Oh, Give Them a Home!


Students will be able to identify the role of the American bison in the life of the American Indians and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Students will also be able to identify the habitat of the bison.

Coin Type(s)

  • Nickel

Coin Program(s)

  • Westward Journey Nickels


  • Students will be able to identify the role of the American bison in the life of the American Indians and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
  • Students will also be able to identify the habitat of the bison.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies
  • Science

Minor/supporting Subject Area Connections

  • Math
  • Language Arts
  • Technology


  • 4th

Class Time

  • Sessions: Five
  • Session Length: 45-60 minutes
  • Total Length: 151-500 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Small groups
  • Individual work

Background Knowledge

Students should have a basic knowledge of:

  • Habitats
  • Internet research skills
  • Note taking skills
  • Behavioral and physical adaptations
  • Relative size
  • Life cycle
  • Thomas Jefferson

Terms and Concepts

  • Obverse (front)
  • Natural resource
  • Reverse (back)
  • Nickel
  • Lewis and Clark
  • Bison
  • Louisiana Purchase
  • American Indians


  • 1 overhead projector
  • "American Bison Nickel Obverse" page from the Resource Guide
  • "American Bison Nickel Reverse" page from the Resource Guide
  • "Roles and Questions" worksheet
  • "Brochure Rubric" sheet
  • "Designing the Brochure" sheet
  • 1 copy of an age-appropriate text that provides basic information about the bison such as:
    • American Bison by Ruth Berman
    • Wildlife of North America: The American Bison by Steve Potts
    • Buffalo Sunrise: The Story of a North American Giant by Diane Swanson
    • A New True Book: Buffalo by Emilie U. Lepthien
    • Nature's Children: Buffalo by Dan Doyle
    • Thunder on the Plains: The Story of the American Buffalo by Ken Robbins
    • Buffalo Hunt by Russell Freedman
    • Buffalo: with Selections from Native American Song-Poems by Beverly Brodsky.
  • Computers with Internet access
  • Lewis and Clark's journals (according to teacher specifications)
  • 1 copy of an age-appropriate text that provides basic information about Lewis and Clark and the bison such as:
    • Meriwether Lewis and William Clark: Soldiers, Explorers, and Partners in History by David Peterson and Mark Coburn, Ch. 3
    • World History Series: The Lewis and Clark Expedition by Eleanor J. Hall
    • The Incredible Journey of Lewis and Clark by Rhoda Blumberg
    • On the Trail of Lewis and Clark: A Journey Up the Missouri River by Peter Lourie
    • A Picture Book of Lewis and Clark by David A. Adler
    • Lewis and Clark: Explorers of the American West by Steven Kroll
    • How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark by Rosalyn Schanzer
  • Web sites that include basic information about bison such as:


  • Make copies of the following:
    • "Designing the Brochure" sheet (1 per student)
    • "Roles and Questions" sheet (1 per student)
    • "Brochure Rubric" (1 per student)
    • Lewis and Clark's journals (1 per group)
  • Make an overhead transparency of the following:
    • "American Bison Nickel Obverse" page from the Resource Guide
    • "American Bison Nickel Reverse" page from the Resource Guide
  • Locate an appropriate text that provides basic information about the bison (see examples under "Materials").
  • Locate an appropriate text that provides basic information about Lewis and Clark and the bison (see examples under "Materials").
  • Arrange to use the school computer lab or find copies of appropriate texts that provide basic information about the bison (see examples under "Materials").
  • Bookmark appropriate Internet sites (see examples under "Materials").


Worksheets and files (PDF)

Lesson Steps

Session 1

  1. Display the transparency of the "2005 American Bison Nickel Obverse" page. Ask the students to examine it and tell you what they know about this picture. The students should be able to identify this as the obverse (front) of a nickel and that it depicts President Thomas Jefferson. Tell the students, "The obverse design for the 2005 nickels will bear, for the first time in 67 years, a new likeness of America's third president, Thomas Jefferson. The 'Liberty' inscription on the coin is based on Jefferson's own handwriting."
  2. Ask the students if they know what is on the reverse (back) of the American Bison Nickel. After hearing responses, display the transparency of the 2005 "American Bison Nickel Reverse" page. Ask the students to state what they think this animal is, and explain to the students that the American bison is not really a buffalo—no species of buffalo is native to North America. But people have used the term "buffalo" to describe the American bison since before Lewis and Clark's time, so the terms are virtually interchangeable in common usage.
  3. Explain to the students that, when our country was very young, President Thomas Jefferson bought some new territory for our country. Explain that the design on the nickel is scheduled to change five times between 2004 and 2006. The designs will tell the story of two explorers named Meriwether Lewis and William Clark who led an expedition to explore this land 200 years ago.
  4. Read this quote: "The whole face of the country was covered with herds of buffalo, elk and antelope; deer are also abundant, but keep themselves more concealed in the woodland. The buffalo, elk and antelope are so gentle that we pass near them while feeding without appearing to excite any alarm among them, and when we attract their attention, they frequently approach us more nearly to discover what we are, and in some instances pursue us a considerable distance apparently with that view. In our way to the place I had determined to encamp, we met with two large herds of buffalo, of which we killed three cows and a calf." Tell the students that that passage was written by Meriwether Lewis on April 25, 1805.
  5. Ask the students to visualize what Lewis is referring to. Discuss the quote.
  6. Using the chart paper or overhead, start a K-W-L chart on the bison.
  7. Read an age-appropriate text that describes Lewis and Clark's exploration and includes references to bison.
  8. Have the students add any information from the text to the K-W-L chart.

