Lesson Plan

The Arrowhead: Emblem of the National Park Service Middle School Lesson

Arrowhead Emblem

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.3, 6-8.RH.7
State Standards:
Michigan State Social Studies Standards 6th Grade: G3.2.1 Explain how and why ecosystems differ as a consequence of differences in latitude, elevation, and human activities.
Thinking Skills:
Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.


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 emblem. By the end of the lesson, students will be able to answer the questions:

*How do the five elements on the arrowhead emblem symbolize the NPS?
*How can the five elements on the arrowhead emblem be seen at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore?


There are two versions of this activity aimed at different age/ability levels. The version for elementary students involves viewing a PowerPoint about the arrowhead emblem and Sleeping Bear Dunes, then creating their own emblem. The version for middle school 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.


*Computer for presentation or data projector

*At least 5 student computers (preferably 1 per student)

*Arrowhead Background (grades 5-8) either copied one per student or projected onto board

*One copy for each member of the group of the assigned element worksheet. (There are five groups each with a different assigned element.)

*One copy per student of the "Arrowhead Emblem - What do you think?" 


Either print one copy per student or project the background information on the board.

Download Arrowhead Background Information

Make enough copies for each member of the group assigned to investigate this element.

Download Arrowhead Element: Plants

Make enough copies for each member of the group assigned to investigate this element.

Download Arrowhead Element: Water

Make enough copies for each member of the group assigned to investigate this element.

Download Arrowhead Element: Landforms

Make enough copies for each member of the group assigned to investigate this element.

Download Arrowhead Element: Culture

Make enough copies for each member of the group assigned to investigate this element.

Download Arrowhead Element: Animals

Lesson Hook/Preview

*Show students the logos available in this CNBC article.

*Ask students to predict what about the logo is representing. The students will most likely say it is just representing the company. 

*Explain to students that each company actually put significant thought into the logo and used the logo to represent more than just the company name. Explain that the NPS is very similar with the arrowhead emblem. Today, the students will learn the five elements of the arrowehead emblem and how those elements represent the National Park Service as a whole, as well as Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore specifically.


Part 1: Background Information

1. Print copies or use a data projector to display the document titled Arrowhead Background and have volunteers take turns reading.

Part 2: Investigation

2. Divide the class into five equal-sized groups. Each group will be responsible for performing online research to answer questions about one of the elements on the NPS arrowhead emblem as it relates to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

3. When the groups have been established, assign each group one of the elements and distribute copies of the appropriate worksheet to each member of that group.

  • The URL address of each webpage is provided on the worksheet, but the webpages may also be accessed by using the navigation labels on the left side of this page: www.nps.gov/slbe (answers to the CULTURE questions are found under History & Culture; all others are found under Nature & Science).
  • The extent to which groups are allowed to work cooperatively in completing their worksheet is up to the teacher.

Part 3: Presentation and Assessment

4. Each group should share a summary of their findings with the rest of the class. The culminating question at the end of each worksheet can serve as the basis for a verbal summary by a representative from each group, or the teacher may elect to require a more elaborate method of reporting, such as a brief PowerPoint highlighting the group’s findings.

5. To demonstrate understanding of the arrowhead emblem, students will complete the "What do you think?" assessment. Students will vote on which element they think is the most important and create a new emblem design. 


*Emblem - a symbolic object as a distinctive badge. 

*Element - a part of something, especially one that is essential or characteristic.

*Culture - the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.

*Landforms - a natural feature of the earth's surface.

*Wildlife - wild animals or native fauna of a region. 

Assessment Materials

"What Do you Think?" Assessment

Students should complete to demonstrate understanding of the elements of the emblem.

The Arrowhead Emblem - What Do You Think

Download Assessment

Supports for Struggling Learners

*Teacher-chosen heterogeneous groups for the element investigation. 

*Highlight or annotate the background information for struggling readers. 

Enrichment Activities

*Research other emblems or symbols of US government agencies, such as the Federal Communications Commission or the Environmental Protection Agency. 

*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 http://friendsofsleepingbear.org/projects/booklets/

Contact Information

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Last updated: August 11, 2015