How the Lenni Lenape Indians of New Jersey Utilized their Environment

Topic:  This introductory social studies lesson encourages the students to explore the life of the Lenni-Lenape Indians through group discussion and hands on interaction. Students will pretend to live the life of a Lenape Indian and immerse themselves within the rich ecosystem of New Jersey.  Through hands on exploration, the students will gain an understanding of how the Lenape utilized their environment to sustain life.  Students will work in cooperative groups to develop tools associated with gathering food in the wilderness. 


Rationale: When learning about Native Americans and their ability to utilize their environment, it is important that students understand the whole context.  Students should develop an understanding that Native Americans not only lived off the land for food and shelter, but made tools and other every day items from natural resources.

 In an effort to gear the students mindset towards an era when the Lenni Lenape Indians were present within New Jersey, the teacher will engage the students in a word association game.  It is important that the students think about the primitiveness of living in a time period where there was no electricity, now technology, and no grocery stores. 

It is important for students to understand that geography and natural resources provided by the environment, influences the cultural integrity of tribes.  The Lenape Indians were deemed extremely resourceful and regarded as excellent hunters, fisherman, and farmers.  Due to their geographical location, they were able to live off the land in the manner in which they did.

            Students learn more from actively participating, rather than passively listening.  This lesson enables all students to construct their own knowledge and make memorable association of how the Lenape lived off the land.


Prior Knowledge: The students should have some knowledge about the terrain of New Jersey during the time in which only Native Americans inhabitant the land. Students should know that technology, electricity, and modern conveniences were not available during this time period as well.  While students have studied Native Americans in prior elementary grade levels, it is uncertain as to how much the students truly remember.


New Jersey Core Curriculum Standard:

STANDARD 6.6 (Geography) All students will apply knowledge of spatial relationships and other geographic skills to understand human behavior in relation to the physical and cultural environment.




Learner will be able to understand how the Lenni-Lenape Indians of New Jersey utilized their environment for survival

Assessed on thoughtfulness and connections made during discussions and groups activity. Teacher will make anecdotal notes.


Anticipatory set:  The students will be told that today they are going to embark on an adventure back in time to when there were no cars, supermarkets, and paved road.  An era in time when electricity was not invented and technology was not even considered.  We will be taking a journey to a time when nature provided use with everything we needed! Once the students have determined that the lesson will pertain to Native Americans, the teacher will ask the students to pretend that they are living in this archaic era.  The students will be told that they will be living the lives of a special group of Native Americans that lived in their very own state of New Jersey.


Today we are not students; today we are a tribe of Lenni Lenape Indians of New Jersey. As Native Americans it is important to develop an understanding of our environment.  Our environment is extremely important because it provided us with food, shelter, and clothing.  [10 minutes]

  1. Getting to know the land: 
    1. The teacher will have the students embark on a discussion about the spatial relation and geographical characteristics of New Jersey.  Students will be split into groups of three and given a set of blue cards containing a variety of words associated with climate, native animals, geography, and vegetation.  The students must work in their groups to determine which of the words are characteristics of New Jersey during the time period in which the Lenape lived.
    2. Once the students have completed the activity, the teacher will provide the students with vivid images of New Jersey and concrete artifacts during this period of time.  Many of the images will be associated with the cards the students have previously worked with.  Before moving forward the teacher will answer any clarification questions.
  1. Using the land to build tools and gather food: The teacher will reiterate the main premise that the Native Americans did not have stores and modern technology to gather their food.  The teacher will explain that all the Lenape had were materials found in nature.  The Native Americans were very resourceful and creative people who used what nature gave them to make tools and hunt for their food. [15 minutes]
    1. The teacher will provide the students with materials found in nature that only the Lenape would have had available to them.  The students must work as a tribe to determine how the Lenape would have created a tool for hunting, fishing, or gathering food. 
    2. Students will then be given the option of illustrating the tool their tribe would make or explaining it in simple words.
    3. The students then must determine what animals, plants, or seafood their tribe of Lenape would have obtained using this tool.
  2. For this activity there will be three main topics covered across eight groups of students.  The three topics include:
    1. Hunting for food
    2. Collecting and fishing seafood
    3. Planting and gathering vegetation
  1. Prior to presenting, the students will be given a graphic organizer to gather their information and write important facts about each topic presented. [2 minutes]
  1. The tribes will present:  Once the students have completed their task, some groups will be asked to present their tools made from natural resources.  [15 minutes]
    1. Students will be asked what materials their tool is made from
    2. How their tribe would use their tool to obtain food from their environment
    3. What kind of food their tool would obtain
  1. After some of the groups present, the teacher will help clarify the information and provide the students with accurate images pertaining to each category. 
  1.  If time permits, the teacher will engage the students in an additional discussion pertaining to other uses the Lenape had for the land around them.

