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Native Pathways to Education
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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


Unit on SURVIVAL - Edible Foods

Theme: Willows

lesson two

Title: A Journey with Journals


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: Language Arts, Art

Context: Fall

part one - one hour

part two - year long

Region: NW Alaska

Materials: Pocket knives, twine, tag board, cardboard and three-hole blank paper or manufactured notebooks with blank paper, "Tacky" glue, "modge podge", scissors, permanent markers


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

Skills and Knowledge: B-3- A student who meets the content standard should 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-2- Students who meet this cultural standard are able to understand the ecology and geography of the bioregion they inhabit.



I. Overview:

This activity will provide your students with a means to record information and personal observations throughout the entire unit on edible plants. The students will need their journals for most of the lessons within the Willow Theme. "Journal keeping should be a joyful experience... A celebration rich in personal reward and positive feedback". William Hammond, Natural Context, 1993

II. Background and Discussion:

"A journal is a place for thinking and feeling, for harvesting the moment, the image, the idea, the place you occupy. Don't wait to paint the perfect picture or sketch; don't wait for the time when you have time to write the polished essay or poem but rather get down on the pages of your journal those core images, ideas and fragments of experience you are now feeling. Edit or recompose later if you must. Grab images, words, drawings, pressed leaves, dirt, post cards, anything that impresses you and will help you remember the time, place and events you are experiencing and creatively get them into you journal. William Hammond, Natural Context, 1993

from Project Wild, Western Regional EE Council, 1983

A naturalist is a person who studies nature, especially by direct observation of plants, animals, and their environments. Naturalists often spend alot of time in the out-of-doors, and the often record their obsessions in some form - from sketches, drawings, paintings, and photos, to poetry and prose. Each person's motivation will be unique, and may include sheer joy in learning more about natural systems, interest in contributing to scientific research, love for the art of writing as literature, and simple satisfaction in being outside.

People benefit today from the insights and observations of people who have delighted in, and been fascinated by, the wonders of the natural environment. Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Enos Mills, John Muir, and today's Edward Abbey and Annie Dillard are among those who have captured their insights in words and offered them to others.

Most of the naturalists who put their observations in poetry and prose carry with them a small journal as they wander the woods, streams, lakes, oceans, deserts, and other natural environments.

The major purpose of this activity is for students to make their own journals, and to acquires experience in using a journal to record their observations and findings in out-of-door settings.

III. Getting Ready:

Bring in an example of a journal, handmade or published, which includes illustrations from the author. There are many examples available for purchase by explorers, gardeners, travelers, etc. Maybe someone in your community would be able and willing to share a personal journal with the class.

IV. Doing the Lesson:

A. 1. Have students cut two pieces of tag board for a front and back cover of their journals. These pieces should be slightly bigger than the size of the three-hole paper they are going to be using.

2. Make holes into the tag board to match to the holes in the paper. (Optional -Cut out two thin pieces of cardboard the same size as the tag board and use Tacky glue to adhere these to the front and back covers. Punch holes in the cardboard to match that of the tag board.)

3. Fasten the paper and covers together using natural twine weaving it through the holes.

Some students may wish to fasten a small willow branch into the twine lengthwise with the journal as decoration. The front covers can be decorated any way the students desire. It would be nice to use parts of the willow for these decorations. Small twigs can be glued down to form an elaborate design and then coated with modge podge to seal.

The possibilities are endless for making a journal personal and creative. Allow students ample time to create something that will be special.

"Every journal is uniquely shaped by its keeper. Every journal is designed by its keeper and is a powerful creativity tool which in turn helps to continue to redesign the designer! This is exactly why there can be no "best" way to do journal. You as the designer must design not only the journal techniques and approaches you wish to use but you must understand YOUR purpose for journal keepings and design a journal keeping system which will nurture that purpose. Journals should be places for invention!" William Hammond, Natural Context, 1993.

Once the journals are created: (Part Two)

B. 1. Take the students to a place near the school where willows are growing and have each of them choose a "Special Spot" in the willows. These Special Spots can be visited over and over again during the unit.

2. Have students spend time here today writing, drawing and recording their thoughts and observations in a creative way.

3. Ask them to include a complete description of all the information they already know about willows and what they want to know about willows. (Later in the unit, you can ask students to discuss if their questions were answered and what they have learned about willows.)

4. Before you leave, have students press some of the leaves (esp. in the spring) or pussy willows (esp. in the fall) into their journals.



You may have students write a self-assessment of the creativity of their journal and a description of what they are already planning to include in their journals. Use their writing as an assessment also. What information did they discover about willows? What do they already know about willows and what do they want to know?


  • Project Wild, Western Regional EE Council, 1983, William Hammond
  • Natural Context, 1993
  • Orion Afield, premier issue


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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Math Story Problems
St. Lawrence Island Rain Parka Winds and Weather Willow
Driftwood Snowshoes Moose
Plants of the Tundra Animal Classification for Yup'ik Region Rabbit Snaring
The Right Tool for the Job
Fishing Tools and Technology
Blackfish Family Tree
Medicinal Plants of the Kodiak Alutiiq Archipelago Beaver in Interior Alaska Digging and Preparing Spruce Roots
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
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Last modified August 18, 2006