Exploring Native American Agriculture Project-Based Learning Unit

Exploring Native American Agriculture
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A Historical Native American Agriculture Lesson and Community Citizenship Project

Build background knowledge of the transition from hunting to farming, create and play a game of "Hunt and Gather or Farm and Feast," explore the Native American legends behind the "Three Sisters" crops, design, create, and decorate a clay coiled pot for "seed keeping," learn about and use Native American symbols in a culturally-responsive manner, and synthesize that knowledge by planning a a community service project that embodies Native American ideals about nature.

Your students will learn about historical Native American agricultural practices in this project-based learning unit for grades 3-5 social studies. They'll learn all about the transition from hunter/gather society to farming communities, dive into the legends and reality of the Three Sisters crops, design, create, and decorate clay coiled pots for seed-keeping, and work together on a community service project that embodies the Native American ideals about the natural world and resources.

What's Inside

Packed with hands-on inquiry-based activities, extensions and enhancements, cross-curricular independent and group work, and engaging and interactive challenges, this 69-page project-based unit comes complete with:

  • For the Teacher: A complete Native American Agriculture Lesson Plan with step-by-step instructions for all activities, teaching tips, assessment guidance, and inquiry questions.
  • For Students: A full-color Student Pack complete with all of the printables, slides, photos, and instructions students need for the research, experiments and activities - just print (or share) and teach!

A complete, ready-to-teach Teacher Pack that includes:

  1. Teacher versions of all the student printables with step-by-step annotations and notes for teaching Native American Agriculture;
  2. Formative and summative assessments, answer keys, and a full project rubric;
  3. Instructions and guidance for the extension activities and project enhancements;
  4. Materials and resources lists, links to articles, videos, and research, plus additional resources for lecture and presentation.

What's Included

Lesson Plan - Step-by-Step Project Guide

  • Milestone 1: From Hunters to Farmers
  • Milestone 2: Companion Planting
  • Milestone 3: Saving Seeds
  • Milestone 4: Pots and Symbols
  • Milestone 5: Heirlooms 

Teacher and Student Resources

  • Materials List for the Projects in this Unit
  • Books About Native American Life (optional)
  • Native Land: Whose Land Was Your School Built On? Activity
  • Native American Contributions to American Culture Reading Passage
  • What Did Native Americans Teach European Settlers Activity and Answer Key
  • A Guide to Making Popcorn Handout
  • From Nomadism to Farming Reading Passage
  • From Nomads to Farmers Activity and Answer Key
  • Hunt and Gather or Farm and Feast Game Instructions
  • Deer and Corn Cards Handout for Hunt and Gather or Farm and Feast Game
  • Hunt and Gather or Farm and Feast Wrap--Up Writing Prompt
  • Milestone #1 Inquiry Question Writing Prompt
  • How Are we Different? Reflection Activity
  • You've Got a Friend in Me Activity and Answer Key
  • The Three Sisters (Corn, Beans, Squash) Reading Passage
  • Three Sisters Images Handouts: Corn, Beans, Squash
  • Milestone #2 Inquiry Question Writing Prompt
  • Making a Coiled Pot Reading Passage
  • Native American Pottery Activity and Answer Key
  • Teaching Tips for Making Coiled Pots
  • Milestone #3 Inquiry Question Writing Prompt 
  • Native American Agriculture Quick Quiz and Answer Key
  • Family Heirlooms Research/Interview Activity
  • Native American Symbols and Meaning Handout
  • Classroom Seed Pot Design Drawing and Labeling Activity
  • Pottery Design Sheet
  • Teacher Notes for Coiled Seed Pots Design 
  • Milestone #4 Inquiry Question Writing Prompt
  • Voting Slips Handout for Community Project Activity
  • Global Citizen Project Proposal Worksheet
  • Teacher Notes for Community Project Ideas
  • Heirloom Seeds and Their Role in Preserving Agricultural Heritage Teaching Notes
  • Milestone #5 Inquiry Question Writing Prompt
  • Native American Agriculture Summative Assessment and Answer Key
  • Native American Agriculture Project Rubric
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Lesson Plan - Exploring Native American Agriculture Project-Based Learning Lesson
Teacher Pack - Exploring Native American Agriculture Project-Based Learning Lesson
Student Pack - Exploring Native American Agriculture Project-Based Learning Lesson


This project-based learning lesson is designed to support and reinforce the concepts taught as part of a social studies lesson or unit on Native Americans. It is built around 5 inquiry-based milestones that incorporate cross-curricular hands-on projects, formative and summative assessments, independent and group activities, and extensions.


In the course of this project-based learning unit, students will:

  • Build background knowledge about the Native American transition from nomadism to farming;
  • Explore the Native American legends behind the Three Sisters crops and contrast the with the real-world reliance on these three staples;
  • Design and create Native American coiled pots for seed-keeping (or planting) using quick-dry clay;
  • Learn about Native American symbols and how to use them in culturally-responsive ways to decorate their pots;
  • "Show what they know" by planning a community service project that embodies the Native American ideals around nature and resources.


Students will acquire necessary background knowledge of Native American agriculture as part of this project, and instructional materials for providing that background are included in the Teacher Pack. 


This project-based unit is divided into 5 milestones. The minimum suggested duration for completing this project-based unit is 5 class periods. However, the unit is completely flexible can be lengthened or shortened as necessary or desired, based on available class time and interest level.


  • Internet access


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