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Native American Cultures

Students "visit" field sites to study the ancient and modern-day Native American cultures of New Mexico, Utah, and Washington.


3–5, 6–8, 9–12

Activity Type

  • Activities and Games

Scholastic’s Native American Cultures project (grades 4–8) gives students a better appreciation of the richness and variety of Native American cultures. In conjunction with the Earthwatch Institute, students “visit” three field sites: one in New Mexico, where archaeological teams excavate an ancient Native American settlement; one in Utah, where scientists document ancient Native American rock art; and one in Washington, where scientists interview local Native Americans to learn about the Skagit River and how to save its wild salmon population.

Through on-the-scene field reports, photographs, interviews with scientists and others on the site, students learn how Earthwatch teams uncover historical clues and work to preserve important cultural artifacts.


Oral History of Washington State’s Skagit River

  • First, students read about the Skagit River, one of the last best salmon-fishing rivers in North America, where Native Americans have fished for years. Includes a video of swimming salmon.
  • An expedition map helps students grasp the geographic location of the field site.
  • Detailed field reports share a salmon’s life cycle, how populations have declined, an interview with a tribal elder (with audio), a visit to a fish hatchery, and more. 
  • Students then Meet an Explorer, Dr. Edward Liebow, who’s studied Native American cultures for over 30 years.

Canyon Rock Art in Southeastern Utah

  • First, students read about the Native American people who lived in the canyon lands of southeastern Utah more than 2,000 years ago, and how we can learn about them by studying the 300+ rock art paintings that still exist today.
  •  Detailed field reports share incredible photos of rock art, what they might mean, and how the Earthwatch team analyzes them.
  •  Students then Meet an Explorer, Sally Cole, a consulting archaeologist and researcher with the Utah Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City, whose specialty is studying rock art.

Prehistoric Pueblos in Southwestern New Mexico

  • First, students read up on the homes of Native Americans who lived more than 1,000 years ago in the Rio Alamosa valley of southwestern New Mexico.
  • Detailed field reports offer details on the archeological sites, artifacts the scientists find, and important discoveries they make along the way.
  • Students can then Meet an Explorer, archeologist Karl Laumbach who’s directed hundreds of projects in southern New Mexico.

In addition to the activities above, students can also Be an Explorer by researching a local Native American tribe and publishing a report on their subject.


Learning Objectives

While participating in the Native American Cultures project, students will:

  • Discuss the importance of exploring and preserving ancient artifacts
  • Read online texts from the Field Sites and Field Reports to build comprehension of the process of exploration and to gain an understanding of other cultures
  • Use a variety of technological and informational resources to conduct research about their state's past and present Native American cultures
  • Gather, evaluate and synthesize data from a variety of sources Communicate their discoveries in the form of a presentation or an informational essay
  • Trace historical developments of a specific culture
  • Identify the values, lifestyles, and cultures of varied Native American groups
My Scholastic

Susan Cheyney

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