Measurement Science SS Culture and Art Unit 4-1: Tule Mat

Measurement Science SS Culture and Art Unit 4-1: Tule Mat

Grade Level:


Scope & Sequence:

Culture: People, Places, & Environment


Students will learn about teepees and build a model out of canvas.


Students will:

  1. Make a model canvas teepee with help from an adult
  2. Continue to learn about the traditional uses of the tule by the Spokane people.
  3. Learn about the houses their ancestors lived in.
  4. Learn how Spokane housing changed with contact, first horses and then fir trappers.

Spokane Tribal Values

  • Respect
  • Land-Environment
  • Relationships


Spokane Tribal Words

  • sq̓ʷastqin (tule)
  • sy’ay’qs (tule mat)
  • sy’qsełxʷ (tule teepee)
  • st’mqnełxʷ (canvas teepee)
  • sq’ey’mntn (teepee poles)
  • spicn (rope)
  • itši (sleeping)
  • ul’ečen (pit house)
  • citxʷ (house)

Lesson Plan

The teacher will:

Begin by making sure the students know the word for the teepee and what the model teepee is made from. (see pre-test)

Then the teacher will ask:

  • Do they live in a teepee?
  • Have they ever slept in one?
  • Do they think their grandparents lived in teepees?
  • Do they think teepees were warm in winter?
  • How many people do they think lived in the teepee?
  • What would they make a teepee out of?

Then she will explain that tules were used for many things a long time ago and still are today. The teacher will show the students a tule teepee and discuss how the ancestors used to live in them. She’ll describe how the tule allows for cool breezes to enter in the summer months and how the tules expand when it rains to make the house water tight. (Remind students of the experiment with the tules in Lesson 3)

The teacher will talk about how Spokanes’ gradually moved from tule teepees to canvas teepees after European contact. She’ll also discuss how modern houses gradually replaced teepees. A small tule teepee model will be available for the children to see. (Available at the Language Program)

  • The teacher will explain briefly how housing has changed.
  • What happened to make pit houses less common.
  • Why teepees became canvas rather than tule.
  • How the shift to moder houses took place. (see cultural note above).


  • Hold up the teepee and see if student can name it.
  • Ask if they know what it was made from. Ask if they know other Spokane items made that are made from Tules. Ask questions as give in lesson above.
  • Post-test: Completed teepee to take home.


Have Elders join the class to work with the students and tell stories.

Materials Needed:

  • Pictures of tule teepees, canvas teepees and Washington House.
  • Teepee pattern – cut canvas using pattern in preparation class
  • Wood skewers – pack of 100 – 9 per student
  • Frey Check (keeps canvas from fraying)
  • String to tie teepee “poles”
  • Styrofoam – 6″x6″x1″ – buy sheet and cut to size
  • Glue
  • Diagram showing how teepee is put together.


Brief Description:

After you cut the canvas using the pattern, use the Frey Check around the edges.

Make sure each student has:

  • Styrofoam
  • 9 teepee “poles”
  • A canvas pattern.

Show students how to tie 3 poles together. Stick them in the Styrofoam, spread widely and evenly. Then add poles, beginning in the front with the door pole. Add all but two poles, evenly spaced around circle, sticking them into the Styrofoam. Wrap the canvas around the poles, adjusting poles as needed. Cut a small hole in the top corner of each flap. Thread the two remaining poles through the hole and into the Styrofoam. These poles hold the flaps open (or closed). Glue the canvas together below the flaps to hold the teepee together.

Lesson PDF Download

Related Videos

Related Images

Community Resources

Information Sheets on:

  • Tule Information
  • Housing
  • Tule Housing

Culturally knowledgeable person or Elder (see Spokane Tribal Language Program for recommendations)

Lesson Assigned To:

  • Knowledge of Language, History and Culture

Social Studies

  • EALR 4: History: The student understands and applies knowledge of historical thinking, chronology, eras, turning points, major ideas, individuals, and themes of local, Washington State, tribal, United States, and world history in order to evaluate how history shapes the present and future.
  • Component 4.1: Understands historical chronology.
  • Component 4.2: Understands and analyzes causal factors that have shaped major events in history.


  • K-1 APPB Different materials are more suitable for some purposes
  • K-1 APPC A problem may have more than one acceptable solution.
  • K-1 APPD  Counting, classifying, and measuring can sometimes be helpful in solving a problem.
  • K-1 PS1A  The position of an object can be described by locating it relative to another object or to the object’s surrounding.
  • K-1 ES2A  Some objects occur in nature; others have been designed and processed by people.


