Native American Science Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

Native Americans have contributed to various fields of science. This lesson plan will allow students to study a text lesson, engage in cooperative learning activities, and take a quiz.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe how Native American discoveries contributed to modern food and medicine production
  • discuss various fields of science to which Native Americans have contributed
  • summarize the importance of Native American discoveries to their survival


This lesson will take 45-90 minutes.

Curriculum Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.


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.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

Materials Needed

  • Johnnycakes (or skillet, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and oil to make Johnnycakes with students)
  • Internet access
  • Poster paper
  • Print outs or photographs related to early engineering, botany, and medicine
  • Glue sticks


Let students work with a partner to brainstorm a list of things they think European explorers learned from Native Americans. Give pairs of students the opportunity to share what they have written.

Read the text lesson Native American Contributions to Science as a class. Pause after reading the ''New World Science'' and ''Food Science'' sections of the lesson.

Discuss the types of foods Native Americans relied on to make it through the winter and how their discoveries about food have contributed to the food science industry. Either make or provide a small taste of a Johnnycake for students and discuss other things that could be made from corn.

Read the ''Medicine'' section of the lesson.

Divide students into small groups. Have groups create a chart of Native American medicinal herbs that were used for narcotics, anesthetics, and to cure diseases. Provide students access to internet research as necessary. Allow groups to discuss their findings with the class and whether or not these herbs are still considered effective.

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