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Oliver Johnson

cabin in the woodsGrade Level:



Science: Environment
Social Studies: History
English: Literature


Howard Johnson, grandson to Oliver Johnson, wrote down the recollections his grandfather told him concerning early pioneer life in Marion County, Indiana, in the book A Home in the Woods: Pioneer Life in Indiana. This oral history touches on environmental issues such as deforestation and hunting.


The purpose of this lesson plan is to connect Indiana’s environment and literature, and to give students insight into pioneer life in Indiana.


1) To explore pioneer life.
2) To examine the mass clearing of the land (deforestation)
3) To examine the effect of hunting on the local wildlife


This is intended to be a five day lesson plan that gives students insight into pioneer life in Indiana.

Day 1

Social Studies:

First, determine the students’ pre-existing knowledge of the pioneers. Ask them to share what comes to mind when they hear the word “pioneer,” and keep track of their answers.

After getting responses from the students, begin the lesson on pioneers and early settlers in Indiana.

Discuss with the students:
1) The various reasons that people began to move west.
2) Factors that led some pioneers to settle in the Indiana territory, such as the river systems located there.
3) The pioneers’ attitudes toward the wilderness.


Determine the students’ knowledge of general environmental issues. This will help give you an idea of how extensive the environment lesson should be. On day two, deforestation will be discussed. Students will need enough background information in order to be able to discuss this environmental issue.


Read aloud the first two chapters of A Home in the Woods. After this day, students will be responsible for reading the rest of the book on their own time.

Day 2

Social Studies:

Discuss with students the different aspects of life in a typical pioneer village, such as glassblowers, blacksmiths, general store owners, and doctors.


1) Define deforestation.
2) Discuss with the students the effects of deforestation on the wildlife in the area.


Library time: Take the students to the library in order to research daily life for the pioneers. This will lead into an activity on day three.

Day 3

Social Studies:

Activity #1: Split the class into groups of four. Give each group a long piece of butcher paper, Lincoln logs, markers, felt, and any other materials that are necessary for them to create a 3-D pioneer village.


Activity #2:
1) Creative writing: After the activity, have students write a creative story about what they feel would have been a typical day in the life of a pioneer.
2) Discuss the students’ responses to the creative writing activity.

Day 4


Activity #3: Field trip--Take the students to Connor Prairie to experience typical pioneer life.


Activity #4: Creative writing--After returning from Connor Prairie, give the students the opportunity to write about their favorite aspect of pioneer life. Have them write about what job they might like to have in a pioneer village.

Day 5


Creative writing: Allow the students to pick out their favorite part of the book so far, and ask them to explain to the class why it is their favorite part of the book. Then, have the students write their own outcome to that part of the book.