Unit Study for Native American Heritage Month

Add some interest to your teens’ Social Studies class: high school unit study for Native American Heritage Month.

High School Unit Study for Native American Heritage Month

High School Unit Study for Native American Heritage Month

One excellent way to level up or help build a Carnegie unit credit for the high school transcript is to do a unit study on a special related topic. With that in mind, here is a high school unit study for Native American Heritage Month.

A good unit study for high schoolers will cover several different subject areas. In this case we will cover:

  • Literature
  • Writing
  • Social Studies (people groups, culture, current events, American History)
  • Science
  • Fine Arts
  • Philosophy/World View
  • Phys ed jingle dance lessons and workout
  • Current events

Often when we think about America’s Indigenous peoples, we think about the Pilgrims, the Trail of Tears or “cowboys and Indians” television shows of the 1950s. However, Native Americans are still here today.

It is good for teens to add some richness to their understanding of the history and the current events of America’s first peoples. While this cannot be a comprehensive course because it is a unit study format (that will only last a week or two), high schoolers will benefit from some fresh information about Native Americans.

 

Native Americans are still here.

Here is a Unit Study for Native American Heritage Month

Note: Log hours for activities and keep book lists so that appropriate credit can be given. (More details later in this post.) For information on logging hours, see this post.

Unit Study for Native American Heritage Month Goals

The goals of this unit study is to:

Enrich high schoolers’ awareness of Indigenous peoples in American

  • Aid growth in social and cultural intelligence
  • Add interest and richness to homeschool curriculum
  • Give teens useful educational opportunities for leveling up their Social Studies credits

This unit study will not cover the entire history of Native Americans. It will simply offer some opportunities to learn new information and perspectives.

At the end of the unit study, homeschool high schoolers should be able to describe some experiences of Native Americans as well as have better perspectives on Native American heritage and contributions in America.

BTW: The term “unit study” is another way to describe integrated learning. If you would like a more in-depth discussion on how to create integrated learning experiences for your teens or homeschool co-op, check out this post.

Methods

  • Reading real books of the student’s choice
    • with accompanying book summary, reflection paper or discussion according to student’s abilities and goals
  • Writing essay, report, research paper or short story (or combination, according to student’s goals)
  • Journalling-based learning using:
    • Media: documentary videos, television series, interviews, movies
    • Journaling
  • Optional language lessons
  • Fine Arts: video presentations, art projects
  • Discussions
  • Phys Ed: video presentations, logging hours

Time Frame

The time needed for this unit study will be adjustable:

  • One week for the basics
  • Two or more weeks for teens who are interested in the books and topics and want to explore more

Grading

Grading will be by assignment, with the assignment’s grades going toward the total grade for the student’s ELA, American History, Science or Fine Arts totals.

  • Books:
    • Graded assessment (from book summary, reflection paper or discussion)
  • Writing assignments:
    • Grading by rubrics given in 7Sisters materials
  • Journaling:
    • Grading by participation (were the questions answered?)
  • Fine Arts:
    • Grading by participation (was the project completed?)
  • Guided discussion:
    • Grading by participation (did the student participate?)
  • Phys Ed:
    • Grading by participation (did the student try the activities in the videos, if appropriate for their abilities?)
  • Download this freebie for grading with rubric and how-to.

Unit Study for Native American Heritage Month

  1. The United States is a diverse nation, unfortunately many textbooks gloss over the impact and experiences of the first Americans. During Native American Heritage Month, it is useful to give students and opportunity to learn about the history and current experiences of Native Americans.
  2. Using a unit study approach allows students to:
    1. increase perspective-taking skills
    2. reflect and use critical thinking skills as they gain more social and cultural understanding and skills
    3. have some interesting educational experiences that help them understand American History better

Unit Study for Native American Heritage Month

Here are the resources you may choose from (or find your own- there’s not ONE right way).

Interactive Map

Check out this interactive map to find out which Native American tribe lived where you now live before they were removed to reservations or killed off.

