Discover Dairy: Selective Breeding

📖 Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.

📲 Technology Required

Computer with projector, for in-class use. Computer or tablet with Internet access for home use.

⏰ Time

60-70 minutes

📃 Summary

This cross-curricular lesson is one of two “lessons we love” from Discover Dairy. Students watch a short video, read a passage on selective breeding in dairy cows, have a discussion and complete a lab exercise in selective breeding.


NOTE: While we create most lessons on the Growing Math site ourselves, we do include links to other lessons that are exemplary in their cross-curricular, standards-based design. This is one of two lessons we love from Discover Dairy. The entire 14-page lesson can be downloaded here, including reading passages, lab assignments and answer keys.

You can also go to the Discover Dairy site, which requires a free registration and login to download individual parts of the lesson and see the other lessons they have available.

Start with a video

Watch a four-minute video on dairy farms to kick the lesson off.

Read a passage on selective breeding in dairy cows

You’ll find this on page 13 of the handout linked above or download both reading assignments here (it’s only two pages) or copy the link to assign in your Google classroom to read on line.

Class Discussion on Selective Breeding

See page 2 of the full lesson linked above for suggested discussion questions. Note that the first question asks about the 7 types of dairy cows- the 7 types of cows are picture on the complete lesson plan on page 7.

Lab Exercise #1 : Selective Breeding

Pass out the lab activity #1 sheets, in pages 9 and 10 of the complete lesson plan. You can link directly to those here, if you want to assign in Google classroom or other management system. Note that link includes both labs 1 and 2.

Once students have the materials, explain the lab activity. You may want to use the explanation given on pages 2-3 of the lesson plan.

Answer keys for both lab exercises can be found here.

Not a dairy cow
Bovine, but not a dairy cow

Read a passage on the life cycle of a dairy cow

You’ll find this on pages 14 of the handout linked above or download both reading assignments here (it’s only two pages) or copy the link to assign in your Google classroom to read on line.

Answer keys for both lab exercises can be found here.


Two types of assessment occur in this lesson. During the class discussion, teachers can get an assessment of the understanding of the concepts of the class as a whole and the lab assignment can be used for individual assessment.

Related Lesson

Discover Dairy: Life Cycle of the Dairy Cow

Food Deserts, Indigenous Seeds and Data Stories


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.3 Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.SP.B.4 Display numerical data in plots

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.SP.B.5 Summarize numerical data sets in relation to their context

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.7.RP.A.2 Recognize and represent proportional relationships between quantities

⏰ Time

70 – 90 minutes, including cooking activity

📲 Technology Required

A computer with projector or smart board is required to show the video and presentation to students.


This truly cross-curricular assignment begins by watching a video about seed rematriation, that is returning Indigenous seeds to their original lands. They read a short booklet on cooking and nutrition, then do a cooking activity at school or home. A presentation on food deserts includes definitions, data and actions students can take. Students add new words or phrases to their word journal and complete a math assignment using data from the presentation. Advanced students play a game to learn more math and Navajo culture.

📚 Lesson

Watch this video seed rematriation, that is, growing Indigenous seeds in the lands from which they came originally.

Read a short booklet on cooking and nutrition

Scrambled eggs and spinach – available here as a free pdf from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is directed at parents but should be at the reading level of most sixth- or seventh-graders.

Make some eggs

It will be a lot more fun for your class if you can actually go to the school kitchen and cook some eggs. Reading the booklet above will give the recipe, optional ingredients and much more. The only 3 ingredients you absolutely need are eggs, spinach and vegetable oil or butter.

Alternative assignment

If you absolutely cannot go to the kitchen at school because of scheduling, safety regulations or other reasons, here are two other options.

  • Assign this activity for students to do with their parents at home. Here is the link for the recipe. You can make this an extra credit activity because not everyone has parents who have time or money to run out for eggs and spinach. Optional: If students have access to a phone or tablet, have them record themselves/ their parent cooking.
  • You can watch a video of kids making the recipe , but doing it with your class will be more fun.

Listen to/ read presentation on food deserts

What if there was nowhere to buy eggs, spinach or even seeds near where you live? You can use this Google slides presentation to present to students in class or assign them to read on their own.

