4th Grade Geography Inquiry

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Whales could be found in the waters off the coast of Long Island usually in the late fall and into the spring. When whales beached on the shores of Long Island, people considered them community property and all would share in the work of cutting the whale for its meat. After colonists arrived, it was understood that a whale was to be shared and some deeds to land spelled out the rights of natives to the whale tail bone and fins when whales were found on shore.

The colonists recognized that Shinnecocks were skilled whale hunters and hired them to work on ships. These ships would sail far from Long Island in search of whales, even around South America to the Arctic Ocean.

David Bunn Martine is an artist who was born in Southampton, New York in 1960. He has lived on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation and has served as the director of the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum. He has given permission for use of these images. For more information about David Martine, please see http://david martine.com.


Shinnecock Whale Hunt—17th Century

Shinnecock whale hunt

Powdawe, or whale hunt, was a challenge for the Shinnecocks. The strategy used was to wound the whale using a harpoon so that it could then be brought to shore.

Shinnecock Potedaup (Whale) Ceremony—17th Century

Ceremony of thanksgiving for the whale

The Shinnecocks acknowledged the gift of the whale (potedaup) with a special ceremony. This ceremony involved a special dance around the sacred fire.


The Shinnecocks made use of resources they found in their environment. They were able to initially survive with whatever food from the sea, marshes or woods they could find. Later, they became involved in farming. Over time, as more and more people moved to Long Island, the Shinnecock were forced to sell or surrender their lands. Today, the Shinnecock reservation which is slightly larger than one square mile serves as home for over 600 people.


Bradley, James W. (2011) “Re-Visiting Wampum and other Seventeenth-Century Shell Games.” Archaeology of Eastern North America, Vol. 39 (pp.25-51). Accessed electronically 2/1/17 http://www.jstor.org/stable/23265113

Denton, Daniel. (1670). A Brief Description of New-York: Formerly Called New-Netherlands. London. (Paul Royster, editor & depositor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln) accessed electronically 1/24/2017 at http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1025&context=libraryscience)

Jensen, Beverly. (2015). Shinnecock Indian Nation. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing.

Ritchie, William A. (1980). The Archaeology of New York State (Revised Edition). Fleischmanns, New York: Purple Mountain Press.

Salwen, Bert. (1978). “Indians of Southern New England and Long Island: Early Period.” In Trigger, Bruce G., ed. Handbook of North American Indians: Northeast (Volume 15). Washington: Smithsonian Institution.

Starna, William. (1990). “The Pequots in the Early Seventeenth Century.” In Hauptman, Laurence M. and Wherry, James D., eds. The Pequots in Southern New England: The Fall and Rise of an American Indian Nation. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Stone, G. (Ed.). (1983). The Shinnecock Indians: A culture history. Stony Brook, NY: Suffolk County Archaeological Association.

Strong, J. (1983). “The Evolution of Shinnecock Culture.” In G. Stone (Ed.), The Shinnecock Indians: A culture history (pp. 7-51). Stony Brook, NY: Suffolk County Archaeological Association.

Summative Performance Task

Summative Performance Task

Argument How does where you live matter? Construct an argument supported with evidence that addresses the question of how physical features and available resources influenced the locations of early Native American settlements in New York State. Express this argument in the form of an essay.

Extension Express these arguments through PowerPoint presentations that highlight the ways in which the Haudenosaunee and Algonquians adapted to and modified their physical environments.

In this task, students write an extended, evidence-based argument responding to the compelling question. Although they may not be expected include counterclaims and evidence for them in this response, students should be able to demonstrate the ability to state their arguments coherently and to identify relevant pieces of evidence that support those arguments.

At this point in the students’ inquiry, they have identified examples of the diverse geography and natural resources of New York State, located physical features on various maps of New York State, described where early Native Americans lived, categorized the impact of their immediate physical surroundings, and identified text-based evidence to support their claims about how the early Native Americans in New York State interacted with their physical environments.