Also download this Native American timeline as a reference.

Books:

Choose one book for the week.

The book you can chose from are endless. As often as possible, the book should be by a Native American author discussing some aspect of indigenous history in America or some aspect of their current experiences. Chose a book that fits your homeschool high schooler’s needs, goals and abilities.

The book can be read in various formats:

  • Traditional book form
  • Audio book
  • Family read-aloud where appropriate

Novels

  • Soldier Sister, Fly Home by Nancy Bo Flood

Memoirs or Book/Essays

  • An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz
  • Cherokee Nation: A History of Survival, Self-Determination & Identity by Bob Blackburn
  • Classified, The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer by Tracy Sorell
  • Code Talker: The One and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII by Chester Nez
  • Crazy Horse by William Matson
  • Mankiller: A Chief and Her People by Wilma Mankiller
  • Native Women of Courage by Kelly Fournel

Poetry

Documentaries

Movies

  • Buffalo Dreams (G) 2005
  • Edge of America (PG) 2003
  • Geronimo (PG-13) 1993
  • Indian Horse (not rated) 2017
  • Running Brave (PG) 1983
  • Smoke Signals (PG-13) 1998
  • Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale (PG) 1994
  • Te Ata (PG) 2016
  • The Cherokee Word for Water (PG) 2013
  • Last of His Tribe (PG-13) 1992 television
  • The Last of the Mohicans (R) 1992
  • Windtalkers (R) 2002 (Native American code talkers)

Languages

There are many different Native American languages because there are many different tribes. Some of the languages are related (like Spanish, French and Italian are related). Some are not. Your homeschool high schoolers can get a taste of different indigenous languages with these resources:

Fine Arts

Phys Ed

Information on Native American Dances

Try some dances:

Current Events:

Native News Online

Here are the lesson ideas for unit study for Native American Heritage Month. (BTW- to create an entire Social Studies credit, check out this post.)

Syllabus

Monday

  • Discuss with your teen the one-week unit study (or longer time period, according to your family’s needs). Read over week’s assignments together.
  • Make choices of reading material and writing assignments.
  • Begin reading and journalling assignments.

ELA Literature:
Read 1/4 of book (Books can be spread out over several weeks, if desired)

ELA Writing:

Choose a movie and/or a documentary and write an essay or journal response to these questions:

Pick a character from today’s movie and/or documentary. Think about their experiences.

  • How is their life similar to yours?
  • In what ways are their lives different than yours?
  • How do the differences they experience affect their opportunities and choices?
  • What are some things that helped them succeed?

Science:

Traditional Native American culture views all things as living- even fire. Within that culture, the indigenous peoples have traditionally managed their lands with controlled and respectful burnings to protect the land. This practice has been attracting more attention in California since there have been so many dangerous wildfires. Watch six-minute documentary: Native American Traditions Inform California Wildfire Preventions– KQED Arts

Discuss or journal: Imagine you live in an area that has been near a wildfire. What would that feel like to you? What do you think about the Native American practices of burning?

History:

Choose a documentary or movie from the list above or find one that would be meaningful to you. (You can count the one you watched for English/Language Arts.)

Languges:

Watch one of the videos about Native American languages or start some lessons in Cherokee or Lakota.

Fine Arts:

Pick one of the activities from the list above.

Philosophy:

In order to understand other cultures, it is helpful to notice your own culture. As humans, we tend to live our lives not noticing the things that make us culturally unique or even culturally the same as other people.

Grab your journal and jot down these things:

  • Are there famous regional foods? Do you like them?
  • In what kind of housing do you live?
  • Where do you live? (Urban, small town, rural area?)
  • What are some unique words people say in your area of the country? (such as “y’all” or “youse”)

Daily Wrap Up

  • Be sure to log hours on all the activities above.
  • End of day discussion. Discuss the journaling questions together. Do you have any thoughts you would like to discuss or explore.

Tuesday

Continue reading and inquiry-based assignments.

