Culturally Responsive Science Curriculum

Appendix block

Sample Primary Unit

Lure Construction and Ice Fishing with Elder Involvement

Authors: Elder Luci Savetilik, Shaktoolik; Ben Howard, Elim; Cheryl Pratt, White Mountain


Grade Level:



After rivers freeze for 1 week*

AKRSI Region:

Seward Peninsula, Bering Straits Region

Cultural Standards

C1: Perform subsistence activities in ways that are appropriate to local cultural traditions

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

Science Standards

B1: Use the processes of science

B2: Design and conduct scientific investigations using appropriate instruments

Skills and Knowledge

B1-Level 1: Students observe and describe their world

B1-Level 2: Measure and collect data from experiments and use this information in order to classify, predict and communicate about their everyday world.

B2-Level 1: Raise questions and share observations

Math Standards

A6: Collect, organize, analyze, interpret and represent data

E1 Explore problems and describe results using graphical, numerical and physical models or representations

Skills and Knowledge

M.A6 • Collect, record, organize, display and explain the classification of data;

  • Describe data from a variety of visual displays including tallies, tables, pictographs, bar graphs and Venn diagrams;
  • Use the terms “maximum” and minimum” when working with a data set.

M.E1 • Apply mathematical skills and processes to situations with self and family.

Lesson Outline

Day 1

Fishing Pole Construction with Elder Involvement

Day 2
Lure Construction with Elder Involvement
Day 3
Class Activity: Ice Fishing and Graphing Data
Day 4
Class Activity: Ice Fishing and Graphing Data
Day 5
Ice Fishing: Bar Graph, Potlatch with Elders and Families

bait: na-gi-uk
big: a-ka-ga
collect: ga-da-see
experiment: uuk-do-ak
fish: il-ga-luk (more than one il-ga-lu-it)
grayling: soo-luk-bow-gruk
ice: see-goo
ice pick: duk
ice fishing: ma-nuk-do-dung-ga
lure: nik-see-ruk
maximum: il-ga-lu-i-at
minimum: cup-see-rut
salmon eggs: song-nik
small: u-too-goo
trout: i-gaa-loo-bik


Graphic Organizers, Observations, Journals, and Reporting


Lesson 1: Fishing Pole Construction with Elder Involvement


  • One 12–18 inch piece of wood /student
  • Sandpaper/student
  • Fishing line


Gear Up

Begin the Ice Fishing unit with a group activity and discussion to discover what students already know about ice fishing in their region. You can label a piece of chart paper, “What We Know About Ice Fishing.” Have the children sit in a circle and share at least one thing they know about ice fishing. Write all responses down. Encourage children to further share their knowledge by asking questions about the local area: What kind of fish can we catch here? What do people use to fish with? Who taught you to fish? What’s the biggest/smallest fish you’ve caught? What are some different ways to prepare/eat fish? What kind of things do fish eat? What kind of bait/tackle do you use for certain fish? Etc. The teacher should then prepare another chart to post in the room that lists questions or “What More We Want to Know About Ice Fishing.” This chart will be returned to as questions are answered or other questions arise during the unit. (Embedded assessment: prior knowledge)
Invite an Elder to share/explain how the local community ice fishes. The Elder may show the class their favorite fishing pole and lure; demonstrate how they use their pole; talk about what kind of fish they use it for; and show how they made their pole.

The Elder or teacher may invite the students to make their own fishing poles. Each student will receive a 12–18 inch piece of wood and a piece of sandpaper. The Elder or teacher may model the procedure for cutting and sanding a depression at both ends of the piece of wood. See illustration. The teacher may want to have an adult do the cutting.

cut & sand

When students have finished sanding their fishing poles, they may begin wrapping fishing line around the entire length of the pole, using the depressions at each end to hold the line in place. It is important to tie a strong knot around the first loop. Students may label their poles.

After students have completed their fishing poles, it is important to have an Elder demonstrate the proper way to retrieve fish from an ice hole. Allow time for students to practice the technique. For younger students, it may be appropriate to role-play the technique



Teachers are encouraged to provide the class with at least ten minutes undisturbed, free writing time. It is a chance for students to retell or share some of their experiences during the ice fishing unit. Teachers are encouraged to provide art materials to supplement longer free writing activities. It is important to remember that this is a free writing time. More formal writing activities may be integrated into the unit as the teacher deems appropriate.

