|Grades 3 and up History,
Math, Geography, Social Studies, Environmental
| Human adaptation to
the natural environment, numeration, problem-solving.
- demonstrate numeracy skills, including
the ability to use appropriate symbols
- identify similarities and differences
found in First Nations and European-Canadian
cultures in the past and the present;
- describe the relationship between
people of different types of societies
and the natural environment throughout
|Students can complete this
lesson in a single block of time through
the integration of subjects over the course
of one day. It can also be taught in five
|This lesson is one example
taken from a unit on the Plains Bison and
First Nations People. As part of this unit,
the students observed bison in their natural
setting, built a life-sized sculpture of
a bison, and researched and recreated artifacts
and activities related to the hunt. Students
also prepared and presented a 45-minute
drama at the Children’s Festival using
masks, hides and other props. The drama
explained the habits of the bison, the relationship
between the bison and First Nations people,
and the arrival of the Europeans.
Using FurTradeStories.ca, you can search
or browse to find images, documents and
audio clips related to bison hunting.
Part of understanding the bison is knowing
that millions of them once lived on the
prairies. Most people have difficulty conceptualizing
large numbers. The students learned that
over 60,000,000 bison once roamed the great
plains of North America. They also learned
that by the late 1800s, there were only
18-35 animals left. The students could recite
this information but they could not comprehend
such an enormous loss.
|I filled a clear, plastic,
one-litre container with dried navy beans.
Each student estimated the number of beans
in the container and wrote down their estimation.
I then divided the beans onto styrofoam
meat trays and gave one tray to each student.
The students counted the beans on their
tray and wrote their tally on the chalkboard.
When all the tallies were on the board,
we discussed the different ways students
had counted them. For example, some students
made piles of ten, whereas others had counted
by ones, twos or fives. Using calculators,
the students added up the tallies.
We then calculated the volume of a large
cardboard box. Once we knew how many litres
the box could hold, we calculated how many
beans it would take to fill the box. (A
box with a volume of 10 litres would hold
10 times the number of beans in one litre.)
The next task for the students was to calculate
how many boxes they would need to hold 60,000,000
beans. Students used a variety of problem-solving
strategies. Finally, we compared the number
of boxes we needed to the space available
in the classroom.
At the conclusion of these mathematics activities,
I showed the students a handful of beans
and explained that these beans represented
all that was left of the bison approximately
10 years after the arrival of the Europeans.
|The next step was to imagine
how the First Nations people must have been
affected by this sudden loss. I brought
in 25 empty, one-litre containers of milk
to the classroom. I had the students imagine
that there were only 25 litres of milk left
in the city. Milk is a very important food
to children. We discussed various issues
related to going out in search of the remaining
milk. We discussed various issues such as:
As part of this discussion, groups of students
role-played a few people purchasing milk
in our current situation of plenty. We then
contrasted it with the same people would
react in a shortage.
- Where would we look for the milk?
- How much time would be required to
find this milk compared to the amount
of time we usually spent getting milk?
- What activities would we give up
in order to search for milk?
- How many other people would also
be looking for this milk?
- What are the chances of finding the
milk and what are the consequences of
not finding any milk?
|The lesson concluded by comparing
how the extermination of the bison affected
Native families and how the collapse of
the cod fisheries has affected Maritime
families. These activities enabled the students
to look beyond statistics and reflect upon
the consequences of such loss for real people.
We also made predictions about which natural
resources were currently being over-harvested
and which ones would likely lead to economic
hardship in the future. My students selected
forestry and predicted that the families
of lumberjacks would experience similar
| clear plastic one-litre
dried navy beans
class set of styrofoam meat trays
class set of calculators
large cardboard box
metre sticks for calculating volume
20-30 empty one-litre milk cartons
newspaper clippings and electronic
media resources on the effects of the codfish
Ken Marland won the Governor
General’s Award for Excellence in Teaching
Canadian History in 2002. His grade 2 students
are often found outside of the classroom,
in the community exploring its resources.
Throughout his career, Ken has attempted
to create experiences for students of all
grades that pass along his own love of history.
He developed a miniature stamp album of
Saskatoon to assist children in learning
about their local history. Another project,
The Bison: A Journal of Discovery,
was developed for a grade 4 class at an
inner-city school. Students study the plains
bison and its relationship to the Native
people and the first Europeans on the prairies.
The unit culminates in a dramatic retelling
of the history performed by his students.
Inspired by a conference trip to St. John’s,
Ken created Signal Hill: A community
study of St. John’s Newfoundland,
designed to explore the maritime community.
It begins with the purchase and dissection
of squid, and continues with the construction
of 3D models of lighthouses and the city
of St. John’s. At the request of the
University of Saskatoon, Ken published a
monograph titled The Affective Dimension
of Concept Development, in which he
describes how to teach Social Studies from
a problem-solving perspective.