Lesson Plan

Sustainability: Lessons from the Anishinaabek

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
State Standards:
MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
8 – U4.2.3 Westward Expansion – analyze the annexation of the west through the Louisiana Purchase, the removal of Indigenous Peoples
Additional Standards:
Next Generation Science Standards: MS-ESS3-5 Earth and Human Activity

Essential Question

What can we learn from traditional Anishinaabek culture to make us better stewards of the environment?


Students will learn…

The tradeoffs between subsistence living and modern technology-based living.

How different activities and livelihoods have very different environmental impacts.

The definition of sustainability and unsustainability using historical examples.



45-60 mins. The program takes place indoors due to the need to view the PowerPoint, but could also be done remotely using breakout groups for the main activity. The program will begin with students together as one group, then split into smaller groups before reuniting at the end for individual/partner work. 


Resources/Materials Needed: 

  • Writing utensils 

  • “Sustainability” PowerPoint 

  • Projector screen (or individual laptops if remote) 

  • “The Union of Corn and Bean” story sheets 

  • “Pioneers/Natives in the Wilderness” activity sheets 


This powerpoint has alt text embedded within the program. Begin the PowerPoint showing an introduction to the concept of sustainability and a snapshot of settler and Anishinaabe life in the late 1800's.

Download Powerpoint

Download Settlers and Native Peoples


Program Outline: 


Begin the PowerPoint showing an introduction to the concept of sustainability and a snapshot of settler and Anishinaabe life in the late 1800’s. 


To convey the Anishinaabek relationship with the environment, have students watch the Birch Tree video with Eric Hemenway of Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians, then have students read an oral tradition from the Odawa tribe titled “The Union of Corn and Bean”. Resume PowerPoint until the activity slide. 


Have students split into groups for the activity “Settlers/Natives in the Wilderness” 

  • Setting: 

  • Platte Plains area for Anishinaabek family; Port Oneida for settler family 

  • Year is 1880 

  • Backstory: 

  • Members of the Odawa tribe, based near Platte Lake 

  • German immigrants, via New York City/Buffalo, NY 

  • Time of year is Spring. Each group must discuss what they will do to prepare for the next winter. 



Have one representative from each group list what they came up with. What do they notice about the environmental impacts of their activities? How do they differ? 



As a wrap-up, tell student’s we’re fast forwarding to the present day and have them compare different lifestyles of traditional Native Americans, early American settlers, and today’s modern society using the “A Look at Lifestyles” worksheet

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Last updated: May 14, 2021