The Story of the Great Plains Environment

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The Story of the Great Plains Environment Powered By Docstoc
					The Story of the Great Plains Environment

1. Lay out the props [see below for ideas about how to make or get these] on a table
during break. Try to have at least one thing for everyone:
        -great plains circle
        -Laura description of the plains as being like a circle
        -grass (2-3)
        -summer trees (10—2/person = 5 people)
        -bison (11—2/person = 5 people)
        -snow (2-3)
        -winter trees (10—2/person = 5 people)
        -horses (8-10—2/person = 4-5 people)
        -Indians (1 person)
        -covered wagon
        -farm animals (10—2/person = 5 people)
        -trash (1 person)
        -corn field
        -wheat field

2. Lay out the cushions; have everyone gather around in a circle with their objects.

3. We begin this story with the lay of the land.
      When Laura traveled with her family, the plains seemed like a great circle

       -But we know that the plains had a least two main ecosystems. What were they?
       Uplands and bottomlands.

       -[HAVE GREAT PLAINS CIRCLE LAID OUT] Show uplands and
       bottomlands in the shape. Remember—lots of uplands. Not much bottomlands.

       -What do we know about the uplands? Pretty flat, lots of GRASS (grown by the
       SUN). [put in grass and sun]

       -What do we know about the bottomlands? WATER; TREES; ALSO GRASS.
       [PUT THESE IN]

4. Now let’s talk about the animals in this environment.
      -Name some animals that lived in the Plains.
       -Especially bison. How many were there? (3-5 million in central plains) Where
       did the bison live? (uplands in summer) Why? (grass!)

       -Now did the bison live on the uplands all year round? Why? Why not?
       What were the uplands like in the winter? SNOW; WIND [PUT IN SNOW
       AND FAN.] What happened to the cattle in South Dakota during the blizzard?
       So were the bison likely to do well on the plains in the winter? Where could they
       go? [MOVE THE BISON TO THE LOWLANDS] Of course, they couldn’t
       eat as well there [put in winter trees] so as soon as spring came, they moved
       back up onto the plains to eat spring grass. Leave in the winter setting

       -In the 1500s and 1600s, bison lived all over the plains and even east beyond the
       Mississippi River. They were hunted by Native Americans, but not on a full-time
       basis. Big predator probably = wolves, hunting babies and old/sick.

5. Starting in the 1700s, there was a change. A new animal arrived on the plains. What
was it? [HORSES—put grass on half the plains and ADD SOME HORSES TO

       -Where did the horses come from? How did they end up on the plains? Why did
       they thrive there?

       -Horses also made it to the Native Americans living on and near the plains and
       changed them. How? [Native Americans decided to become horse pastoralists
       and hunt buffalo.] What did they need to hunt buffalo? Horses. From where?
       [trade and hunting wild ones] How many horses did they have? [100,000-
       150,000 on central plains alone] How did they maintain those horses? [same as
       buffalo—GRASS in summer, BOTTOMLANDS in winter; basically chasing

       -So, now we have Native Americans living on the uplands in the summer [PUT
       IN TEEPEE, INDIANS, AND HORSES WITH THEM] and living in the
       bottomlands in the winter [move them—and the buffalo—to the winter half]
       Again, as soon as spring came, Indians AND horses moved up to the summer
       plains to follow the grass, which the horses needed, and to find the buffalo.

       -FIRE, both naturally and deliberately set, helped the grass grow.

       -As more and more Indians moved onto the Great Plains, they fought with each
       other over territory. One interesting outcome of this for the buffalo was that the
       contested area became a kind of neutral zone. Native Americans didn’t hunt there
       nearly as much. Leave teepee on plains; move most of the buffalo to the safe
       area. Even though Native Americans hunted A LOT of buffalo, they had a place
       they could go to recover, breed, and be fairly safe from hunters.
       -Why did Indians hunt so many buffalo? (43 buffalo/year/hunter by 1855)
       Personal use. Trade. For what? Alcohol, guns, other stuff from Europeans.
       WHAT did they hunt? Buffalo Robes come from female bison with softer hides.

5. Starting in the 1840s, a new change came to the plains. At the same time that many
Native American people were moving west on the plains, so were many Euro-American
        -Why did the Euro-Americans come? Where were they going? At first, crossing
        on their way to Santa Fe or California or Oregon.

       -Describe their passage. Who came? How did they travel? WHERE did thye
       travel? [bottomlands] Why? [water, timber, fuel, forage; and no Indians too,
       in the bottomlands] Note that they brought A LOT of animals—11 animals per

       -What effects did this traffic have on the bottomlands? Loss of trees [TAKE
       THEM OUT] Loss of forage [take out small grass] Settlers reported having to
       go miles off the trail to find grass sometimes. Addition of all kinds of trash. [put
       in trash] Like what? [offal, corpses, excrement, wrappers, heavy stuff, etc.]

       -Now these travelers were in the bottomlands only in the summer. [take them
       out] But what happened in the winter? [Indians and buffalo came] [MAKE

       -What effect did the passage of the travelers have on the Indians and bison in the
       winter? No food, no fuel, less shelter. AND diseases for Native Americans.

