Lesson Plan 9

Field Trip to Chaco Canyon


Lesson Title

Field trip to Chaco Canyon and description


1 day or possible overnight


The class embarks on an all day field trip to the Chaco Culture National Historic Park in Northwest New Mexico also commonly known as Chaco Canyon .

Description of Class

This is an all day adventure with travel beginning early in the morning and return to home around dark.  While at the park the students are encouraged to respectfully and carefully explore and examine the preserved ruins of what used to be a magnificent indigenous trade center, and the earlier Puebloan culture and presence in the Chaco Canyon area from 850 to 1250A.D.

Primary Educational Objective

The class studies first hand the immeasurable impact and culture of indigenous peoples in the American Southwest.  Students will be encouraged to think about the overall greater meaning of the Chaco architecture and relationships of those structures to the land and to one another.

Additional Concepts and Skills

Oral stories and modern indigenous cultures is a plus in understanding Chaco Culture. Being able to understand the concept of winter/summer solstice, concept of equinox and the lunar cycle. Studying the buildings and layout also provides insight on the sophisticated Puebloan astronomical measurements as well as engineering/architecture.


Class discussion and 1-2 page paper on their experiences.

Classroom Activities

The class will choose which structures to visit and tour, as it is impossible to meaningfully explore and examine each of them in one day.

Homework Assignments

Read Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence by Gregory A. Cajete, the chapter entitled “Native Astronomy: A Skyward View”

Lecture Materials

Video (see below) and Dr. Cajete’s book

Reference Materials

The Mystery of Chaco Canyon directed by Anna Sofaer through Bullfrog Films, 56 minutes

Prerequisites (this course)


Related Topics

Early Native American History, Native Americans of the Southwest

Technology Requirements

Vehicle transportation preferably by pickup truck or SUV that is able to traverse rough dirt roads is necessary. Use of cameras, camcorders, and audio recording devices in certain areas if possible is encouraged.  The park is in a remote location and being prepared for very hot or cold weather is important.  Bottled water, hiking footwear, and sunscreen are highly advised.