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