6. For the bison, add two more problems—First, drought. The period when most Native
Americans were adopting horse culture and moving to the plains were the wettest years in
300 years between 1650 and 1950. But from 1849-1862, there was a terrible drought.
       -What effect would drought have on the plains? [loss of grass and forage]

       -What effect would it have on the bison? [even Native Americans remembered
       how weak their horses got] Need to go into the valleys to get water. This is
       where Native Americans and Euro Americans would need to go too. [species
       packing] Bison were being squeezed in their environment and unable to adapt.

       -Second, the 1840 treaty ended the safe zone. Bison were being hunted
       everywhere and needing to go where the people were.

       -What effect would THIS have on the bison? Long before white hunters came
       with rifles, bison were in very big trouble with rapidly declining numbers.

7. Finally, starting in the 1860s, the Euro-American migration changed again.
       -How? Homestead migration.
       -How was this migration different from the traveling through? [Permanent.]

       -What environmental effects might this have? ADD IN HOUSE, CORN,


Teaching Notes:

1. The pieces: I will give you what I used to build the project. You can come up with
your own creative solutions, of course. You might want to use smaller, simpler sets as
well and have students work in small groups. Most of this is stuff students could make
        -Great plains circle—brown felt from Jo-Ann’s craft/fabric store; 72‖ wide
       fabric, 2 yards of fabric. Fold in half and then in half again to make a square.
       Use pins in the corners and a length of string to make a quarter of a circle. Cut
       out and unfold, and you’ll get a full circle.

       -To make the levels of the plain—I used 4 folded blankets, big pillows, and/or
       folded comforters to put under the felt circle, creating uplands and a valley for the

        -Laura Ingalls Wilder’s description of the plains as being like a circle--Little
        House on the Prairie, p. 13.

        -Sun—I bought a fluffy hair clip at Michaels craft store

        -River—a long piece of blue felt (also from Jo Ann’s—I bought ½ yard, which is
        way too much)

        -Grass—two pieces of green felt (I bought a yard of 72‖ wide felt from Jo Ann’s)
        Cut to more or less fit your plain in two halves.

        -Snow—same as the grass, using white felt.

        -Fire—Using orange felt (from Michaels, where you can get smaller pieces than
        at Jo Ann’s), but a small piece to look like prairie fires.

        -Summer Trees—Use clay that dries. In a small, flattened piece of clay, put
        twigs with leaves (I trimmed a bush).

        -Winter Trees—Again using clay that dries, put several twigs without leaves.
        Dried willow branches (broken) work well.
-Bison—I found one plastic bison in a ―Wild West Toob,‖ available online or at
Michaels (about $5). We also made pompom bison:
      -buy large (1 ½‖ – 2‖) and medium black, brown, and golden pompoms;
      -google eyes
      -popsicle sticks
      -brown pipe cleaners (chenille sticks)
      -black marker, scissors, craft glue (tacky glue works best—dries faster)

       -Put a small circle of glue on one side of the medium pompom. Glue to
       the large pompom to be the head. Hold for 30 seconds to let glue start to

       -Lay body down and gently glue one google eye on the head;

       -Cut 3 lengths of chenille stick (1‖ each). Curve one piece to make a
       bison horn. Glue to head above the eye.

       -Curve another piece to be the tail. Glue to the back of the body.

       -Cut 1‖ lengths (4) of popsicle stick from the curved ends to be the feet.
       Save the middles of the sticks for another project.

       -Color the curved end of the stick with black marker to make the hoof.

       -Put some glue on the blunt end of the popsicle stick and glue two to the
       side of the bison facing up. Hold each one in place for 30-40 seconds to
       let the glue start to set.

       -Let the bison rest for a couple of minutes (you can start another one

       -Gently turn the bison over. Then glue the eye, horn, and two legs on the
       other side. Let the bison dry (preferably overnight).

-Fan—you may want to use one of these to show the blizzard. But it might blow
the bison away.

-Horses—I bought a set of plastic horses (actually a ―Horse Toob‖ from

-Teepee—You could make one of these from willow twigs and felt. But we
bought one in the Wild West Toob from Michaels

-Indians—Again, we used the ones from the Wild West Toob.
        -Covered Wagon—These are hard to find. Mine was a Playmobil wagon, abou

        -Farm Animals—You can buy these in a set.

        -Trash—crumpled bits of newspaper work well

        -House—Any small house will do. Try Lincoln Logs; ours was made out of
        popsicle sticks.

        -Corn Field—Using clay that dries hard, create a flat square of clay to be the
        field. Cut 4‖ lengths of green chenille sticks to be the corn stalks. Cut 2‖
        lengths of yellow chenille sticks. Twist one around the top of the corn stalk to be
        the corn ears. Line your corn stalks up in the clay to make a field.

        -Wheat Field—Same as cornfield for the base. I bought dried wheat stalks (?) at
        Michaels, cut off the tops, and stuck them in the clay to make a field.

        -Grasshopper—I bought a small plastic grasshopper, but lost it. You can make
        one out of green chenille sticks.

2. Note: You could adapt these techniques to do the environmental story of ANY of the
regions we study in U.S. history.