Lesson Plan

Hidatsa Tribe Use of Prairie Plants

Image displayed on laptop screen. Image is of 3 purple, wispy flowers extending out of green grasses.

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Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
3.RI.4, 3.RI.5, 4.RI.4, 4.RI.7, 5.RI.4, 5.RI.7, 4.SL.1, 4.SL.1.b, 4.SL.1.c, 4.SL.1.d, 4.SL.2
State Standards:
North Dakota Social Studies:SS.; SS. 
North Dakota Computer Science: CS.3.HS.2; CS.4.A.1; CS.3.IP.1; CS.4.IP.2; CS.6.HS.3.
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. 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.

Essential Question

How do I find and use reliable information on websites?
How did the Hidatsa tribe use native prairie plants?


Students will be able to search for and utilize information on a reputable website.
Students will be able to name and describe how at least two native prairie plants could replace a common medicine or food item.


  • The iNaturalist website is a reputable site with a wealth of information supported by everday naturalists from around the globe. If you enjoy this lesson and your students are asking for more, check out the iNaturalist training lesson plan. While iNaturalist requires a sign-in, the teacher can create one log-in for the class to use. Since the students are not inputting information, they do not need unique usernames and passwords. Please note because of the online community interaction, iNaturalist does not allow individuals under 13 years old to have their own account. Check out the teacher’s link on the iNaturalist website to find out how elementary school teachers use this valuable website safely with their students.
  •  Prairie restoration is a priority at Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site. North American prairie ecosystems used to cover 1.4 million square miles of land. Now (2019) it is only a small fraction of what it used to be. Prairies were prevalent when the Hidatsa tribe lived in the Knife River Indian Villages. Hidatsa tribe members used the prairie plants for many different purposes to support and sustain their community. They used different parts of plants for healing, food, play, battle, and spirituality. Some plants were commonly used by everyone in the tribe, while others were used only by tribe elders with a right to use a particular plant for a specific purpose. An important component of using the prairie was giving back to the prairie. Hidatsa tribe members only took what they needed and never the entire collection of the species. They also gave a tobacco offering to the land where they pulled the plant. It was important to take care of the land just as the land took care of them.



This document is a PDF fillable form. Send the document to each student. They will respond directly on the form then save as a word document. This document can be emailed to the teacher or printed for submission. Blank document can also be printed for a paper and pencil assignment instead.

Download Hidatsa Tribe Use of Prairie Plants

Lesson Hook/Preview

Bring in empty bottles of common over-the-counter medicines, staple food items, and games. Ask the students what each is for and who has used / eaten / played with each item. Share with the students that in the next 45 minutes, they will learn how to take care of their needs for medicine, food, and play using only native prairie plants!


  • Step One: Lesson Hook (explained above)
  • Step Two: Discuss the vocabulary words with students (listed below).
  • Step Three: Demonstrate the activity by completing the Hidatsa Tribe Use of Prairie Plants fillable form document with the class. Depending on the technology skill level of the students, one or more mini-lessons listed below may need to be taught.
  • Mini-Lesson: If doing solely on the computer, teach students how to copy and paste iNaturalist plant pictures into the fillable form image area.
  • Mini-Lesson: Show students how to use a hyperlink. Show students how to use ALT-Tab keys to toggle between their document and the website.
  • Mini-Lesson: Emphasize all of the plant pictures are someone’s original work. Therefore, students must add an image credit to the picture when using it for this assignment and for other projects, such as power points. Show how the Creative Commons citation works. Click on the information button at the bottom of a picture. Then click on ‘some rights reserved’ next to attribution. This will take you to the Creative Commons website specifically for that copyright information. (Students can find the copyright information for each picture by clicking on the cc button at the bottom of a picture.)
  • Mini-Lesson: Show students how to Save-As a word document. Then, students can either print and submit or email their work to the teacher.
  • Step Four: Divide students into work groups. Groups should be no more than 3 students to allow for maximum time on the computer.
  • Step Five: Independent Work. Give time for the students to work on the assignment while the teacher walks around to support their work. If a group finishes early, students can be assigned to help other students who are struggling with technology.
  • Step Six: Optional group review. Student groups email their completed document to another group (CC the teacher on this email). They attach the word document to an email. In the body of the email, the group summarizes what they learned about the specific plant.


  • Naturalist – A scientist who specializes in studying nature or a life scientist
  • iNaturalist – A citizen science project and online social network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists biodiversity information around the world.
  • Observation – A personal encounter with a plant, animal, insect, etc recorded on the iNaturalist website.
  • Research grade – An assessment of an observation’s accuracy showing that the naturalist community agrees with the identification of a species.
  • Ethnobotany – The study of a region’s plants and their practical uses through the traditional knowledge of a local culture and people.
  • Native vs Non-native – Description of whether a plant or animal was grown in a region naturally or planted here by people.
  • Abundance – The amount or quantity of an object, like a plant species.
  • Copyright – A law that gives the owner of a product the right to decide what other people can do with it. One example of a copyright product is a picture.

Assessment Materials

Formal and Informal Assessment

Grade the completed document for accuracy and effort (formal). Teacher should also include student’s progress throughout the class period (informal). Did the student ask 'how-to' questions and apply the answers to his or her computer work? Did the student actively discuss the native plant uses with other students?

Supports for Struggling Learners

  • Tell students the name of the plant you want them to research. Send them a link to the exact observation site on the project.
  • Print the Hidatsa Tribe Use of Prairie Plants document. Students can research online but write their answers on the printed document.

Enrichment Activities

  • Encourage the students to draw details of the plants they chose. Creatively write the native uses of this plant around the drawing. Hang up drawings in the classroom.
  • Create a class book of native plant health remedies.
  • Ask students to organize the information by category rather than by plants. (ie: In order to relieve headaches, the Hidatsa tribe used the following plants.)
  • Graph the number of plants with which each need could be satisfied (ie: Relieving headaches can be done by x number of plants.).

Additional Resources

  • Wilson, G. L. (2014). Uses of Plants by the Hidatsas of the Northern Plains (M. Scullin, Ed.). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
  • Zedeno M.N, Miller S., Murray W., & Hollenback K. (2009). Draft Plant Field Guide KNRI and Environs, North Dakota.


Related Lessons or Education Materials

  • iNaturalist training lesson 
  • Field Trip to KNRI to do a hands-on cover class study and discover the biodiversity of the current prairie restoration plots.

Contact Information

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Last updated: July 31, 2019