Before the Summative Performance Task, it may be helpful for students to review the sources provided and the graphic organizers created during the formative performance tasks. Doing so should help them develop their claims and highlight the appropriate evidence to support their arguments. Rehearsing their arguments, claims, and evidence orally may help students succeed on the task.

Students’ arguments will likely vary, but could include any of the following:

  • Early Native Americans had to use the land and resources around them in different ways to meet their needs and wants.

  • The physical features and natural resources of New York are different throughout the state, and so Native American groups developed different ways to live in their environments.

  • The environment of a location offers opportunities and constraints for humans, and so the early Native Americans settled in places that best fit their lives.

  • Early Native Americans proved that where people live is not as important as they ways in which they adapt to and change their environments.

It is possible for students to find support for any of these arguments in the sources provided and through their analysis of the sources.


Having students construct their evidence-based arguments in written form is one way of representing their new knowledge and understandings, but there is any number of alternatives. One way to have students express their arguments and evidence is through the creation of Power Point presentations. Working in small, mixed-ability groups, students might (1) work with the same prompt (i.e., using the case studies of how the Haudenosaunee and Algonquians adapted to and modified their physical environments to make an argument about whether where one lives matters) or (2) be split up such that half of the class responds to the prompt by focusing on the Haudenosaunee and the other half on the Algonquians.

Taking Informed Action

Compelling Question

Does where you live matter?

Taking Informed Action

Understand Brainstorm a list of the geographic opportunities and constraints in area neighborhoods and communities.

Assess Discuss how individuals and communities can turn constraints into opportunities.

Act Arrange for a local official to visit the class to review the class conclusions and discuss possible community actions.

Taking informed action can manifest in a variety of forms and in a range of venues. Students may express action through discussions, debates, surveys, video productions, and the like; these actions may take place in the classroom, in the school, in the local community, across the state, and around the world. The three activities described in this inquiry represent a logic that asks students to (1) understand the issues evident from the inquiry in a larger and/or current context, (2) assess the relevance and impact of the issues, and (3) act in ways that allow students to demonstrate agency in a real-world context.

For this inquiry, students draw on their overall understandings of the reciprocal relationships between humans and their environments through the case study of early Haudenosaunee and Algonquian settlements to explore the opportunities and constraints that they and their communities experience today.

To understand the situation, students may go through an oral and/or written brainstorming activity in which they list the opportunities and constraints afforded in their neighborhoods and community. To follow up from this exercise, students might ask family members to brainstorm similar lists and then compare and contrast those lists with the list developed by the class. To assess their understandings of the local environment, students may discuss in small-group or whole-group settings how constraints might be transformed into opportunities. For example, an undeveloped hilly area might be reimagined as a winter sledding park. And to act on the emerging class understandings, students might send their ideas for transforming one or more local areas to a community official and then invite the official to class to discuss the possibilities for and the process by which the students’ ideas could come to fruition. As teachers and students bring their taking informed action activities to a close, they might consider the idea of how their ideas might be sustainable and lead to the protection of the environment for the community’s benefit.

Common Core Connections

Social studies teachers play a key role in enabling students to develop the relevant literacy skills found in the New York State P–12 Common Core Learning Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy. The Common Core emphasis on more robust reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language skills in general and the attention to more sophisticated source analysis, argumentation, and the use of evidence in particular are evident across the Toolkit inquiries.

Identifying the connections with the Common Core Anchor Standards will help teachers consciously build opportunities to advance their students’ literacy knowledge and expertise through the specific social studies content and practices described in the annotation. The following table outlines the opportunities represented in the Grade 4 Inquiry through illustrative examples of each of the standards represented.

Compelling Question

Does Where You Live Matter?

Common Core Anchor Standard Connections


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

See Formative Performance Task 1: Students view a series of images and maps in order to describe, illustrate, and name key geographic features in New York State.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

See Formative Performance Task 3: The secondary texts on Native life provide a range of occasions through which students can build their denotative and connotative word skills.


