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Lessons & Units

A database of lessons and units searchable by content and cultural standards, cultural region and grade level. More units will be available soon. You can use Acrobat Reader to look at the PDF version of the Cover Sheet for the Units and Self-Assessment for Cultural Standards in Practice.







MAY 1999


Plant Unit Summary


Rosa Wallace/Vicki Woodward

Grade Level:



Five Day Observation

ARSI Region:

Kodiak Alutiiq Archipelago

Science Standards:

B1 - Use the process of science; these processes include observing, classifying, measuring, interpreting data, inferring, communicating, controlling variables, developing models and theories, hypothesizing, predicting, and experimenting

Skills and Knowledge:

  1. Understand that certain plants possess medicinal properties.
  2. Demonstrate scientific skills of observation and classification in the gathering of plants.
  3. Interpreting and researching of harvested samples in order to infer, predict, and communicate an understanding of medicinal plants.


Cultural Standards:

D1 - Acquire in-depth cultural knowledge through active participation and meaningful interaction with Elders.

E2 - Understand the ecology and geography of the bioregion they inhabit;


Skills and Knowledge:

  1. Acquire knowledge from Elders about the physical description, habit and use of medicinal plants.
  2. Interactive communication with Elders through Alutiiq and Russian name identification of medicinal plants.
  3. Ability to demonstrate traditional harvesting and usage of medicinal plants.



The Kodiak Archipelago is divided into three geographic areas based on social, cultural, and environmental considerations. The northern area extends to the southern limit of the dense spruce forest which runs approximately from Uganik Bay on the west to Ugak Bay on the east. The southern boundary of the central area is from the mountains directly south of the Sturgeon River on western Kodiak Island to easternly located Kiliuda Bay. The southern area includes the region of the Kodiak Archipelago south of the central area. In these areas plants are widely used medicinally.

The Kodiak Alutiiq employ a wide variety of trees, shrubs, and herbs for medicinal purposes. They use most plant parts including leaves, stems, flowers, fruit, roots, bark, and wood. The majority of medicinal plants are harvested in the growing season, but some plants and plant parts are available throughout the year. Women aided by children tend to be the primary gatherers, processors, and preservers of plant medicines.

Common methods of preparing medicinal plants are boiling, simmering, or steeping the fresh or dried plant. Depending on the plant or ailment, the liquid may be taken internally or used as a wash, while the entire plant or plant parts may be used as a poultice or placed or rubbed directly on the body. Raw plants appear to be administered externally more often than internally. (Russell pp. 60-62).

Since physicians and pharmacists were not available, Elders learned through the scientific method (trial and error) which plants were effective in healing various ailments. (Bates p.15).

In this unit students will work with the Elders, Native educators and their teacher to determine which traditional plants are effective in healing various body parts. Students will employ traditional methods of harvesting medicinal plants under the direct guidance of the Elders and their teacher. After five days of collecting information, journaling, and analyzing, students will communicate their findings to their school peers, and demonstrate their understanding of procedures and findings by producing an area poster of some of the local medicinal plants.

Since this unit targets third grade students, the emphasis is on observation, communication, comparison, and organizational skills. It does not deal with principles concerning interactions such as plant photosynthesis or making logical conclusions with which they may have limited experience. This principle is addressed in grades five through twelve.



1. In Class Presentation By Elder
*Sample Collection

*Gathering Methods


2. Plant Walk With Elder

*Collect Two Plant Samples

*Preserve Sample Of Plant Model

3. Plant Log And Journal With Elder

*In class plant identification by group

*Alutiiq, Russian, Common, and Scientific names

4. Medicinal Uses

*Matching plant parts to body parts

*Make tea, salve, or poultice

5. Culminate Medicinal Plant Activities

*Assessment generated by N.E.A.R.



1. In Class Elder Presentation

  • listen and note classroom communication
  • listen for prior knowledge of medicinal plants

2. Plant Walk With Elder

  • understanding of plant identification
  • using gathered samples to preserve plant model
  • plant classification

3. Plant Log and Journal

  • log entries for details and accuracy of observation.
  • read journals and respond for prior knowledge, depth of understanding and thoroughness.

4. Medicinal Uses

  • process skills checklist for communication and classification
  • using data to prepare medicinal product (Elder supervision and guidance)

5. Conduct Plant Sample Investigation

- NEAR activity assessment suggested *

* NEAR stands for Native Educators of the Alutiiq Region


Bates, R. (l994). Flowers and Seeds (pp. 15-17). North Carolina: Carson-Dellosa.

Graham, F.K. (1985). Plant Lore of an Alaskan Island. Anchorage: Northwest.

Kari, P.R. (l977). Tanaina Plantlore, Dena'ina K'etuna. Anchorage: University of Alaska.

Krochmal, A. & C. (1975). A Guide to Medicinal Plants of the United States. New York: New York Times.

Pratt, V.E. (l989). Field Guide to Alaskan Flowers. Anchorage: Alaskacrafts.

Russell, P.N. (1991). English Bay and Port Graham Alutiiq Plantlore. Homer, AK: George C. West.

Russell, P.N. (l995). Kodiak Alutiiq Plantlore. (Unpublished manuscript)

Schofield, J.J. (l993). Alaska's Wild Plants. Seattle: Alaska Northwest.

Schofield, J.J. (1989). Discovering Wild Plants. Portland: Alaska Northwest.

Snyder, J., & Graves, K. (l993). Plants and Flowers (p.16). California: Creative Teaching Press.