Complete word journal

Students add words or terms with which they are unfamiliar to their word journal. Some teachers call it a personal dictionary, to others it’s a word journal. Regardless, the goal is the same, for students to record new words, give a dictionary definition and “make the word their own”. This can be done by rewriting the definition in their own words, using the word in a sentence or including an illustration of the word.

Two dictionary sites to recommend for definitions are below. An added bonus to mention to students is that they can hear words pronounced.

Since students often ask for an example, here is an example you can link in your lesson

The personal dictionary assignment, with all links, can be found here. Feel free to copy and paste into your Google classroom or other site, or print out for your class.

Math assignment: Using statistics and ratio to answer questions

Copy the assignment into your Google classroom or other system or print out for students. Students will use the data from the Food Deserts presentation to answer questions about percentages. They will also create pie charts (circle graphs) and bar charts. You can have students do this with a calculator or pencil and paper or using Google sheets.

ANSWER KEY for assignment

If you’d like a spreadsheet where these tables and graphs were created, you can find it here.

Differentiated Instruction: For Advanced Students

Challenge more advanced students to watch this video on Making Mounds for Three Sisters Gardens. The vocabulary is a little more advanced than the typical sixth-grade with terms like “nitrogen”, “fish emulsion”. In the first farm, they planted 80 mounds. Students should watch the video and figure out from the information given how wide the plot must be .

More advanced students can also play the Making Camp Navajo game, available from the Games for Kids portal on this site, to learn more about farming and expand their knowledge of ratio and proportion.


Word journals are graded based on correct or incorrect definition. Data analysis assignments assess student achievement of math standards above.

The Navajo-Churro: America’s First Domestic Sheep


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

7th-8th Diné History Standards – I will understand historical/factual events, people and symbols that influence my family. Concept 1.PO2.  I will identify an event relating to important people in Diné history.


90 minutes including time for research


Vocabulary and historical events key to Navajo sheep farming are provided in a slide presentation. Students learn more about Navajo agriculture and history through a video, their own research, and a game combining math and history. Academic vocabulary is at the 7th grade level.


Navajo-Churros: America’s First Domestic Sheep

Introduce sheep farming in Navajo and southwest history with this presentation, for an editable Google slides version, go here. The same presentation as a PowerPoint is found here. Students will learn vocabulary words related to general livestock farming and specifically to sheep.

VIDEO: Irene’s Churro Lambs

YouTube video: Irene’s Churro Lambs

Research and Writing Assignments

This assignment has two parts. In the first part, students research one of these events in history to learn more about it. They locate a primary source and a secondary source with citations, and then write an objective summary. In Part B, students select two research questions of interest, from a list provided, and conduct research to find the answers. A Google doc of the assignment can be found here.

Answer key for Part B can be found here.

Differentiated Instruction: Accommodations for learners with special needs

For the assignment above, for learners with special needs, you may wish to assign only one of the two parts. Generally, we would assign Part B, finding the answers to research questions. This is also a modification for students who are English language learners.

GAME: Making Camp Navajo LIFE Module 

Students can play the three Making Camp Navajo modules for 20 minutes. The following instructions can be copied into Google classroom, pasted into a Zoom chat or given in class.

Go to Making Camp Navajo

Play through until you reach the LIFE tab and play all of the activities you find there.

These are the three activities you will play

  • Lots of Lambs
  • The Many Uses of Sheep
  • Navajo Weaving 


This lesson includes three forms of assessment

  1. Objective Summary of Research (written assignment)
  2. Research to answer questions on an event with primary/secondary sources
  3. Making Camp Navajo Gameplay

Making Camp Navajo – Student Activities completed can be seen in the Making Camp Navajo teacher reports

  1. Assessment in lamb care/lambing season. (True or False)
  2. Assessment in the Many Uses of Sheep for Navajo history. (Matching game)
  3. Students can screenshot a picture of their rug design, like below. 

Better Dirt, Better Lives


Explain why a fraction a/b is equivalent to a fraction (n × a)/(n × b) by using visual fraction models, with attention to how the number and size of the parts differ even though the two fractions themselves are the same size. Use this principle to recognize and generate equivalent fractions.

