Essential Question


To What Degree Does Geography Determine Culture?

Focus Questions

1. What does scientific evidence tell us about how the first people settled the Western Hemisphere? 2. What routes did they take?

3. Where did they come from and how did they travel?

4. When did this take place?


Our earth has had many Ice Ages, where the temperature of the earth has changed rapidly. Today, we are living in the warm stage of our latest Ice Age. But it has not always been as warm as it is today. In this unit, we will study how people first came to the Western Hemisphere during the last warm period of the Ice Age, approximately 18,000 years ago. Scientists have developed many migration theories, based on archaeological evidence they have found in many parts of North and South America. You will explore these theories in detail.

Your Research

You will research four migration theories, gathering key facts and details, using websites on this page, as well as books and other printed material. You will choose one theory and write an explanatory essay, explaining that theory in detail.

Your Final Product

You will create an avatar, using an app like Tellagami or Voki, and have your avatar recite your essay. Your final product will be graded and published on this wikispace in the section called "Our Student Work - Fifth Grade 2015".

Sample Final Product

First People Voki part 1.png
Click on the image to hear our Voki!


Quizlet #5.1: Land Bridge, Beringia, Migration, Glacier, Continental Glacier, Alpine Glacier, Sea Ice


50,000 - 11,000 years ago - Pacific Migration Theory

13,000 years ago - Coastal Migration Theory

18,000 years ago - Beringia Land Bridge Theory

11,000 years ago - Atlantic Coastal Theory

Examining Oral Traditions

Native American Legends

Archaeological Evidence

Fossils, Arrowheads and Bones

Social Studies


a. Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence
b. Chronological Reasoning and Causation
c. Comparison and Contextualization
d. Geographic Reasoning
e. Economics and Economic Systems
f. Civic Participation


RH.6-8.7: Integrate visual information
RH.6-8.8: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
WHST.6-8.2: Write informative/explanatory texts
WHST.6-8.6: Use Technology to produce and publish writing
WHST 6-8.7: Conduct short research projects
WHST 6-8.9: Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection and research.


The Very First Americans by Cara Ashrose
The First Americans by Anthony Aveni
Who Were the First Americans? by Phillipa Wingate and Struan Reid
Native Americans by Robert Coupe
The Best Book of Early People by Margaret Hynes

Ice Age in Wales:
National Park Service - Beringia Today:
Nova: Explore Pre-Clovis Sites:

YouTube: When Did The First Americans Arrive?
YouTube: North America, As Seen by Native Americans


Pre -
iLearn Continents & Oceans.png iLearn Continents and Oceans
. Free app with Learn, Quiz and Test functions. Great for visual, tactile and auditory learners.


. Research Rubric

Post -

. Final Digital Product and Rubric

Project - Based Learning

. Project Overview

Student Handouts

Research Begins

Today's Ice Age

Did you know that we are living in an Ice Age? Well, we are and we're very lucky to be living in the "warm, wet part that sustains rich life". Click on the image below to learn more about today's Ice Age.

Today's Ice Age.png
Today's Ice Age

Greenland is Melting Away.png
Click on the image to access the New York Times article - 10/28/15

But First, Let's Learn Some New Words to Help Us Understand

Quizlet #1 - Land Bridge

But What Happened About 18,000 Years Ago?

The Ice Recedes

In this video, notice how the two glaciers that covered North America began to recede, opening up a corridor between them. It was through this corridor that the First People of the Western Hemisphere walked from Asia into North America.

North America Deglaciation Pix.png

Click here if you have difficulty accessing the website above.

Beringia Land Bridge

Scientists believe that the First People walked across a land bridge from Asia to North America about 18,000 years ago. The earth was much colder then and glaciers covered much of North America. The cold temperatures turned much of the ocean to ice, exposing the land underneath the water. We call this area "Beringia" because it existed where the Bering Sea is today.

Here's a map of what Beringia may have looked thousands of years ago and how it looks today. Notice that the land now is completely covered with water and ice.

Beringia Side-by-Side Comparison Maps.png
18,000 Years Ago

The Land Bridge Opened

Here is a video that shows how the Land Bridge opened. Use this page for your research.