Session 2 and 3

  1. Explain to the students that their task is to find some information on the bison.
  2. Explain to the students that they will be working in groups. Each student in the group will be assigned a specific task to accomplish. Explain that each of them will be reviewing Web sites and other resources to answer some questions.
  3. Tell the students that each group will make a four-page brochure on the bison. The brochure can be drawn by hand or completed using a word processing program, or using a multimedia product, depending on the teacher's preference.
  4. Assign the students to groups of four. Distribute a "Roles and Questions" sheet to each student. Assign a role to each student in the group. Review the questions for each role.
  5. Distribute one "Brochure Rubric" sheet and one "Designing the Brochure" handout to each student. Have the students write their names and their roles on the "Brochure Rubric" sheet. Review both handouts.
  6. Direct the students to start gathering information. Tell the students to use the questions to guide them through their search.
  7. Remind the students to look at their questions before they go to the Internet or start looking up information in some other resource. The students should try to focus on finding the answers to their questions first. The students can also add other interesting facts related to their roles.
  8. Give the students an appropriate amount of time to complete their research.

Session 4

  1. In their small groups, direct the students to work together to make a draft of what each of them would like his or her page to look like.
  2. After the teacher approves the design, have the students start working on the final draft of their brochures.
  3. Allow the students an appropriate amount of time to complete their brochures.

Session 5

  1. As a class, complete and review the K-W-L chart.
  2. Have the students complete their part of the rubric sheets.
  3. Collect the rubric sheets.
  4. Display the completed brochures in the classroom.
  5. Invite the students to do a gallery walk of the brochures.

Differentiated Learning Options

  • Have students work in groups of eight. Assign two students in each group to each role.
  • Have students design posters instead of brochures.



Use the "Brochure Rubric" to evaluate the students' ability to meet the lesson objectives.

Common Core Standards

Discipline: Math
Domain: 4.MD Measurement and Data
Grade(s): Grade 4
Cluster: Solve problems involving measurement and conversion of measurements from a larger unit to a smaller unit

  • 4.MD.1. Know relative sizes of measurement units within one system of units including km, m, cm, kg, g, lb, oz, l, ml, hr, min and sec. Within a single system of measurement, express measurements in a larger unit in terms of a smaller unit. Record measurement equivalents in a two column table.
    • For example, know that 1ft is 12 times as long as 1in. Express the length of a 4ft snake as 48in. Generate a conversion table for feet and inches listing the number pairs (1, 12), (2, 24), (3, 36), ...
  • 4.MD.2. Use the four operations to solve word problems involving distances, intervals of time, liquid volumes, masses of objects, and money, including problems involving simple fractions or decimals, and problems that require expressing measurements given in a larger unit in terms of a smaller unit. Represent measurement quantities using diagrams such as number line diagrams that feature a measurement scale.
  • 4.MD.3. Apply the area and perimeter formulas for rectangles in real world and mathematical problems. For example, find the width of a rectangular room given the area of the flooring and the length, by viewing the area formula as a multiplication equation with an unknown factor. 

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: L.4 Language
Grade(s): Grade 4
Cluster: Conventions of Standard English

  • L.4.1. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
    • Use relative pronouns (who, whose, whom, which, that) and relative adverbs (where, when, why).
    • Form and use the progressive (e.g., I was walking; I am walking; I will be walking) verb tenses.
    • Use modal auxiliaries (e.g., can, may, must) to convey various conditions.
    • Order adjectives within sentences according to conventional patterns (e.g., a small red bag rather than a red small bag).
    • Form and use prepositional phrases.
    • Produce complete sentences, recognizing and correcting inappropriate fragments and run-ons.
    • Correctly use frequently confused words (e.g., to, too, two; there, their).
  • L.4.2. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
    • Use correct capitalization.
    • Use commas and quotation marks to mark direct speech and quotations from a text.
    • Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence.
    • Spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting references as needed.

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: RL.4 Reading: Informational Text
Grade(s): Grade 4
Cluster: Craft and Structure

  • RI.4.4. Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.
  • RI.4.5. Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.
  • RI.4.6. Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: RL.4 Reading: Informational Text
Grade(s): Grade 4
Cluster: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

  • RI.4.7. Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.
  • RI.4.8. Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.
  • RI.4.9. Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

National Standards

Discipline: Technology
Domain: All Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
Cluster: Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.
Grade(s): Grades K–12

  • Identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation
  • Plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project
  • Collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions
  • Use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: 3-5 Measurement
Cluster: Apply appropriate techniques, tools, and formulas to determine measurements.
Grade(s): Grades K–12

In grades 3–5 all students should

  • develop strategies for estimating the perimeters, areas, and volumes of irregular shapes;
  • select and apply appropriate standard units and tools to measure length, area, volume, weight, time, temperature, and the size of angles;
  • select and use benchmarks to estimate measurements;
  • develop, understand, and use formulas to find the area of rectangles and related triangles and parallelograms; and
  • develop strategies to determine the surface areas and volumes of rectangular solids.

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: 3-5 Measurement
Cluster: Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement.
Grade(s): Grades K–12

In grades 3–5 all students should

  • understand such attributes as length, area, weight, volume, and size of angle and select the appropriate type of unit for measuring each attribute;
  • understand the need for measuring with standard units and become familiar with standard units in the customary and metric systems;
  • carry out simple unit conversions, such as from centimeters to meters, within a system of measurement;
  • understand that measurements are approximations and how differences in units affect precision; and
  • explore what happens to measurements of a two-dimensional shape such as its perimeter and area when the shape is changed in some way.