📲Technology Required

Students will need a Mac or Windows computer with the Fish Lake game installed. A video can be a substitute for students who do not have access to one of these devices.


30 minutes


Begin with playing the Fish Lake game. A video of the section on crop rotation may be used by schools that don’t have Fish Lake installed. Give a presentation (included) on crop rotation. Watch a video on “What is one-half” and end the lesson with a presentation (included) on whether one-half is fair.


Play Fish Lake or watch video of game play

Even though you can use this lesson without playing the game, I urge you to install Fish Lake on your iPads, Mac or Windows computers. You can download it for free for computers. For iPads, email for a discount code and we’ll get back to you the same day. Seriously, even if you normally use Chromebook, it will be a nice break and your students will love it. We recommend letting them play for 15 minutes.

Play the game Fish Lake, (available to Growing Math schools, on iPad, Windows or Mac computers). If students do not have devices to access the game, students can watch a video here.

Slide presentation on crop rotation

Use this Google slides presentation to explain crop rotation as more than just being sure each farmer did her fair share of the work or had a fair share of the fields. It was good science.

Watch a short video: What is half ?

This short (1:40) video explains that one-half is two equal parts, with examples of one-half as a distance between two points or as a shape divided into two parts.

Slide presentation on one-half as fair

Use this Google slides presentation to show two halves are equal and that 2/4 = 1/2. Multiple examples of dividing something in half are given, from six blankets to half a deer. Students can also read the presentation and manipulate the examples on their own.

Half a deer


Fish Lake data reports are available for teachers to access after students have finished playing.  

Scrambled states: Ag in math

📖 Standard

NGSS 4-LS1-1:  Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.MD.B.4 Generate measurement data by measuring lengths using rulers marked with halves and fourths of an inch. Show the data by making a line plot,

⏰ Time

3-4 hours over 4-5 sessions. The data collection will need to be completed at least two weeks after the seeds are planted.

📲 Technology Required

No technology is required. Students may use Jamboard for line plots and Google docs for word journals, but both of these activities can also be done on paper.

📃 Summary

Teachers read an age appropriate book about plants and record new vocabulary in their personal dictionary. The teacher or student selects an agriculture activity from the booklet More Scrambled States of Agriculture. Garden in a glove is one recommended activity. Students collect and record data on the number of days until germination, showing the results in one more more line plots.

📚 Lesson

It is recommended that this lesson follow the Scrambled States: Ag in Language Arts unit.

Read an age appropriate book about plants.

Both the lesson plan for Garden in a Glove and More Scrambled States of Agriculture booklet have several recommendations for age appropriate books on plants in general or specific plants, like wheat. Teachers may wish to read the book aloud to the class, have students take turns reading aloud, either in groups or as a whole class, or assign to students to read on their own. I recommend 2-3 sessions of 15 minutes of read aloud or 20 minutes of independent reading.

Update Word Journals

Students should update their word journals, what some teachers refer to as a “personal dictionary”, with any new words from the book. If this is your students’ first experience using a word journal, you may wish to give them this Google doc to read or read it together as a class, “Creating your personal dictionary.

Select an Agriculture Activity (1 hour)

Garden in a glove lesson plan, found here, is my favorite and it could relate to almost any book on the list. You need:

  • Food prep gloves – 1 for each student – that you can probably get from your school cafeteria,
  • A bag of cotton balls
  • 5 different packs of seeds
  • A marker

Soak the cotton balls in water, put 3-5 seeds in each one and put five cotton balls, each with different seeds, in the five fingers of the glove. Don’t forget to write on each finger what is in it. Create a chart of the germination time for each type of seed. Read the lesson plan for more detail.

If Garden in a Glove doesn’t suit your needs, check More Scrambled States of Agriculture for ideas you might like better.

Ask students to generate hypotheses about how long it will take for the seeds to germinate, whether all the seeds will take the same amount of time (assuming you did Garden in a Glove).

Record your measurements

Students create either :

  • Create 5 line plot showing the number of seeds that germinated for each number of days, one plot for each type of seed, OR
  • Create one line plot with a different color used for each type of seed.

Ask the students whether their hypotheses were supported.


