploring the region. 

Today at Tonto National Monument, Angie and her writing serve as a valuable resource for educating the public about early pioneer history in the Tonto Basin area and inspiring woman of all ages to follow their passion and adventure. 


1 copy per student: "Early Visitors to Tonto National Monument" and "The FIRST Field Trip to Tonto National Monument" worksheet


Primary Source: "Early Visitors to Tonto Cliff Dwellings" journal entry written by Ms. Angeline Mitchell

Download Early Visitors to Tonto Cliff Dwellings

Worksheet: "The FIRST Field Trip to Tonto National Monument:

Download The FIRST Field Trip to Tonto National Monument


1. Explain or review the definition of a primary source and give different examples of primary sources. A primary source is a record made by people who saw or took part in an event (in the past). Primary source examples: journal or diary entry, newspaper article, photograph, birth certificate, artifacts, etc.

2. Introduce Angeline Mitchell and how the class will be reading a passage from her diary about the first field trip to some local ruins. Pass out copies of "Early Visitors to Tonto Cliff Dwellings" and "The FIRST Field Trip to Tonto National Monument" worksheet; have the students read the passage and complete the worksheet.

3. Explain or review the diffrences between primary and secondary sources. The passage is a primary source (journal or diary entry) while the summary written by the students is a secondary source. A secondary source is a record of an event written by someone not there at the time. Secondary source examples: encylopedias, text books

Assessment Materials

Concluding Discussion Question

If you (the student) visit Tonto National Monument and write about your experience, would that be a primary source? Why or why not?

Contact Information

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Last updated: November 21, 2016