Objective: Students will listen to a Native American fable and answer a set of questions designed to teach children basic concepts of the food chain.

Materials: The Frogs and the Crane story, frog origami pattern, crane origami pattern, paper, pencil

Background: 80% of the world's population of sandhill cranes (nearly 500,000) stop at the Platte River in Nebraska on their way to their spring breeding grounds in Canada. They and the endangered whooping crane fly in the Central flyway while migrating in the spring and fall. The whooping crane is the tallest North American bird. Cranes have experienced the same types of species reduction as other wetland waterfowl species due to habitat destruction and loss.

The crane has often been a powerful symbol. In ancient China, it was a symbol of justice and longevity. Earlier in the 1900's it became the symbol for wildlife conservation. In the Native American culture, this graceful bird, although tactful and direct, can bring peace, stability, harmony, and good luck. The crane can help teach you how to express feminine energies. It could reflect recovery of that which has almost become extinct within you. The crane parent is secretive about their young, which could tell us we need to be more protective, or have more secrecy about something new you have given birth to or are about to give birth to. There is importance in paying attention to children or special projects. The crane can show us how to celebrate the creative resources within ourselves, keep them alive, no matter the conditions in which they have come about, by simply having the proper focus in your life.

Make copies of the frog and the crane origami pattern instructions.

Read students "The Frogs and the Crane" story.

In many Native American stories, there is a hidden moral. After finishing the story, encourage the students to give you their opinion about what the story was meant to say. Ask the topic questions at the end of the story to help identify one of the underlying themes of the story - the importance of food chains and to help the students understand that there can be many lessons learned from one source or example. Have them discuss what possible themes can be illustrated from this story (some examples: the food chain, humility, ageism/wisdom, metamorphosis, etc.).

Have students gather supplies to make the origami creatures.

After carefully reading the instructions, have students create their origami animals.

If time permits, have students add features to their creations.

Invite a Native American friend to visit your classroom and instruct the students about the importance of totems in that culture. Invite the guest to help your students create their own totem, based on whatever wildlife creature is important to him/her.

Make a class mural of a wetland, showing as many creatures who inhabit a healthy ecosystem as possible. Be sure to include frogs and cranes. If possible, add Native American people to your mural, by "ghosting" them into the background as overseers of the land and the animals. Display in the hallway of your school.

Review a map of North America and talk about the different regions, such as desert, woodlands, or being near an ocean. If any of your students have visited these areas, have them share their experiences and encourage them to discuss the different types of climate, plants and wildlife they encountered while visiting. Next have students choose one of the discussed areas and write a story about what it would have been like when the Native Americans lived there before the continent was settled by others. Make sure to include the types of climate, plants and wildlife that may have been in their chosen area during the past.

Vocabulary Glossary:
Food web: A succession of organisms in a community that constitute a feeding order in which food energy is transferred from one organism to another as each consumes a lower member and in turn is preyed upon by a higher member.

Grade Level:

Subject Areas:
Science, Visual Arts, Social Studies, Reading

SD Standards for 4th grade:
4.L.2.1; 4.L.3.1

Visual Arts
Standard 1

Social Studies

4.R.1.1; 4.R.1.2; 4.R.3.1; 4.R.4.1


Observation, Prediction, Interpreting

Prior Preparation: A companion activity to this and an introduction to food webs is Weaving The Web. Another activity would be to complete Turtle Hurdles from Aquatic Project Wild. Students should be familiar with Native American fables and can learn the Crane chant and the Frog chant from The Woman Who Married a Frog activity.

food web
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