If your students are not familiar with line plots, you may want to have them watch this seven-minute video which explains line plots step by step.

Now that students have watched the video and collected the data, their final task is to create two line plots of their results. Feel free to copy and paste the text below into your Google classroom or other assignment.




Three forms of assessment are included in this assignment.

  • In the personal dictionary or word journal, students are required to include a minimum of five words with definitions for 50 points. Each word, spelled correctly is 2 points and a correct definition is another 8 points. I deduct a point for grammar or spelling errors in the definition, but only one.
  • For the agriculture activity, this is simply pass/ fail marked as completed or not.
  • The line plots are scored based on accuracy. I give 10 points for each plot/ type of seed for a total of 50 points possible and another 10 points each for stating a hypothesis and answering whether or not it has been supported.

Scrambled States: Ag in Language Arts

📖 Standard

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.4 Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.

⏰ Time

Three to five hours total. We recommend spreading this lesson over 3 to 5 days.

📲 Technology Required

None required. Students may used a computer or mobile device to access the states’ page or to watch a video on the Scrambled States but these resources are also available in print.

📃 Summary

Teachers read The Scrambled States of America book, or have students read book or watch video. Students select a state from National Ag in the Classroom site and take notes on their state, including new vocabulary. Students read a book related to their state – link to a list is provided. Students complete a notes page and then use this page to write an informational essay.

📚 Lesson

Begin with The Scrambled States of America – book, audio book or video

Begin the lesson by reading the book The Scrambled States of America aloud to the class or you may play the audiobook in class along with the book (which I recommend). It’s very likely your public library has the audiobook available for free download. Students learning at home can download the audio book on to a phone or tablet. If you prefer, you can have students watch the video, in class or at home.

Students Select a State and Learn about its Agriculture

National Ag in the Classroom site has an agricultural facts sheet for every state. You can add this link to their assignment in Google classroom (or write it on the chalkboard – )

If your students don’t have access to devices or Internet, you can print out the 51 sheets (including the District of Columbia) here.

Update their Word Journals

As some of the words in the fact sheets may be new to fourth-graders, this is a great opportunity to update their word journals, what some teachers refer to as a “personal dictionary”. If this is your students’ first experience using a word journal, you may wish to give them this Google doc to read or read it together as a class, “Creating your personal dictionary.

Read a Book Related to Agriculture in the State

Time required for this activity will vary depending on your students’ reading speed and choice of books. I recommend allotting 20 minutes per day over 2-3 days. If your school library does not have these available, you may be able to get from your public library. Also, remember, many public libraries have ebooks your students can read on any computer, tablet or phone. If you have not taken advantage of these services, now might be a great time to introduce them,

The Illinois Ag in the Classroom program has produced More Scrambled States of Agriculture a combination of agricultural fact sheets. reading list, agriculture science and art activities. Recognizing that students at a range of reading levels, books included range from Pre-K to grade 5-9 reading level, with reading levels listed next to each book. My favorite quote, from the book, “A Hog Ate My Homework.”

I would like to be a farmer when I grow up, because farming is easy!
They don’t need to go to school, because they just play in the dirt and ride around on ATVs. When it rains, they can just stay inside and play video games. When the sun comes back out, the corn just grows out of the ground by itself. In the fall, someone comes by, cuts it down, and gives the farmer a bunch of money. They use that money to buy candy and video games. The end.

– Willie

Take Notes

Since this is likely your students first experience with research, I recommend the “foldable notes” to help them prepare. All they need to do is fold a piece of paper in half, then fold it again and a third time so now they have eight boxes. You can also have them use a Google slide with 8 boxes but often students like the physical activity of creating their notes.

Next, label each of the 8 boxes.

Crops    Livestock      Farms    Climate

Soil        Interesting    Book      Quote

You can use the foldable notes example here since students almost always ask for an example. I recommend having students go back to the state agricultural fact sheet and the book and take notes after having done the reading. It’s not a bad habit to learn to re-read something for information you may have missed the first time.

Write a State of Agriculture Report

As this is likely to be the first informational essay students have written, I recommend providing students an example and sentence stems as prompts. You can find an example in this Google doc that uses the foldable notes from above to write an essay. The first page of the Google doc gives an outline, with sentence stems. The second page shows a completed informational essay.