ELA Literature:

Read 1/4 of book (Books can be spread out over several weeks, if desired)

ELA Writing:

Choose a movie and/or a documentary and write an essay or journal response to these questions:

Pick a character from today’s movie and/or documentary. Think about their experiences.

  • How is their life similar to yours?
  • In what ways are their lives different than yours?
  • How do the differences they experience affect their opportunities and choices?
  • What are some things that helped them succeed?

Science/Career Exploration:

Sometimes people think of Native Americans as living primitively. However, many indigenous Americans are professional scientists. Check out the video: We Are Indigenous. We Are Scientists.

History:

Choose a documentary or movie from the list above or find one that would be meaningful to you. (You can count the one you watched for English/Language Arts.)

Languges:

Watch one of the videos about Native American languages or start some lessons in Cherokee or Lakota.

Fine Arts:

Pick one of the activities from the list above.

Philosophy:

In order to understand other cultures, it is helpful to compare your culture with other culture. When you are comparing cultures, do not make judgements about which is better (because neither is better, just different). Let’s compare Native American foods.

Grab your journal and watch:

As you have seen in the video, what did you learn about Native American food?

Daily Wrap Up

  • Be sure to log hours on all the activities above.
  • End of day discussion. Discuss the journaling questions together. Do you have any thoughts you would like to discuss or explore.

Wednesday

ELA Literature:

Read 1/4 of book (Books can be spread out over several weeks, if desired)

ELA Writing:

Choose the movie Hidden Figures and/or the history documentary and write an essay or journal response to these questions:

Pick a character from the movie and/or documentary. Think about their experiences.

  • How is their life similar to yours?
  • In what ways are their lives different than yours?
  • How do the differences they experience affect their opportunities and choices?
  • What are some things that helped them succeed?

Science/Food:

Watch this short documentary: Check out this story about popular Native American chef: Sioux Chef

History:

Choose a documentary or movie from the list above or find one that would be meaningful to you. (You can count the one you watched for English/Language Arts.)

Languges:

Watch one of the videos about Native American languages or start some lessons in Cherokee or Lakota.

Fine Arts:

Pick one of the activities from the list above.

Current Events:

Choose an article from Native News Online and write a one-paragraph summary.

Daily Wrap Up

  • Be sure to log hours on all the activities above.
  • End of day discussion. Discuss the journaling questions together. Do you have any thoughts you would like to discuss or explore.

Thursday

ELA Literature:

Read 1/4 of book (Books can be spread out over several weeks, if desired)

ELA Writing:

Choose the movie Hidden Figures and/or the history documentary and write an essay or journal response to these questions:

Pick a character from the movie and/or documentary. Think about their experiences.

  • How is their life similar to yours?
  • In what ways are their lives different than yours?
  • How do the differences they experience affect their opportunities and choices?
  • What are some things that helped them succeed?

History:

Choose a documentary or movie from the list above or find one that would be meaningful to you. (You can count the one you watched for English/Language Arts.)

Languges:

Watch one of the videos about Native American languages or start some lessons in Cherokee or Lakota.

Fine Arts:

Pick one of the activities from the list above.

Current Events:

Choose an article from Native News Online and write a one-paragraph summary.

Daily Wrap Up

  • Be sure to log hours on all the activities above.
  • End of day discussion. Discuss the journaling questions together. Do you have any thoughts you would like to discuss or explore.

Friday

Introduction to Essay Writing
iClick image for full description.

Complete any assignments from earlier in the week.

Write a one- or two-page essay or reflection paper on the book you read this week. You can use 7Sisters Essay Writing Guides to help you through this process if you are writing an essay. A reflection paper is simply a one- or two-page journal-type response to the book. Address these questions:

  • How did you feel reading the book?
  • Explain something new that you learned?
  • What are the characters’ similarities and differences to your experiences?

Extra credit for leveling up

Pick a topic inspired by this unit study and write your annual research paper about it. (Note: you will need to do this after the one week unit study.)

Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at 7SistersHomeschool.com, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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