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Begin With a Buffalo

Native people living on the Great Plains depended on buffalo for survival. Discover many uses for their hides—and other parts!

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Discuss the history of the American buffalo or bison with the class. How did this fascinating animal enable people of the Plains to survive? Have students explore facts about the buffalo and present their knowledge in a unique piece of art.
    2. Prepare the "hide." Open, crumple, and soak a brown paper grocery bag in water. Flatten and air-dry the bag. With Crayola® Erasable Colored Pencils, draw a large buffalo (animal or hide) on the bag. Cut it out with Crayola Scissors. Erase any extra marks.
    3. Set the scene. Using Crayola Twistables, color construction paper with sky and prairie. Attach the buffalo to the background with a Crayola Glue Stick.
    4. Make miniature replicas. On a separate paper, use Crayola Multicultural Markers and Twistables to draw and color many items that Native Americans made from buffalo. Glue them to the buffalo for an informative display.
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

    LA: Report on a topic or text or present an opinion, sequencing ideas logically and using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.

    SCI: Ask questions about the natural an human-built worlds.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    SS: Compare and contrast different stories about past events, people, places, or situations, identifying how they contribute to our understanding of the past.

    VA: Use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.

    VA: Use visual structures of art to communicate ideas.

    VA: Know that the visual arts have both a history and specific relationships to various cultures.

    VA: Identify connections between the visual arts and other disciplines in the curriculum.

  • Adaptations

    In teams of two, students compare and contrast how the Native Americans the settlers of the Plains used the buffalo. Each member of the team will complete a "hide" representing either the Native Americans or the settlers. In a presentation to classmates, students will discuss the similarities and differences.

    Students research the Lakota Sioux tribe and their legend of the white buffalo and/or another buffalo legend. After summarizing the legend in a well-written paragraph, students will illustrate their vision of the legend using Crayola Colored Pencils.

    On a map of the United State, students use Crayola Markers to outline the area that is considered to be the Great Plains. What U.S. and Mexican states and Canadian provinces are found in these areas in present-day? Are there still buffalo living in these areas? If so, where? Which indigenous peoples live in these areas?

    Teams of two students brainstorm a story about the interaction of the buffalo and Native Americans or Plains settlers. The story should be hand-written and accompanied by an original sketch illustrating the story.

    What is Plains Hide Painting? Students research this painting style and prepare an electronic presentation for classmates.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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