Posted by: Kirsten | Monday, 26 November 2007

Hovenweep National Monument Curriculum Materials

Human Prehistory at Hovenweep Nat’l Monument

Human habitation at Hovenweep dates to over 10,000 years ago when nomadic Paleoindians visited the Cajon Mesa to gather food and hunt game. These people used the area for centuries, following the seasonal weather patterns. By about A.D. 900, people started to settle at Hovenweep year-round, planting and harvesting crops in the rich soil of the mesa top. By the late 1200s, the Hovenweep area was home to over 2,500 people.  Straddling the Utah/Colorado state line, Hovenweep is now noted for its solitude and undeveloped, natural character.

Ancestral Puebloans

The towers of Hovenweep were built by ancestral Puebloans, a sedentary farming culture that occupied the Four Corners area from about A.D. 500 to A.D. 1300. Similarities in architecture, masonry and pottery styles indicate that the inhabitants of Hovenweep were closely associated with groups living at Mesa Verde and other nearby sites.

The ancestral Puebloans prepared their land for cultivation much like farmers do today. They created terraces on hillsides, formed catch basins to hold storm run-off, and built check dams to retain topsoil that would otherwise wash away. Storage granaries under the canyon rims protected harvests of corn, beans and squash for later use.

Most of the structures at Hovenweep were built between A.D. 1200 and 1300. There is quite a variety of shapes and sizes, including square and circular towers, D-shaped dwellings and many kivas (Puebloan ceremonial structures, usually circular). The masonry at Hovenweep is as skillful as it is beautiful. Even the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde rarely exhibit such careful construction and attention to detail. Some structures built on irregular boulders remain standing after more than 700 years.

Curriculum Materials by Grade (1-6)

While these materials were designed in conjunction with the Utah Public Schools in mind, many if not all of them can be adapted to suit your needs.

1st Grade

  • Imaginary River Trip: Students take an imaginary river trip, along the way exploring how humans, animals and insects use the river to survive.
  • Plants: Students learn about the different parts of plants through story, song, drawing and observation. They categorize seeds by their method of travel, and investigate the areas most conducive to plant growth.

2nd Grade

  • Rocks: Students explore a few rocks and minerals of the area. They investigate how sandstone was formed and experiment with both wind and water to determine which is the most effective erosional process. Students explore cryptobiotic soil, and search for clues to discover how we use rocks differently than the people who lived here in ancient times.
  • Preparing for Winter: This in-class presentation uses story and visualization to explore how different types of animals survive the winter.
  • Changes in Plants and Animals: Students explore plant changes by performing a play depicting the life cycle of a wildflower through the seasons. They explore life cycles of frogs and toads, along the way discovering the difference between them. Students learn about insect metamorphosis, focusing on moths and butterflies, and discover the surprising world of insect galls.

3rd Grade

  • Force, Motion and Primitive Technologies: Students explore different types of simple machines by examining ancient technologies. Students examine different types of levers using digging sticks and throwing atlatls. They discover how wheels and axels were used to make fire, and how rock wedges can become useful tools.
  • Traveling Safely in the Desert: This in-class presentation explores the tools a student needs to hike safely in the desert ecosystem. Students learn their directions, things to bring with them, and most importantly what to do if they get lost.
  • Living and Non-living Interactions: Before and after the field trip, students explore producers, consumers, decomposers and food chains, through dioramas and art projects. On the field trip, a story and an active game reinforce predator-prey relationships. Students examine decomposers and explore different components of the high desert ecosystem.

4th Grade

  • Utah Animal Life (Adaptations): Students are introduced to animal adaptations as both activities and physical parts that help animals to survive. On the field trip, students explore for beaver sign along a stream and dress-up one student to illustrate the amazing adaptations of this animal. Students pretend to be raptors, learning why the birds need sharp eyesight, and play a game that illustrates the adaptations of deer and mountain lions. Finally, they migrate as a gaggle of geese, and examine how much energy it takes to make the long journey.
  • Cultural Contributions: A pre-trip activity introduces archaeology and the artifacts that provide clues to the lives of ancient people. On the field trip, students make their own pottery, cordage and rock art replicas, and examine an ancient rock art panel. They match clues to human uses of different plants in the area. Back in the classroom, students write and place in order a few events in their own lives, and learn how vandals can destroy the archeological record.
  • Water Cycles: Students hear a story and dance to a water cycle music video. While visiting a wetlands ecosystem they act out the process of erosion in different environments, and participate in a relay where they pretend to be agents of evaporation and precipitation. They investigate and measure the characteristics of stream water and streamflow, and experiment with wetland soil to discover the soil’s filtering roles. Afterwards, each student creates a regional drawing of the water cycle.Water Cycles: Students hear a story and dance to a water cycle music video. While visiting a wetlands ecosystem they act out the process of erosion in different environments, and participate in a relay where they pretend to be agents of evaporation and precipitation. They investigate and measure the characteristics of stream water and streamflow, and experiment with wetland soil to discover the soil’s filtering roles. Afterwards, each student creates a regional drawing of the water cycle.

5th Grade

  • Physical Features of the Earth: Students assemble jigsaw puzzles in their classroom which provide them information about the different types of rock and the rock cycle. At a field trip site near the Arches National Park Visitor Center, students examine a limestone layer to find fossils, and make clay models of faulting after putting their hands on the actual surface of an exposed fault plane. They explore and model the formation of arches, and learn the names and depositional histories of the rock layers surrounding them. Back in the classroom, a mapping activity introduces the ultimate source of the rock cycle: plate tectonics.
  • Physical and Chemical Changes in Matter: In the classroom, students explore the difference between physical changes and chemical changes in matter. On the field trip, they go for a hike and observe these changes taking place in the natural world. They learn about particulate matter in the air, discuss what types of changes created these particulates and discover how scientists are measuring them. They act out the chemical changes that are destroying ozone in the upper atmosphere and see how scientists are measuring ozone recovery. Back in the classroom, students mix household items and predict the type of resulting reactions.
  • Plant Adaptations: Students explore genetics using desert plant adaptations, riparian plant adaptations, and a few desert plants and animals adapted to nighttime activities. Their field activities include: rough observation and data collection, a clue trail, plant keys, story, and a smelling game. In classroom activities, students take on the identity of a desert plant or animal, and later create an imaginary plant with adaptations for survival in its imaginary environment.

6th Grade

  • Microorganisms of the Desert: This field trip offers two hour-long investigations, each focussing on small desert organisms: specifically, pothole organisms and lichens. Because pothole organisms are ephemeral and may not be in evidence at the time of your planned field trip, a third hour-long station is also described, investigating cryptobiotic soil. The pre-trip activity introduces a variety of microorganisms to students through microphotographs. After the field trip, students use microscopes to search for microorganisms in pothole water.
  • Bighorn Sheep: Before the field trip, students play a board game describing the habits and hardships of desert bighorn sheep. During the field trip hike, they search for and demonstrate their knowledge of bighorn sheep. Students explore the tracks and track patterns of animals that live in bighorn sheep habitat, the plants bighorns eat, and how to identify the birds that share bighorn habitat. Back in the classroom, students put clues together to solve a mystery involving microorganisms and the deaths of sheep.
  • Heat, Light and Sound: In the classroom, students review the properties of waves. On the field trip, students investigate what objects absorb and retain the most heat and use sound waves to find local birds. They observe how lenses change light waves, discovering which lenses are needed for specific uses, and they investigate how sunscreen blocks UV waves. Back in the classroom, students discuss when our use of heat, light or sound waves becomes overuse.

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