Three forms of assessment are included in this assignment.

  • In the personal dictionary or word journal, students are required to include a minimum of five words with definitions for 50 points. Each word, spelled correctly is 2 points and a correct definition is another 8 points. I deduct a point for grammar or spelling errors in the definition, but only one.
  • For the foldable notes assignment, each note is 10 points for a total of 80 points. I do not grade grammar or spelling in the notes because these are for the student, however, I do highlight errors and tell students there will be a deduction if the error is in their essay.
  • The essay is on a 0- 100 scale. I give 5 points each for title and author and 10 points for each of the prompts completed with one or more grammatically correct sentences. If a student does not respond to one of the prompts but instead includes other relevant information, for example, the number of people working in agriculture, that would be acceptable, too.

Related Lesson

It’s recommended that this lesson be followed by Scrambled States: Ag in Math Class.

Problem-solving with pigs: Start at the end


CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP4 Model with mathematics.

CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP1 Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

⏰ Time

60-75 minutes

📃 Summary

This cross-curricular lesson includes activities and instruction in agricultural science and math. Students begin by watching a video and learning about pig farms. After making their own pig barn, they watch two short videos about solving math problems. This information is then applied to solve problems during a presentation on math around the pig farm. Students end playing one of the Making Camp games to reinforce skills and knowledge.

📲 Technology Required

If teaching in person, the teacher will need a computer and projector or smart board to show the videos, or students can be given the links to watch on their own devices. Students will need a PC, Mac or Chromebook or tablet. Making Camp Premium, Making Camp Lakota and Making Dakota are all playable on any web browser on those devices.

📚 Lesson

This lesson starts with resources from National Ag in the Classroom

Virtual tour of pig farms

Virtual Field Trip to Ohio Pig Farms

Make a Pig Barn

This activity requires a few supplies but it is probably things you have lying around and your students will probably enjoy it.

  • Business-size envelopes, 4 per group
  • Paper towel, 1 per group
  • Scissors
  • Scotch tape


  • Markers
  • Toilet paper rolls, 2 per group
  • Drinking straws, 2 per group (cut into 8 equal pieces)
  • 8.5″ x 11″ white paper, 1 per group (cut in half)
  • Extra paper for making fencing, pipes, feed troughs, etc. (optional)


Use the following instructions to model for the students how to create the barn:

  1. Barn: Cut an oval hole in one envelope, making a large side window for the barn. This window provides the proper ventilation for the pigs.
  2. Cut the paper towel in half and tape it onto the top of the window for the curtain.
  3. Cut another envelope in half for the ends of the barn.
  4. Tape the ends of the barn to the “sides of the barn” envelopes, one of which has the hole for the window and paper towel curtain, so that you have four sides, or a rectangle.
  5. Use the final envelope to create a roof by creasing it in half lengthwise and attaching it with tape to the top of the rectangle.
  6. Food Storage: Tape four straws, or legs, to each toilet paper roll so that the structures will stand on the legs.
  7. Use a half piece of paper, and make a cone shape by twisting and taping the ends. Tape the cone shape on the end of the toilet paper roll without the straw legs.
  8. Use the other half piece of paper to make another smaller cone shape and tape it between the straw legs on the other end of the toilet paper roll.

If you’d like, you or your students can watch the instructions here. You can also assign this video for students learning at home to watch so they know how to make the barn. The plus is that just about every house will have every single one of these items except possibly the straws.

Optional additional science and language arts content

This link to the National Ag in the Classroom lesson has more information on pigs and pig farming, including some of the vocabulary used in the math lesson as well as a discussion of the ways farmers care for animals. I highly recommend checking it out.

Watch a video on operations key words

Trust me, this does come back to pig farming!

Students watch this video on operations keywords. This two-minute video has been watched over 14,000 times, which gives some indication of how useful students and teacher find the concept of looking at the words in a problem to decide which operation to use.

Watch a video on problem-solving – Start at the end

This 3 1/2 minute video explains that the end of the word problem is where you usually will find the question you are expected to solve. It includes one easy and one harder example, as well as a couple of useful tips.