Grouping and Transition:

For this activity the students will be working in small groups with the opportunity to engage in a greater class discussion. Due to the volume of students within this classroom, the groups will consist of three to four students.  Students will be grouped according to location in the classroom.

 The teacher will outline the expectations for the activity and provide concise directions before the students begin. The students will be given an allotted amount of time to complete the activity and given a two-minute warning before moving forward. Once time has commenced, a timer will go off and the students will be instructed to gather their materials and return to their seats. Before moving onto the next step of the activity the teacher will address any questions and then fully explain the remainder of the lesson.


After the first activity:

  1. What would the environment of New Jersey look like when the Lenni Lenape Indians lived here?
  2. What animals would they see?
  3. What kinds of fruits and vegetables would they eat?
  4. What would their houses look like?
  5. Would life be different for the Lenape Indians? Why?
  6. How would life be different for the Lenape Indians?
  7. Where would they get the things they need to live like food, clothing, water, and shelter?
  8. How would they use nature to get these things?

 After students create their tools:

  1. Why would the Lenape have to use the things in nature to make their tools?
  2. What kinds of things in nature would they use to make their tools?
  3. What kinds of jobs would the Lenape need to make tools for?
  4. What about the houses the Lenape live in, what are they made from?

Other ways the Lenape use their environment:

  1. What are some other ways the Lenape use their environment?
  2. Where does the clothing the Lenape come from? 
  3. What about when they cook and eat food? Where do they get the utensils?

Closure:  After working in their small groups, the students will present their tools and correlating information to the class. With limited time, the teacher will clarify each topic and allow the students to ask questions.  Then the teacher will ask the students to think more about how the Lenape used their environment.  As the students are discussing the issues, they are encouraged to fill in the information on their graphic organizer. 

Classroom Management:  Prior to beginning the lesson the teacher will take several minutes speaking with the students and outlining the rules they are expected to follow. The teacher will explain that the most important rule is called, “Give me Five”.  The teacher will explain what it is and how it will be used in the classroom.  The teacher will practice the rule once before moving on.  Once the rules are outlined and modeled, the teacher will explain the importance of cooperation as a larger group of students and when working in smaller groups. 

            The teacher will have all the materials needed for each group organized before the start of the lesson.  All of the materials will be labeled and separated into eight different groups.  Extra materials will remain on the front table of the classroom in case students make mistakes.  The placement of these items will be announced before the students begin their activity. 

            Prior to beginning the activity, the teacher will explain the directions to the larger classroom of students.  Before the students break into groups the teacher will ask the students if they have any questions regarding the activity.  The teacher will explain that there will be 10 minutes given and a two-minute warning before the end of time.  Time will be kept on a kitchen timer that will sit in the front of the classroom.  As the students are working both individually and in larger groups the teacher will circulate the room.

Individualization: This lesson enables a variety of students to acquire information about the Lenape Indians.  Through extensive visual aids and hands on activities, the students are able to create stronger images of how the Lenape utilized their environment.  The variety of activities and constant movement enables students to engage their minds in different ways. Directions to activities will be given verbally and will also be displayed on the board.  When working in smaller groups, the students will have directions printed in simplistic terms before them.  Working with other peers enables students to learn from a variety of sources.     

Extension to the lesson:  After the students have gained introductory knowledge as to how the Native Americans utilized the land for food purposes, the students will read a short story about the Lenape.