Lesson Plans

California Indian Basketry

Native Americans of California, with more than 60 distinct tribes, have a rich tradition of creating baskets for use in their daily lives. The types of baskets and the diversity of their uses seem almost endless—from carrying water to winnowing acorns to preparing an evening meal. This lesson will give students the opportunity to learn more about the baskets of California and the Native Americans who have created them for thousands of years. Students will also learn how to weave their own baskets.

Learners: Grades 2–5
Curriculum Connections: History–Social Science, Visual and Performing Arts

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Citizenship

What does it mean to be a good citizen? What qualities and values are important in the United States? Are these values important in all democracies? This lesson introduces the concepts of civic values, rights, and responsibilities. Students will discuss and compare the requirements for citizenship in 1896 and today. In small groups, students will create their own countries and use written and artistic representations to depict the qualities of a good citizen.

Learners: Grades K, 1, 3, and 12
Curriculum Connections: History–Social Science

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Classroom Archaeology

What does it mean to be a good citizen? What qualities and values are important in the United States? Are these values important in all democracies? This lesson introduces the concepts of civic values, rights, and responsibilities. Students will discuss and compare the requirements for citizenship in 1896 and today. In small groups, students will create their own countries and use written and artistic representations to depict the qualities of a good citizen.

Learners: Grades K, 1, 3, and 12
Curriculum Connections: History–Social Science

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"Foreign" Miners

Between 1848 and 1854, close to 300,000 people from across the world came to the gold fields of California, more than tripling the 1847 population. Although the gold seekers spoke different languages and had various traditions, religions, and political beliefs, they all came with one hope—to strike it rich. Some succeeded and became fabulously wealthy; however, for most the experience was a disappointment at best, and at worst an unmitigated disaster. Tempers flared, fights broke out, and cultures clashed in towns aptly named Hangtown and Rough and Ready. The gold rush changed the very face of California, as new economies rose to meet the needs of the miners, large corporations flourished where individual miners failed, and Native populations were decimated.

Learners: Grades 3–5
Curriculum Connections: History–Social Science, English–Language Arts

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Freedom's Opportunity

Using the life of Ellen Cook as a framework, this lesson looks at the choices available to freed slaves at the end of the Civil War. In a role-playing exercise, the lesson asks students to reflect on what it meant to gain one's freedom. Working in small groups, students will be given a fictional 19th-century identity and will use problem-solving skills in order to make decisions about a fictional situation.

Learners: Grades 3, 4, and 8
Curriculum Connections: History–Social Science

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The Fur Trade

From the Great Lakes to the Pacific, and from the Great Plains to the desert, the West before 1850 was like a vast marketplace. This lesson accompanies museum galleries that explore the stories of merchants and hunters who met in trading posts and villages across the continent. Traders learned each other’s languages and cultures, and they married into each other’s families. Some people made great profits while others fell hopelessly in debt. Trade linked individuals, families, and communities in the West, and blended cultures.

Learners: Grades 3 and 5
Curriculum Connections: History-Social Science

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Iconic Figures of the American West

Over the past four decades, Western-genre films have touched generations of moviegoers. The Autry's Imagination Gallery features the men and women of Wild West shows, Western-genre movies, radio shows, and televisions series as well as Western paintings and decorative arts of the 20th century. In this humanities-based lesson, students will watch a film, either in the classroom or as a homework assignment. In the culminating project, students will research and prepare presentations focusing on icons of the American West.

Learners: Grades 9–12
Curriculum Connections: English–Language Arts, Visual and Performing Arts

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The Mini-Museum

Artifacts can be used to tell a story about a person, time, or event. Museums are a great source for artifacts and other primary sources. They help people learn about civilizations, societies, and people through the objects they created and left behind.

Learners: Grades 2 and 3
Curriculum Connections: History–Social Science, Visual and Performing Arts

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Northwest Coast Indians: Masks

This lesson plan is designed to support learning experiences about the history and cultures of Northwest Coast Indians. These materials focus on shared aspects of daily life among Northwest Coast Indian tribal groups (including Chinook, Haida, Kwakiutl, Makah, Nootka, Squamish, Tlingit, and Tsimshian) prior to their first contact with non-Indian peoples in the late 1700s. After learning about the tradition and uses of Kwakiutl transformation masks, students create their own transformation mask, based on Kwakiutl models.

Learners: Grades 3–5
Curriculum Connections: Visual and Performing Arts, History–Social Science, English-Language Arts

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Northwest Coast Indians: Winter Celebrations Potlatch

This lesson plan is designed to support learning experiences about the history and cultures of Northwest Coast Indians. These materials focus on shared aspects of daily life among Northwest Coast Indian tribal groups (including Chinook, Haida, Kwakiutl, Makah, Nootka, Squamish, Tlingit, and Tsimshian) prior to their first contact with non-Indian peoples in the late 1700s. After learning more about the cultural and social importance of the widely practiced potlatch ceremony among Northwest Coast Indians, students plan and give their own potlatch, incorporating activities and the creation of gifts.

Learners: Grades 3–5
Curriculum Connections: Visual and Performing Arts, History–Social Science, English-Language Arts

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Trade Between East and West

This lesson uses map activities to frame the westward movement by land and by sea. Students are asked to examine the benefits and costs of each form of travel and to decide which one they would have preferred. Information about the two types of travel is included in the body of the lesson plan. Because groups needed to trade with one another to receive all of the goods they desired, the lesson also concentrates on trade. After Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, a trade network developed between Mexico and the United States. Trade also affects students’ daily lives and is an important economic concept.

Learners: Grades 1 and 2
Curriculum Connections: History–Social Science

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Where in the World Am I?

California is part of the American West. But Canadians travel south to reach the American West, people from Central and South American travel north to reach “the West,” and people from Asia travel east to reach “the West.” This lesson reviews relative and absolute locations and a student’s place in the world.

Learners: Grades 1 and 2
Curriculum Connections: History–Social Science, Visual and Performing Arts

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Educational Programs at the Autry are sponsored by:

  • The Ahmanson Foundation
  • Capital Group Companies Foundation
  • Dwight Stuart Youth Fund
  • The Georgina-Fredrick Children’s Foundation
  • Hearst Foundations
  • The Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation
  • Northrop Grumman
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern California
  • The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation
  • Sony Pictures Entertainment
  • Union Bank
  • U.S. Bank Foundation