The Buffalo War

presented by ITVS

Lesson Plan Lessons: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

A Bison Web

Grade Level: 9-12
Subjects: Civics, Government, Environmental Studies

Materials Needed
Extension Activities
Correlation to National Standards


Students will construct a web site (alternatively this lesson can be done using a non-electronic version explained below) based on the documentary "Buffalo War." The design of the site and the kinds of graphics and/or animation is left entirely up to the student or students so that lesson is open to students with varying computer skills. The content of the site, however, should follow strict guidelines and may be graded with an easy-to-follow rubric.

Estimated Time: In addition to watching "Buffalo War," this activity may take as long as three 90-minute classes.

Lesson Objectives:

Students will
  • Identify a political issue;
  • Describe a public policy position;
  • Distinguish between methods to prevail in a political struggle;
  • Use demographic descriptors;
  • Build a multi-level web page;
  • Use images from the WWW.
Materials needed:

Non-electronic adaptation: Teachers wishing to do this activity without having the students construct actual web pages may do so. Have the students take large pieces of newsprint and cut them into thirteen puzzle pieces (three per quadrant and one for the center touching each quadrant). The center piece should be the place in which the students describe the political issue. Students, working in groups, should complete a quadrant with three pieces on one group's demographics, position, and action as explained on the web activity packet. The students would then hang their puzzle pieces as they report on their work to the class.

I. Teacher should begin discussion of the project by asking students to brainstorm on ways in which information is disseminated in society (newspapers, radio, television, World Wide Web should be among the items students suggest.)

II. In reviewing each format, the teacher should show that all the older media share the characteristic of presenting the information in a manner in which the teller remains in control. For example, a newspaper story is typically written in an inverted pyramid in which the most important item comes first; a television program must be watched from beginning to end; a book develops from page 1 to the end; even a song on the radio is intended to be listened to as the singer intended. Web pages, however, offer something dramatically different in that the reader is in control of viewing the information and may do so in ways the creator never intended.

III. Explain to the students that their project will be to take the contents of a documentary, which unfolds in a linear fashion, and construct a web site that takes advantage of this new way of presenting information.

IV. Before viewing THE BUFFALO WAR, explain to the students that they will need to take notes on the following topics:
  • What is the central issue of contention in the documentary?
  • Who are the various groups portrayed in the documentary?
  • What are the various positions taken by these groups?
  • What are the various actions taken by these groups?
V. View "Buffalo War."

VI. Break up the students into Web page design teams. The teams should decide if they want to assign the tasks to various members or share them as a group.

VII.Provide each team with the Web page instruction packet.

  • The pages may be assessed using this rubric
  • Students' comprehension may be assessed by a content quiz based on their study of each other's Web pages.
  • Have the students post their web pages (on an intranet or on stand-alone computers) and leave a guest book for other students to record comments while viewing the pages.
Correlation to National Standards:
(from National Science Education Standards)
  • Makes multimedia presentations using text, images, and sound (e.g., selects the appropriate medium, such as television broadcast, videos, Web pages, films, newspapers, magazines, CD-ROMS, Internet, computer-media-generated images; edits and monitors for quality; organizes, writes and designs media messages for specific purposes)
  • Uses a variety of criteria (e.g., clarity, accuracy, effectiveness, bias, relevance of facts) to evaluate informational media (e.g., web sites, documentaries, news programs)
  • Understands how different media (e.g., documentaries, current affairs programs, web pages) are structured to present a particular subject or point of view
  • Understands how values and beliefs in Native American origin stories explain other facets of Native American culture (e.g., migration, settlement, interactions with the environment)
Lesson Plan Author

James McGrath Morris is a member of the social studies department of West Springfield High School. He joined Fairfax County Public Schools in 1996 after a career in journalism and publishing. During his first year of teaching Morris was nominated for the Sallie Mae First Class Teacher Award. His work in American history has been published in Civilization, Journal of Policy History, Journal of Historical Studies, Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, New Mexico Historical Review, and Missouri Life, among other places. As an author or editor, Morris has published four books. He is currently at work on a biography of a turn-of-the-century New York journalist to be published by Fordham University Press.

Lessons: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

The Buffalo War Guides Resources The Film Talkback In Their Shoes The War The Buffalo The Story