To close each day’s fishing activities, the teacher should assist students in adding information to a chart labeled “What We’ve Learned” posted somewhere in the classroom. Children are encouraged to share at least one new thing they learned from the day’s activities as the teacher or students write them on the chart. The teacher can review the list of student questions from What More We Want to Know About Ice Fishing to see if any of them had been answered in the day’s activities. This is a daily activity.


Lesson 2: Lure Construction with Elder Involvement


The lure materials center should have stations like the following:

#1– beads of multiple colors

#2– yarn of several colors

#3– metals such as tin foil, copper sheets etc.

#4– colorful feathers

#5– J-hooks with fish-line leader: two sizes (large and small) and barbless



An Elder from the community will discuss with the children the construction of the most basic fishing lure while sharing traditional methods/materials. The discussion may include what types of fish are found in the local area, what seasons are the best for certain species, what bait or techniques are used to catch certain species. The Elder may include a story or share a fishing experience related to the topic. The Elder will then display and explain the fishing lures that he or she uses. We will concentrate on the types of lures that attract trout and grayling (fish species may vary from region to region and season to season).


The Elder or teacher will explain to the children that they will be making lures of their own. Remind students to recall what the Elders shared and what their lures looked like, to be creative, and think about things/colors that might attract fish. Students will be given a small paper bag and visit the lure materials centers individually to collect the materials they would like to use to make their lure. Visiting the centers individually will avoid the “copy cat” syndrome often occurring when young children choose materials.

The center may include other materials students can use to construct a lure. Allow students to brainstorm other materials that may be useful. Constantly remind the students to think like a fish! What color do you think might attract a fish to your hook? Remember what the Elders said! Be creative!

When all of the students have finished collecting their materials, have them sit in small cooperative groups. Instruct and model adding beads, yarn, feathers and metal to J-hooks. Students may need assistance threading beads through J-hook leaders. Students may also need assistance attaching metal materials to J-hook leaders.


While students are making their lures, check for understanding and assess by asking students to explain why they chose particular colors and designs, and retell how they made their lures. They may wish to show-and-tell the class about their lures.


If time permits, students may further compare their lures by sorting them using Venn diagrams. They may also create and sort their lures using dichotomous keys. See examples.


Teacher should help students analyze their classification schemes by asking questions to aid comparison and communication.

classification schemes

Lessons 3 & 4: Class Activity—Ice Fishing with Elder Involvement & Graphing Data


Fishing poles and lures constructed by children

Supplies for creating graphs



Students, Elders and community members will travel to a local fishing area and fish for a local species of fish. For this lesson and region, trout and grayling will be the sought-after fish. This is a great opportunity for informal lessons, stories, and instruction to take place between Elders, community members and students. These fishing activities are perhaps the most powerful components of the entire unit. Students and Elders will be in an appropriate context to begin sharing and educating in a culturally responsive context. Proper cleaning and handling of fish to avoid spoilage should be part of this experience.

Before students leave for fishing, have them predict and record (either written, pictorial, or oral) how many fish they will catch and which lure in the class will catch the most fish. Before leaving, you may also want to have students prepare their graphs for data entry.


There are several types of graphs that can be prepared to represent fishing data.

  1. Line graphs: each student can keep track of their own fishing success by constructing a line graph with the vertical (y-axis) representing the number of fish caught and the x-axis (horizontal) representing the days fished. There can also be a whole-class line graph which tallies the number of fish caught by everyone per day. Questions such as the following would prompt students to analyze their data: which day were the most fish caught? The least? How many more fish were caught on one day vs. another? How might you explain the differences in number of fish caught? Etc.
  2. Bar graphs: students can create a class bar graph where the x-axis has a colored drawing of each child’s lure plus their name and the y-axis represents number of fish caught. Fishing data for each day can be entered by each child for their lure, using a different color pen for each day of fishing (e.g. Wednesday blue, Thursday red, and Friday green). Or, depending upon time and their ability, they might also classify their lures into appropriate groups and construct a bar graph indicating total fish caught per day/lure type or total fish caught for all fishing days/lure type. Possible lure groupings might be made according to bead color, with or without feathers/metal, barb size and so on. Classification using a Venn diagram might be most helpful here prior to graph construction.