Viereck, E.G. (1987). Alaska's Wilderness Medicines. Portland: Alaska Northwest Book.





Lesson One Summary:

This activity will group students with an Elder from the Kodiak Alutiiq region for the purpose of viewing sample collections of local medicinal plants. They will explore the gathering methods which encompass traditional values and beliefs. Students will gain knowledge of the process, preservation, habitat and range, of medicinal harvesting. Elder(s) will share traditional plant lore with students to allow observation and harvesting of medicinal plants from the perspective of traditional harvesters.


*Kodiak Alutiiq regional map

*sample of medicinal plants

*sample medicinal plant products

*name cards of Alutiiq, Russian, common, and scientific plants


Invite Elder to work with the class throughout the project. This person will be very familiar with traditional plant lore, the gathering process, preservation, and habitat and range. Teacher will meet with Elder prior to the lesson. This will insure desired goals and outcome, a common understanding of gathering, harvesting, and preservation of medicinal plants.




Elder will query students on medicinal use of items pulled from box.

Elder will pose the question, "Raise your hand if you have ever had a toothache?"


Elder will display sample of Yarrow plant and say, "We did not have modern medicine for toothaches. We chewed the fresh Yarrow leaves to relieve pain."


Elder stimulates a question. "What do you know about medicinal plants?"

Students brainstorm their knowledge on the uses of medicinal plants on a K-W-L chart. K/Their Knowledge of medicinal plants.

Elder will ask students, "What do you want to learn about medicinal plants?" W/ What I Want to Learn


Students will interview an Elder on the specific use of a medicinal plant and share their results with the class.




Lesson Two Summary:

This activity will take Elder and students outdoors to collect two medicinal plant samples. Students will preserve plant sample by placing it on a pre-cut 5" by 8" manila folder and cover it with clear contact paper cut 1/2 inch larger to overlap the specimen. (These items should be placed on student's desks and ready for use.) Elder will present and identify plants to the class. Students will match and identify their samples to Elder's plant.


*Collection folder per student(stapled construction paper or quart size Ziplock bags)

*Pre-cut manila folder and clear contact paper (two per student)

*Classroom resources


Teacher will seek out and invite an Elder to the classroom for the entire duration of the Plant Unit. Teacher and Elder will go over the lesson goals, outcomes, and assessment. Students will preserve plant samples on precut 5" by 8" pieces of manila folder with clear contact paper cut 1/2 inch larger. Elder will present and identify plant samples to the class. As time permits, students will match and identify their plant samples to that of Elder's plant. With an Elder as the main resource, additional classroom resources will include plant samples by common, scientific, Alutiiq, and Russian names. Pictures, books, plantlore, maps, and necessary materials will be stored in a plant tub which can be easily transported from classroom to classroom.





1. Elder presents Plant Gathering Techniques designed to preserve the natural environment and traditional conservation (Kelso: Glen Ray's Introduction pg. 5).



Two cautions about collecting wild plants: First, never use a plant for food or medicine unless you are sure you have properly identified the plant. And secondly, when gathering wild plants, never take all the plants in the area. Leave some there to repopulate the species, so that you and others may have the pleasure of using the plant again.

In his Root, Stem, and Leaf, Glen Ray lists nine techniques to use when gathering plants. These techniques are designed to help preserve the natural environment while still using the resources available. They are a system called "traditional conservation." We feel these techniques are important for Alaska foragers to follow, so have repeated them here:

1) Learn the habitat and conditions under which each plant flourishes.

2) Know the area in which you live well enough to know where each plant can be abundantly found.

3) Take time to ask Native Elders if the locale where you would like to harvest a plant is not already a harvesting spot for a group of people.

4) Find a place to harvest not already harvested.

5) If the plant seems not to be abundant in the area where it is found, it would be best not to harvest until it can be found growing abundantly. If one feels that some harvesting is possible then take only a few plants or only some portion of several plants.

6) Leave the roots of perennials intact along with a portion of the leaves so the plant can regenerate.

7) Take only a part of a plant so the plant can flower and reproduce.

8) Take only what can be processed and used.

9) Take time to enjoy the process and appreciate the surroundings.



1. Time outdoors with Elder for collection of two plant samples per student.


2. Students will preserve medicinal plant samples.

3. Students will match preserved plant to that of the Elder's sample.


4. Students will transfer medicinal plant sample information unto the NEAR plant assessment activity sheet with the guidance of an elder.


5. Students will sketch and color their medicinal plant sample.

6. Elder will review knowledge of the physical description, habitat, and harvesting time. This will enable to accurately record assessed information.


Medicinal Plants of Kodiak


1. Common Name __________________________________________

2. Scientific Name ______________________________________

3. Alutiiq Name _________________________________________

4. Where did you find your plant? (beach, pond, stream, field, swamp, forest, etc.,)


5. Describe your plant. (size, color, shape, etc.,)





6. What medicinal use(s) does it have? __________________




7. Draw, trace, or use a real photo of your plant.



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Handbook for Culturally Responsive Science Curriculum by Sidney Stephens
Excerpt: "The information and insights contained in this document will be of interest to anyone involved in bringing local knowledge to bear in school curriculum. Drawing upon the efforts of many people over a period of several years, Sidney Stephens has managed to distill and synthesize the critical ingredients for making the teaching of science relevant and meaningful in culturally adaptable ways."



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Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
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Last modified August 14, 2006