North American Bison Culture

Time: 2 Hours (Can Be Shortened)

Grades: 2-12

Your students will journey back in time to learn about the unique relationship between Native Americans and the bison. They will learn how the native people of the Great Plains utilized the bison in their every day life. They will see preserved bison biofacts (including pelt, skull, bones, stomach, brain, and more) and the Native American artifacts that were made from the bison.

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North American Bison Culture:

Like most of our on-grounds programs, the North American Bison Culture program includes an engaging educational lesson, hands-on animal biofact and human artifact interaction, a fun activity, a specially themed scavenger hunt, and time for open exploration of the museum. Read below to learn more about each of these; remember, your program can be shortened to fit any time constraints. 

Activity: 20 Minutes

The activity for the North American Bison Culture program is a special activity, just for this program. Students will be placed in groups of four, and given a game board. This board lists all the different parts of a bison that Native Americans utilized during the 1700s and 1800s. Examples of this are rawhide, stomach, blood, and hooves. Each group will also be given a bunch of small tokens. Each token has one item that Native Americans made from the bison. Examples of this are knife, tipi, spoon, and drum. 

Your students will work together to place the tokens on the correct spot on the gameboard. Unlike some of the other programs we teach, with North American Bison Culture, your students will complete the activity before their lesson. It is a fantastic way to get them thinking about how the people of the Great Plains used the bison in their everyday life.

Educational Lesson: 60 Minutes

During the educational lesson, your students will learn all about the connection between the North American Bison and the Native Americans that called the Great Plains home during the 1700s and 1800s. 

We will begin by talking about the bison, where they lived historically, and why they are so amazing. Next, we will learn all about how the Native Americans of the Great Plains used the bison for their everyday lives. We'll discuss how the they utilized the bison for food, what they made from bison leather, what tools and weapons they made from bison bones, how they used the bison organs, and how they utilized other bison objects like horns and hooves. 

During this program, your students will be able to see actual bison biofacts – including a bison pelt, skull, various bones, bladder, stomach, brains, intestine, tanned skin, rawhide, hooves, and horns! They will also be able to see Native American artifacts that were made from these objects. This includes weapons, tools, clothing, bags, artwork, and more!   

Please note, this class deals with how different parts of the bison were used to create items for the Native Americans. So, it does deal with hunting and animal death.

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Scavenger Hunt: 20 Minutes

The North American Bison Culture scavenger hunt will bring your students through the museum, looking for certain items that pertain to what they learned about in their lesson. This will include historical artifacts from tribes of the Great Plains, bison mounts, and correlated pieces of art! The scavenger hunts are completed in small groups or pairs. 

Open Museum Exploration: 20 Minutes

While the scavenger hunt allows your students to see a curated selection of items within the museum, the open museum exploration time allows your students to explore whatever they are interested in. The Wyoming State Museum has so many topics (from dinosaurs to mining to pioneers to warfare to animals to Native American culture to national parks and more), that we find it is a great idea to give students free time at the end of the program to explore. 

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