Beringia Opens.png

An Ice- Free Corridor Opens Migration - 13,000 years ago

Ice Free Corridor.png
Click on the image to access the website.


SW View.png

Following the Herds

Animals moved in herds across the land bridge, looking for food. The First People followed the herds, hunting as they walked over this land bridge into North America.

On the Trail of the Woolly Mammoth

One animal we know existed in this area at that time was the woolly mammoth. Like all mammals then, it was much bigger than the elephants today. Here's a size comparison with today's elephant.

Mammoth Size Comparison.png
The Woolly Mammoth

Size Comparison Woolly Mammoth & Man.png
Today's Elephant


At this time, woolly mammoths lived all over the norther hemisphere. Here's a map of places where their bones have been found.

Wooly Mammoth Map .png

Look closely at this map that shows how the herds moved across the Beringia Land Bridge.Herd Migrations Across Beringia 18,000 Yrs Ago jpeg.jpg

What Evidence Has Been Found?

New York Times Article - 10/3/2015 - "Under a Farmer's Field: A Woolly Mammoth in Michigan

OCT. 2, 2015

"Buried beneath a Michigan farmer’s soy field were the butchered remains of a woolly mammoth. Paleontologists think that the skull, tusks, jaws and other parts that they uncovered on Thursday were stored there by early humans in a primitive fridge more than 10,000 years ago.

Last Monday James Bristle, the farmer, came across what he thought was a fence post while digging in his yard, only to discover that it was actually a rib, according to The Ann Arbor News. He contacted researchers from the University of Michigan to investigate, and together they unearthed the prehistoric beast.

Daniel Fisher, a paleontologist who led the dig, said the mammoth most likely roamed the area 11,700 to 15,000 years ago, and was around 40 years old when it died.

In addition to the skull and tusks, the team also recovered vertebrae, a pelvis, shoulder blade pieces and one kneecap. Missing from the find were most of the mammoth’s fore and hind limbs, which the team presumed were either buried elsewhere or had already been eaten.

Dr. Fisher said that ancient humans most likely preserved the mammoth parts in a pond to eat later. The team found clues such as stone tool fragments and three large boulders, which they think were used as anchors, near the bones to support their hypothesis. According to the researchers, the findings might provide insight into when humans first settled and hunted in present-day Michigan."

But where did the First People go once they crossed the Land Bridge? There are many theories.

Four Migration Routes.jpg
Four Migration Theories

Southern Pacific Coastal Theory - The Monte Verde Discovery

This theory suggests that people of Southeast Asia traveled by sea, reaching Alaska and continuing down the North American coast to Chile in South America. Here's a video explaining this theory.

Beringia Land Bridge to Mid-Continent - The Clovis Discovery

Another theory suggests that the early people crossed the Beringia Land Bridge and then down the middle of North America when the glaciers receded. They then moved south between to the two great glaciers down into the great plains of North America. Notice the gap between the Continental Glacier and the Alpine Glacier. Once on the Great Plains, they traveled down the rivers to the East Coast.
Path Across the Top of the World.png

Came by Boat

Came by Boat.png

Pacific Coastal Migration Theory

Coastal Migration Theory.png

Another theory suggests that people from Southeast Asia traveled north by boat along the Asian coastline, past the Aleutian Islands and then south along the coast of North America, settling in the Western portion of North America and the Northwestern portion of South America. Click on the image to access the link.

Atlantic Coastal Theory

This theory suggests that people of Europe traveled over the ice, reaching Newfoundland and continuing down the North American coast. This theory is the one that has the least archaeological evidence.

On the Trail of the First Americans

On the Trail of the First Americans.png
Click on the image to access the website.

Oral Traditions

In the Beginning, As Seen By Native Americans

Archaeological Evidence

Clovis Arrowheads.png

These arrowheads were found in Clovis, New Mexico in the 1930's and have been carbon dated to be 12,000 to 13,200 years ago. However, other artifacts have been found in the United States and Chile that have been carbon dated to be older than these arrowheads.

Beringia Today

Bering Land Bridge Natl Park Today.jpg

Bering Land Bridge Park Banner.png
Click on the image to access the website.