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

See Summative Performance Task: Students write an extended, evidence-based argument responding to the compelling question

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

See Formative Performance Task 3: Students share the results of their Interaction Charts with peers and then rework them based on feedback.

Speaking and Listening

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

See the featured sources for Formative Performance Task 2: Students work in pairs and small groups to analyze the complete set of maps with particular attention given to the similarities and differences between the two Native groups.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

See Taking Informed Action: Students send their ideas for transforming one or more local areas to a community official and invite the official to class to discuss the possibilities for and the process by which the students’ ideas could come to fruition.


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

See Formative Performance Task 2: Students identify examples of features that could be perceived of as opportunities and/or constraints.

Appendix A: Geography Inquiry Vocabulary




Changes that humans make to their behaviors based on their perceptions of the physical environment.


The term for a group of politically independent, but language similar, Native American nations whose lands included the eastern part of New York State. Today the only land holdings that remain in Native American hands are the Shinnecock Reservation and Poospatuck Reservation.


People of the Great Swamp; Haudenosaunee nation whose lands were located in Central New York State.


Patterns of weather in a region.

compass rose

A diagram of directions represented on a map.


A generally loosely formed political group of otherwise independent entities.


Perceived disadvantages of a physical environment.

diversity (geographic)

Differences in the kinds of physical features in an area.


A measurement of the height of a physical feature.


Nation of Iroquoian-language speakers whose lands were located in Southwestern New York.


The study of the earth’s physical features.


The term for a group of independent, but politically and culturally similar, Native American nations whose lands include large parts of New York State.


The ways in which humans modify and adapt to their physical environment.

Iroquois Confederacy

A name given to the Five Nations of Haudenosaunee (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca nations) to which the Tuscaroras later joined.


A key to the features represented on a map.


A large, rectangular house constructed with wooden poles and sheets of tree bark.


People of the Waters that Flow Both Ways; Algonquian nation whose lands were located in Eastern New York State. Their descendants today are the Stockbridge-Munsees of Wisconsin.


People of the Flint; Keepers of the Eastern Door; Haudenosaunee nation whose lands were located in Eastern New York State


Algonquian nation whose lands were located on the eastern end of Long Island, New York.


Changes that humans make to the physical environment.


The group of natives who resided in the Hudson Valley, Manhattan, eastern New Jersey, and western Long Island.

Native Americans

The original peoples of the Americas.

natural resources

Elements of the physical environment for which humans find uses.


People of the Standing Stone; Haudenosaunee nation whose lands were located in Central New York State. Today there are three Oneida communities, the Oneida Indian Nation (New York), the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and the Oneida Indian Nation of the Thames (Ontario).


People of the Hills; Haudenosaunee nation whose lands are located in Central New York State


Perceived advantages of a physical environment.


Algonquian nation whose lands are located on Long Island, New York

physical feature

Identifiable element of a physical environment (e.g., lakes, mountains, and forests).


Any form of water in the atmosphere that falls to the earth (e.g., snow, rain, and sleet).


The state of insufficient resources to satisfy all wants and needs.


Great Hill People; Keepers of the Western Door; Haudenosaunee nation whose lands are located in Western New York State.


Algonquian nation whose lands are located on Long Island, New York


Nation of Iroquoian-language speakers whose lands were located in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Three Sisters

The name given to crops central to Native American diets (corn, beans, and squash).

topographical map

A representation of the earth’s surface that highlights physical features.


The ability to move around a physical environment.


A place where a group of people settles and builds their homes.


Beads made from various shells that were and are still used by various Native nations throughout northeastern North America for ornamental or ceremonial use.


The day-to-day state of the earth’s atmosphere.


A domed dwelling with a round or oval floor plan constructed with wooden poles, tree bark, and mats woven from reeds or rushes.

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