Start at the End

Give a presentation

This 34-slide deck on problem-solving reinforces the information in the two math videos and gives students three problems of increasing difficulty where they have to start at the end, all centered around Laura’s pig farm.

Play a game

Now that students have been introduced to problem-solving with multiplication and division word problems, it’s time to play a game and reinforce those skills. Which game depends on what you feel your students need most. There is overlap among the games as each includes some review.

Making Camp Premium – focuses primarily on multiplication of one- and two-digit numbers. Also includes division with one-digit divisors. The content is taught in the context of Ojibwe history and culture.

Making Camp Lakota – focuses primarily on division with one-digit divisors. Also includes multiplication of one- and two-digit numbers. The content is taught in the context of Lakota history and culture.

Making Camp Dakota – focuses primarily on division of three-digit numbers with one- and two-digit divisors. Also includes multiplication of one- and two-digit numbers and division with one-digit divisors. The content is taught in the context of Lakota history and culture.


Assessments are built into the presentation, as teachers can have students submit their answers in writing or in a Google chat prior to giving the answers during the presentation. Teachers can also see which standards students have attempted and how many problems they have answered correctly in the Making Camp teacher reports.

Related lesson : Problem-solving Two ways

As the title suggests, this lesson introduces students to two other problme-solving strategies. They watch a video on visualization, then solve a problem that asks them to visualize. After watching a video on building a model, students build and/or draw their own model of a multiplication problem or property.

Medicine Ways


Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

⏰ Time Required

40 minutes

📲Technology Required

Students must have laptops, desktop computers, or tablets with an internet connection. Make time to transition from doing a slides presentation to having students log into Making Camp Premium.

📃 Summary

This social studies lesson for Grades 3-5 explores the history and application of plants as both medicine and food in the every day lives of indigenous people of North America.

This 40-minute lesson begins with a 20-minute presentation on how indigenous people used plants for medicine and a plant-based diet to insure their health. It ends with 20 minutes of gameplay in Making Camp Premium to help reinforce how plants were used by the Ojibwe, indigenous people living on the Great Plains. Here’s an overview of the bite-sized minigame you can use to reinforce this slideshow lesson.

  • Making Camp Premium’s wild rice game features a two-minute long passage that is read aloud. and then playing a mini survival game. Players collect wild rice in a canoe. They must avoid a hungry, pursuant bear and hazardous logs.

📚 Lesson

Introduce the Lesson
In the Medicine Ways Google Slides presentation, students learn a brief history of Native American herb gathering and how indigenous people are pursuing health and wellness with plants. This presentation uses an example of a diet called the Waianae Diet, which is an indigenous diet used in Native Hawaiian cultural diet revitalization.

Personal Dictionary
The Vocabulary List is available with five vocabulary words from the presentation. Students have the extra option to add these words to a personal dictionary. Here are directions for making a Personal Dictionary, and here is a finished example for you.

2. Students will play Making Camp Premium for 15-20 minutes.


Play Making Camp Premium.

In Making Camp Premium, click the icon called LIFE, and then find the icon that has a brown wild rice plant. Students will listen to the audio being read with highlighted paragraphs. They won’t be able to skip ahead or skip the passage.

Engage in an Ojibwe tribal activity mini-game. Students learn about some of the historical challenges of collecting herbs in the wilderness in the passage and the mini-game. There was a good degree of risk-taking involved in subsistence gathering.


  • This lesson has a section of formative assessment in the form of manipulatives for classifying junk food and healthy food.
  • Students have the option to make a Personal Dictionary.
  • The wild rice minigame is a gamified learning segment about history and culture.

Related Lesson

See the social studies lesson, Cattails, for Grades 3-5 for an in-depth look at this all-around useful herb that boosts survival in the harsh wilderness, and is still being used today, with new applications as biofuel and pollution clean-up.

Watch out for blood-sucking fishes!


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.4 Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 5 topic or subject area.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.NBT.A.1 Recognize that in a multi-digit number, a digit in one place represents 10 times as much as it represents in the place to its right and 1/10 of what it represents in the place to its left.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.NBT.B.5 Fluently multiply multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm.