Students begin to explore and participate in creative art making processes and learn to use a step-by-step process to create artwork. They begin to develop observational skills, fine motor skills, and sensory connections. Using basic art-making techniques, students begin to experience and use the elements of art and principles of design. They learn how to share their ideas and explain their artwork to others. Through their experiences with the visual arts, they develop an awareness of their own community.

K-12 Integrated environmental and sustainability education learning standards

Standard 1: Ecological, Social, and Economic Systems

Students develop knowledge of the interconnections and interdependency of ecological, social, and economic systems. They demonstrate understanding of how the health of these systems determines the sustainability of natural and human communities at local, regional, national, and global levels.

Standard 2: The Natural and Built Environment
Students engage in inquiry and systems thinking and use information gained through learning experiences in, about, and for the environment to understand the structure, components, and processes of natural and human-built environments.


Common Core Standards

College and career readiness anchor standards for speaking and listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

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.
Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Kindergarten speaking and listening standards:

Comprehension and Collaboration
Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., listening to others and taking turns speaking about the topics and texts under discussion).

Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood.
Ask and answer questions in order to seek help, get information, or clarify something that is not understood.
Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas

Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions as desired to provide additional detail.
Speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly.

College and career readiness anchor standards for language:

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.

Language Standards K-5

Conventions of Standard English
Use frequently occurring nouns and verbs.

Understand and use question words (interrogatives) (e.g., who, what, where, when, why, how).

Use the most frequently occurring prepositions (e.g., to, from, in, out, on, off, for, of, by, with).

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use
Identify real-life connections between words and their use (e.g., note places at school that are colorful).

Use words and phrases acquired through conversations, reading and being read to, and responding to texts.


Counting and Cardinality

Understand the relationship between numbers and quantities; connect counting to cardinality.
When counting objects, say the number names in the standard order, pairing each object with one and only one number name and each number name with one and only one object.
Understand that the last number name said tells the number of objects counted. The number of objects is the same regardless of their arrangement or the order in which they were counted.
Understand that each successive number name refers to a quantity that is one larger.
Measurement and data
Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight. Describe several measurable attributes of a single object.
Operations and Algebraic Thinking
Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing or equation (here by counting 9 poles, then using 3, adding 4 more, and then the remaining 2 as the teepee base is built).
Analyze and compare two- and three-dimensional shapes, in different sizes and orientations, using informal language to describe their similarities, differences, parts (e.g., number of sides and vertices/”corners”) and other attributes (e.g., having sides of equal length).
Describe objects in the environment using names of shapes, and describe the relative positions of these objects using terms such as above, below, beside, in front of, behind, and next to.
Model shapes in the world by building shapes from components (e.g., sticks and clay balls) and drawing shapes.
Compose simple shapes to form larger shapes. For example, “Can you join these two triangles with full sides touching to make a rectangle?”

Spokane Tribal Standards

  • A.3 – Acquire and pass on the traditions of their community through oral and written history.
  • A.7 – Determine the place of their cultural community in the regional, state, national and international political and economic systems.
  • B.1 – Acquire insights from other cultures without diminishing the integrity of their own;
  • B.2 – Make effective use of the knowledge, skills, and ways of knowing from their own cultural traditions to learn about the larger world in which they live;
  • B.4 – Identify appropriate forms of technology and anticipate the consequences of their use for improving the quality of life in the community;
  • C.1 – Perform subsistence activities in ways that are appropriate to local cultural traditions;
  • D.1 – Acquire in-depth cultural knowledge through active participation and meaningful interaction with Elders;
  • D.2 – Participate in and make constructive contributions to the learning activities associated with a traditional camp environment;
  • D.4 – Gather oral and written history information from the local community and provide an appropriate interpretation of its cultural meaning and significance;
  • D.5 – Identify and utilize appropriate sources of cultural knowledge to find solution to everyday problems.
  • E.3 – Demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between world view and the way knowledge is formed and used.
  • E.4 – Determine how ideas and concepts from one knowledge system relate to those derived from other knowledge systems;
  • E.5 – Recognize how and why cultures change over time;
  • E.6 – Anticipate the changes that occur when different cultural systems come in contact with one another;
  • E.8 – Identify who they are and their place in the world.