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Lesson Overview
  • 50 Minutes
  • 1, 2, 4, 5, 9
  • 3rd - 5th Grade
  • State Standards:
    CCSS: 3.RF.4, 3.RI.1, 3.SL.1, 3.SL.2, 4.RF.4, 4.RI.1, 4.SL.1, 5.RF.4, 5.RI.2, 5.SL.1 Social Science: 4.14 NGSS: 5-LS1

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Materials List

The Legend of the Three Sisters Kit* or:
Per Student
• 1 plastic glove*
• 5 cotton balls*
• 5 seeds of squash, beans and corn.*
Three Sisters Investigation worksheet
Three Sisters Legends handout

The Legend of the Three Sisters

Categories: Primary Literacy , Kits , Literacy , Agriculture , Plants , Science

Students will investigate the “three sisters” crops (corn, beans, and squash) and explore the benefit to planting these crops together through a germination activity and legend reading exploration.

Part 1: Introduction to Vegetables
1. Read the book The Vegetables we Eat by Gail Gibbons.
2. Ask students the following questions:
a. Why are vegetables an important part of our diet?
b. What are the basic needs of plants?
3. Explain to students that vegetables are a very important part of our diets and Native American’s diets. Today, we are going to explore the three vegetables that many Native American tribes refer to
as the “Three Sisters.”

Part 2: Legend of the Three Sisters
1. Ask your students if they know what a legend is. After students have offered their own ideas and prior knowledge, explain to your students that a legend is a way of passing stories from generation
to generation. Legends are very important in many Native American cultures.
2. Explain to your class that they will be investigating the legend of the Three Sisters which focuses on the agriculture and food production techniques used by some Native Americans. The three
sisters refer to three vegetable crops that were commonly planted together – corn, beans and squash.
3. Provide each student with a copy of the Three Sisters Investigation worksheet. Have students complete question one with their current knowledge of corn, beans and squash.
4. Divide your class into groups of 3 or 4 or individually assign readings. Provide each group or student with one of the Three Sisters Legends handouts.
5. Instruct the students to read through their assigned legend and record characteristics of each sister in their chart on the Three Sisters Investigation worksheet. After, discuss each of the legend
readings as a class, having students share the characteristics of each sister (plant) with the whole class. Students should also decide which crop each sister in their legend represents.
6. As a class, discuss how the legends relate to how the three sisters can help each other when planted together. For example: Several of the legends describe the sisters “becoming stronger
together” or “three sisters helping and loving each other”. Examples of how the actual crops benefit each other include the corn providing a trellis or pole for the bean to climb. The bean provides
nitrogen to the soil to help the corn grow. The squash prevents weeds from growing and deters pests.

Part 3: Planting a Three Sisters Garden

Allow students the opportunity to explore the three sisters growing through germination in a glove.
1. Instruct students to write their name on the palm section of a clear plastic glove with a marker. Also, label each finger with the following each type of seed they will be planting in the glove.
2. Dip five cotton balls in water. Give each cotton ball 3 flat squeezes to wring out excess water.
3. Place the provided seeds on a small paper plate or paper towel and pick up with a moistened cotton ball.
4. Put the cotton ball with the seeds attached into the matching labeled finger in your glove.
Teacher Tip: You may need to use a pencil to get the cotton ball all the way to the tips of the glove fingers.
5. Repeat steps three and four with the additional cotton balls and seeds.
6. Tape the glove to a window, chalkboard, or wall. A clothesline can also be used with clothespins holding the gloves on the line.
7. Germination will take place in 3-5 days. The cotton balls should stay moist through germination. If one or more appear dry you can add a little water with an eyedropper or spray bottle. Germinated seeds can be transplanted in 1-2 weeks. Cut the tip off each finger and pull out the germinated seeds (cotton ball and all), and transplant into a container with soil.