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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
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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.

Working with Willows


BSSD Unit on SURVIVAL - Edible Foods

Theme: Willows

lesson one

Title: Where's My Willow?


Authors: Jenna Anasogak, Jolene Katchatag, Mike Kimber, John Sinnok, Nita Towarak, Cheryl Pratt

Grade Level: 5-8 (can be adapted for lower or higher grade levels)

Subjects: Science, Physical Education, Language Arts

Context: Fall or Spring - 1.5 hours

Region: NW Alaska

Materials: blindfolds


*Alaska Science Standards: B- A student should possess and understand the skills of scientific inquiry.

Skills and Knowledge: B-3- A student should possess and understand the skills of scientific inquiry to understand that scientific inquiry often involves different ways of thinking, curiosity, and the exploration of multiple paths.

*Alaska Standards for Culturally Relevant Schools: E- Culturally-knowledgeable students demonstrate an awareness and appreciation of the relationships and processes of interaction of all elements in the world around them.

Skills and Knowledge: E-3 Students who meet this cultural standard are able to demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between world view and the way knowledge is formed and used.



I. Overview:

This lesson would be fun to do with elders, parents and community members. In this activity students will explore their sense of touch and discover why the sense of touch is important to us and to how we observe and identify our world.

II. Background and Discussion:

Ask the students what is important about the sense of touch. How do they use their sense of touch? What if they didn't have it? Ask them to give examples of how animals use the sense of touch for survival, and how people find touch important in their own lives. Have students imagine and describe what different parts of a willow might feel like. Have each student write down their descriptions

III. Getting Ready:

Find an area where many willows are growing. Collect objects from some of the willows and from around the willows. Have students make analogies and metaphors, compare and contrast, classify and categorize the different parts of the plants.

IV. Doing the Lesson:

A. Take the students outside to a place where there are many willows growing and divide them into groups of three. Give each group a blindfold.

B. Explain that each member of the group will take a turn wearing the blindfold. (Students who are uncomfortable wearing a blindfold can just close their eyes.) Let the students take turns examining a few willows while wearing the blindfold.

C. Next have the two "sighted" team members carefully lead their "blind" teammate to a willow. The blindfolded student should examine the willow's bark and, if possible, its leaves and other features. The "blind" student should feel the ground around the willow, the number of branches and their lengths, the buds, the leaves, and the trunk of the willow. The "blind" students should get to know the willow as well as possible by using all the sense except the sense of sight.

D. After several minutes the "sighted" members should carefully guide the "blind" member back to a gathering area and then remove the blindfold.

E. The "newly-sighted" member now is given a chance to find their willow! The other members will be able to tell this student if he or she is correct at finding the right willow. You may want to time the students to see how long it takes to find their willows.

F. Each member of the team should be given a turn to be the "blind" member.


You may ask students to write a summary of what they feel they have learned about the use of their senses. Have them include information about how we identify things in our world: how do we observe the things around us and make analogies and metaphors, compare and contrast, classify and categorize? How do we use these skills to help us survive?


Project Learning Tree, American Forest Foundation, 1993

Lesson One - Where's My Willow - a game to play in the willows

Lesson Two - Journey with Journals - journal construction and activities

Lesson Three - Getting the Green Out - a study of willow growth

Lesson Four - Watching the Willows - a study in plant phenology

Lesson Five - Wind in the Willows - a penpal project

Lesson Six - What's in a Willow - nutritional value and edible plant parts

Lesson Seven - Whipping up Willows - gathering, preparing, preserving and sharing


This thematic unit is part of a larger unit on Survival being developed by members of the Bering Strait School District's Materials Development Team. This sections deals mainly with edible plants in the NW Alaska Region.

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Moose in Interior Alaska Birds Around the Village  


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
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
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Last modified August 14, 2006