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To the Teacher

Just six weeks from now, an earthquake will happen.

You and your students will survive the earthquake. Indeed, the only disaster in your area will be the complete destruction of all grocery stores. What will you do then? How will you and your students survive? How will you find food? Medicine? Fuel?

Fortunately you have six weeks to prepare (coincidentally the recommended length for this unit of study). With the guidance of Elders and community experts, you and your students can learn about your local plants and how to use them wisely. The Aleutian/Pribilof Islands are home to more than 500 of the half-million plant species in the world. (Hall, Hultén, Burnie) How many of them can you safely eat for food? Use for medicinal purposes? Harvest for fuel, shelter, utilitarian and decorative objects?

Unangam Hitnisangin . . . contains six weeks of culturally-relevant information and standards-based activities for you and your students. It relies on traditions of Elder involvement and guidance. Plan now to invite Elders and/or local experts to share their knowledge with your students several times during this unit of study. The unit contains recommendations for inviting, interviewing, and hosting these honored guests. Plan, too, for a community gathering at the conclusion of your plant study, so that your students may share what they have learned.

As a culturally appropriate study, development of the units has been guided by Elders in conjunction with the Association of Unangan/Unangas Educators. A vital element of the unit is learning through Unangam Tunuu, the first language of the people.

Intended as an interdisciplinary unit of study, suitable for grades four though six, Unangam Hitnisangin . . . provides six weeks of activities that may be expanded, shortened, or selectively used according to the needs of your classes. Early fall or late spring are the most productive times to use Unangam Hitnisangin . . . . If begun in the fall, Unangam Hitnisangin . . . could be studied or repeated in the spring. It is estimated that each daily lesson will require about an hour, but some portions—fieldwork or interviewing—may take longer blocks of time. Completed unit projects include art, experiments, log books, written work, and a Class Herbarium and local plant guide.

Arranged with vocabulary, resources, and notes about meeting Alaska State Standards, the unit is designed for easy placement in a binder or file folder. Each of the topic sections contains special information for the teacher. The section begins with the summary and materials needed for the lesson. Objectives and skills are correlated with Standards. Suggestions for activity implementation and optional activities are included, also. Teacher pages are followed by student background and activity pages. Unit assessment is designed to be used weekly by teachers and students. A variety of embedded assessments are organized in the instructional activities as well.

An important recurring activity in Unangam Hitnisangin . . . is the direction to students to write daily in their log books. The log book is a tool used by all scientists to record observations, experiments and data. Writing on a regular basis in the log book provides discipline that will, over time, improve and sharpen writing skills. Students learn to be more discriminating observers and improve their ability to turn their observations into accurate phrases.

Special Additions:


Schools participating in the GLOBE program can incorporate plant phrenology and land cover survey within this unit. Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment maintains a Web page at “” where you can learn more about this exciting program.

Fast Plants

We also recommend that you consider Fast Plants which is a unit of study for elementary and middle school developed by the University of Wisconsin. It uses a rapidly-growing plant, Brassica rapa, that has a life cycle of 35-40 days (seed to seed) and can be grown in the classroom under continuous fluorescent light.

As a supplement to this unit or as a winter focus adjunct to this unit, Fast Plants offers your students a dramatic and well-developed study of the full life cycle of plants through an exciting and well-organized series of experiences. More information is available in the appendix and at the Fast Plants Web site, “”.




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