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Buffalo Gone: Appreciating Natural Resources

By Ken Marland, 2002 Governor-General’s Award Recipient

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Grade 3 History, Math, Geography, Social Studies, Environmental Science


This lesson is one example taken from a unit on the Plains Bison and First Nations People. As part of this unit, the students observed bison in their natural setting, built a life-sized sculpture of a bison, and researched and recreated artifacts and activities related to the hunt. Students also prepared and presented a 45-minute drama at the Children’s Festival using masks, hides and other props. The drama explained the habits of the bison, the relationship between the bison and First Nations people, and the arrival of the Europeans.

Part of understanding the bison is knowing that millions of them once lived on the prairies. Most people have difficulty conceptualizing large numbers. The students learned that over 60,000,000 bison once roamed the great plains of North America. They also learned that by the late 1800s, there were only 18-35 animals left. The students could recite this information but they could not comprehend such an enormous loss.


Students will:

  • demonstrate numeracy skills, including the ability to use appropriate sybols and systems
  • identify similarities and differences found in First Nations and European-Canadian cultures in the past and the present
  • describe the relationship between people of different types of societies and the natural environment throughout history


Ken Marland developed a miniature stamp album of Saskatoon to assist children in learning about their local history. Another project, The Bison: A Journal of Discovery, was developed for a grade 4 class at an inner-city school. Students study the plains bison and its relationship to the Native people and the first Europeans on the prairies. The unit culminates in a dramatic retelling of the history performed by his students.


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