Overview and Introduction

Overview and Introduction

Grades 5-8: Activities can be extended, deepened, or eliminated to provide differentiated instruction.

  • Students develop research skills in science and history while gaining an understanding of one group of North  America's indigenous people.
  • Students become aware of the effects of changes in population on natural plant life ecology.
  • Students understand the changes that occur in culture as a result of cultural interaction.
  • Students reflect on personal and cultural history as they compare and contrast sharing of research.

Enduring Understandings and Big Ideas

  • People of all cutures use natural resources to make tools, utensils, and household necessities.
  • People of all cultures have talented artisans.
  • A group's  use of natural resources is affected by the ecological balance of a place.
  • Overpopulation, lumbering, and farming affect the ecological balance of a place.

Essential Questions

  • How are basket-making methods similar and different in various Native American tribes?
  • How has the use of Choctaw baskets changed from the past to modern times?
  • What are the steps in the process of making a Choctaw basket?
  • How has increased population, lumbering, and farming affected canebrakes (river cane) and in turn the Native American culture?

Time required

These lesson will take 4-8 class periods or teacher choice.  Lessons can be used as group or individual activities.

Classroom resources

  • Computer access
  • Internet access
  • PowerPoint software
  • U.S. map
  • Art paper
  • Colored pipe cleaners
  • Graph paper
  • Markers/pencils/colored pencils/etc.
  • Scissors
  • Venn diagram template

Learning Objectives

  • Students will describe the geographical location and ecosystem of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
  • Students will investigate the ecology of canebrakes and discover their ecological and historical importance.
  • Students will investigate the process of making a Choctaw basket from harvesting the cane to the finished product.
  • Students will compare and contrast Choctaw and Cherokee baskets using a Venn digaram.  This can be extended to include many other tribes if needed for group work or to incorporate tribes in students' area.
  • Students will read and discuss a short story written by a Native Amercan author.
  • Students will investigate the uses of Choctaw baskets in the past and in modern times.
  • Students will use symmetry to design and create a basket drawing.
  • Students will do hands-on art by weaving a paper basket or making a basket from a purchased kit.

Background on Choctaw Baskets

Background on Choctaw Baskets

For background information on Choctaw basket weaving, see  This article includes history of basketry in the region, the weaving process, and how dye colors are obtained and used.

Classroom Strategies

Classroom Strategies

Activities below require students to conduct research using one or more of the resources listed in the Resources section of this Learning Center (next page).


  •  The teacher will introduce the diversity of indigenous Native American cultures and relate this diversity of geographical locations, ecosystems, and natural resources using maps, recalling  students' background knowledge, brainstorming, a K-W-L chart, etc.


  • Students will research canebrakes (river cane) to discover:

           -growing habitats/locations (particularly Choctaw tribal lands in Mississippi)

           -uses by Native Americans

           -effects of overpopulation, farming, and lumbering on ecology

  • Students will use research on river cane to create:

           -report or Power Point

          -ecology poster

          -infomational brochure

         -map of tribal lands and canebrake locations in Mississippi


  • Students will research basket-making styles of the Choctaw and Cherokee tribes. They will compare and contrast different styles using a Venn diagram. This can be used as a prewriting activity.
  • Students will sequence the basket-making steps by drawing a picture and writing a sentence for each picture using a "comic strip" pattern or booklet, sequencing the steps from harvesting the cane to the finished product. This can be used as a prewriting activity.
  • The class will read and discuss the story "The Indian Basket" by Mickey Roberts (see the Talking Leaves book in the Resources page, following).  Students will compare the uses of baskets by Native Americans in the past and in modern times.
  • Students will create a basket design by folding a large piece of manila or construction paper in half.  Cut the shape of a basket (as in cutting a Valentine heart). Cut a piece of graph paper (preferably with large squares) the same size and shape.  Discuss patterns and symmetry. Students will use the graph paper to create a basket design which is then transferred to the manila paper and colored to represent a basket. The finished product can be mounted on black construction paper to create a constrast for display.
  • Use a paper pattern (easily found on the Internet) and colored paper, colored pipe cleaners, or a basket-making kit (can be purchased on the Internet in classroom sets, very reasonably priced) to allow students to have a hands-on experience weaving baskets in order to develop respect for the craft and the artisans.
  • Extension activity: Students research the baskets of other indigenous Americans. Resources are available on the Internet or in the collections of ECHO partner museums (e.g., the Peabody Essex Museum).




Choctaw (Chahta): History, Culture, and Language Curriculum Book, Bill Porter, Carmichael, CA: San Juan Unified School District, 1984

Teaching Young Children About Native Americans, ERIC digest (ERIC Identifier: ED 394744; Publiction date: 1996-05-00; Author: Reese, Debbie; source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementray and Early Childhood Educaton, Urbana, IL.)

Talking Leaves, Contemporary Native American Short Stories, edited by Craig Lesley, Dell Publishing Company, 1991. This book contains "The Indian Basket" by Mickey Roberts.

National Academic Standards

National Academic Standards


N.S. 5-8.3: Life Science-Populations and Ecosystems

N.S.8.6: Populations, Resources, and Environments



Standard 4:  The physcial and human characteristics of places.

Standard 14: How humans modify the physical environment.

Standard 16:  The changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution and importance of resources.



Standard 1: Family life now and in the recent past; family life in various places long ago.

Standard 6:  Regional folklore and cultural contributions that helped to form our national heritage.



Standard 5: Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves and of the cultures of the United States and the world: to acquire new information; to respond to the need and demands of society and the workplace, and for personal fulfillment.  Among these texts are fiction and non-fiction, historical and conemporary works.

Standard 7:  Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems.  They gather, evaluate and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g. print and non-print texts, artifacts, and people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.

Standard 8:  Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g. libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

Standard 9:  Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions and social roles.



NA-VA-5-8.4:  Students know and compare characteristics of artworks in various eras and cultures.








Choose three activities to complete.  Choose diagonally, vertically or horizontally using a tic-tac-toe format. Use appropriate rubrics or checklists for assessment.



Research the canebrakes/river cane to discover growing habits, locations, and uses.  Write a report about how overpopulation, farming and lumbering has affected cane. Present your report to the class.


Draw, label, and color a map of Mississippi.  Be sure to include the rivers and areas in which canebrakes appear.

Locate all Choctaw Tribal lands. Label each reservation community.



Research the Choctaw tribe and any other tribe you choose.  Make a chart, table, or use a Venn diagram to compare the tribes.  Write a compare/contrast paper using your information as a prewrite.


Create a basket design on manila or graph paper. Color it using colors similar to an authentic Choctaw basket.  Cut it out and mount it on black paper for display.


Create a “comic strip” of pictures and directions for weaving a Choctaw basket. Use as a prewrite for a “how-to” paper.

Read the short story “The Indian Basket” by Mickey Roberts.  Write a synopsis of the story and develop some reader response questions.  Share with a friend.


Write an acrostic poem using the words “Choctaw Basket.”

Illustrate around the margins of the paper and mount on black paper for display.


Brainstorm the different uses for a Choctaw basket.

Compare the ways the baskets were used long ago and today.  Use a table or a Venn diagram.


Use a paper pattern, colored paper, pipe cleaners, or a basket weaving kit to make a basket.