Classification using a Venn diagram



Students might also want to construct bar graphs of the size of fish caught using categories such as small = under 5", medium = 6"–10", large = 10"–12" etc.

In addition to entering and analyzing the data above, students should also be encouraged to share stories and at least one new thing they learned from fishing that day and also do the daily journal writing as explained previously.


Lesson 5: Ice Fishing and Graphing Ending with Potlatch with Elders and Families

Fishing poles and lures

Gathered Food for Potlatch


The students will spend the morning with another fishing trip. The procedure is the same as in Lesson 3 and 4. This will give the students three sets of data to observe and sort.

Students will add their fish tallies for the final day to the class bar graph and to their individual line graphs. The class can then discuss the results and begin ordering the data from least to greatest or greatest to least. Once the list has been discussed, the class may decide how they want their data to appear on a final class bar graph. Begin using the vocabulary words maximum (il-ga-lu-i-at) and minimum (cu-see-rut) when discussing the graph. Have the students predict what the graph will look like if they choose to go from least to greatest or greatest to least. Once the class has agreed on an ordering format, begin inviting students to add and color their data on the class bar graph.

When data has been entered, explore the results with the students: What is the maximum amount of fish our graph shows? What is the minimum? Is there anyone who caught the same amount of fish? Which lure caught the most fish? Does this lure resemble the lures used by the Elders? What colors did that person use? Which lure caught the least amount of fish? What colors did that person use? What is the difference between the maximum and minimum numbers on our graph? If you were going to make another lure, what colors/materials would you use? Why?


If time allows, have the children make and test another lure with the idea in mind that they should try to make a lure using the same colors/materials as the lure that caught the most fish.

As a final component or activity of the ice fishing unit, the students will sponsor a fish fry or potlatch for Elders and parents using the fish they caught during the week. During the potlatch, students can share their journals, graphs and experiences with their parents and Elders. The teacher may have a small awards ceremony and present students with “Most Fish”, “Biggest Fish”, “Smallest Fish”, and other participation awards. The teacher should also present an appreciation award such as a replica of the lure that caught the most fish, to the Elders who helped with the unit. In the event that the class does not catch enough fish to sponsor a potlatch, you might stretch the catch by making a fish chowder


Extended Activities

To extend upon the activities within this particular unit a class might:

  1. Continue to experiment with this investigation to help create a firmer data set.
  2. Expand the exploration to include other variables as developmentally appropriate e.g. temperature, various fishing sites, fishing technique, time of day, etc.
  3. Study the different species of fish.
  4. Engage in writing activities that may include sharing knowledge with other students; creating a book about ice fishing in the area; or keeping a detailed journal of findings.
  5. Participate in activities that help bring about awareness of safety issues when ice fishing.
  6. Discuss subsistence.
  7. Replicate this activity during the spring ice-fishing time to note similarities and differences.
  8. Write a song or dance to help describe or recreate the findings of this unit.
  9. Continue to involve the Elders of the community in the education of the students.
  10. Explore the many ways in which other villages engage in ice fishing.
  11. Read children’s literature that relates to subsistence issues, ice fishing or arctic survival.
  12. Learn ways in which fish are best preserved and prepared.

* This unit is meant to be an integral part of a larger unit involving cultural activities that may take place over a one-year period. Luci Savetilik, an Elder from the village of Shaktoolik described the cycle for her area. She began with the collecting of greens in the month of June, the cutting and drying of salmon and picking salmonberries in July, picking blueberries, cranberries and blackberries in the months of August and September, and ice fishing for trout and grayling in late October and November. As the days get colder and daylight shorter, the chores turn to sewing, beading and baking. January and February are good months for camping and hunting for moose and caribou. In March and April wood collecting is a good activity to help get prepared for next winter. These months are also ideal times for ice fishing for trout, grayling, pike and tomcod.

1. As told by Lucy Savetelik for Shaktoolik

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