40 minutes


Either a project or smart board connected to the computer will be required to view presentation and videos in class or students will need a computer to watch during a web meeting. The game can be played on any computer or tablet.


This lesson introduces new science vocabulary words, teaches about indigenous and invasive species and includes a couple of math problems showing how quickly invasive species multiply. It concludes with students playing the Making Camp Dakota: Past and Present game.


Watch the Mouths to Feed Video

Invasive Species Giant Insect!

This one-minute video is a little silly with a giant insect but it is a good starter for the lesson to spark student interest.

Give a presentation on indigenous and invasive species

This Google slides presentation introduces the concepts of indigenous and invasive species. It also provides geography information on the Great Plains and Great Lakes as well as a couple of math problems computing how quickly one fly can turn into 5,000.

This content can be assigned to students as reading, but we recommend the teacher present as a mini-lecture first, if possible, and include the reading for students to review.

Watch video Seven Ways to Leave Hungry Pests Behind

We recommend assigning students to write down any words in the video that they don’t recognize.

Play Making Camp Dakota: Past and Present

Have students access the Games Portal for Kids to play Making Camp Dakota: Past and Present. If you want sections specific to this lesson in indigenous plants and animals, have them select the two icons below.

In the LIFE section of Making Camp Dakota: Past and Present, select this icon to learn about how indigenous people used herbs.

Herb Matching Game

In the NUMBERS section, select this icon to learn about buffalo hunting.

As an added bonus, the buffalo section ends with a question on division of three digit numbers.

Buffalo hunt long division problem from Making Camp Dakota
Buffalo Hunt Division – from Making Camp Dakota

Optional: Lesson challenges and extension

National Ag in the Classroom has four, related lessons at the sixth to eighth-grade level on invasive species. Some of the readings may be above the grade level, but they recommend “jigsaw reading” where each student in a group takes a piece of a reading, then explains that paragraph or two to the rest of the class.

If your students are interested in invasive species, or you want some students to have more of a challenge, we recommend checking out this resource.


In-class formative assessment occurs when asking students to answer math problems during the lesson. Students learning remotely can post answers in chat. Students in a classroom can hold up a piece of paper with their answer, allowing the teacher to check understanding at a glance.

Completion and accuracy of the responses in Making Camp Dakota can be checked in the data reports.



CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.1 Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.4.4.A Read grade-level text with purpose and understanding.


Students will listen to or read a slide presentation. They will read an informational passage on cattails, write a summary and add new vocabulary words to their personal dictionary. The lesson ends with playing a game that teaches how medicinal herbs were used by indigenous people.

⏰Lesson Time

40 min

📲Technology Required

  • Making Camp Dakota: Past and Present runs on the browser on any computer or tablet.
  • Spirit Lake: The Game runs on Mac and Windows computers.


Introduce the lesson

Use this Google slides presentation to introduce the lesson and provide some information on traditional and modern uses for cattails. It also discusses the use of plants by Native Americans and in games.

Personal Dictionary/ Word Journal

Students read the seven new vocabulary words introduced, with definitions. They then add these seven words to their personal dictionary.

If this is the first time your students have had a personal dictionary assignment, they can read What is a personal dictionary? in this Google Doc. This link is also within the assignment.

Reading Activity

Students read the passage, How Native Americans Used Cattails.

Writing Activities

Students complete an assignment given at the end of the informational passage they have just read.


Play Making Camp Dakota: Past and Present. After logging in, select LIFE.

Choices page in Making Camp Past and Present
Select the LIFE button

From the LIFE section, select the icon with the pink flowers (top right). This will play a short video on use of herbs in traditional indigenous cultures in the upper Midwest.

Select the icon with the pink flowers

After watching the video, students complete an activity where they match the herb with its use.


Have students play either Spirit Lake: The Game , available for Mac or Windows

Spirit Lake: The Game is available for Windows and Mac computers

In the Spirit Lake game, students learn that the purple cone flower was used for medicine and use multiplication to compute the number to bring back from the woods in the virtual world.


Students produce written assignments assessing vocabulary and reading comprehension. Data reports on students performance on math problems and progress in the game for Spirit Lake can be accessed at with your password.