Indigenous Perspectives

Thanks to the animals

Author(s): Allen Sockabasin


Social Justice focus: Seasonal movement of Passamaquoddy people

Synopsis: In THANKS TO THE ANIMALS, by Allen Sockabasin, Little Zoo Sap and his family are moving from their summer home on the coast to the deep woods for the winter, traveling on a big bobsled pulled by big horses. When Zoo Sap falls off of the sled unnoticed, the forest animals hear his cries and come to shelter him—everyone from the tiny mouse to the giant moose to the great bald eagle—keeping him warm and safe until his father comes back to find him. Allen Sockabasin is a Passamaquoddy who devotes much of his time to teaching and preserving the Passamaquoddy language. A master musician, he has written, performed, and recorded Passamaquoddy stories and songs. He has been a tribal governor, a member of the tribal council, and director of child welfare for his tribe, and a health educator.

Lesson Plan: Emily Stachera

Primary/Junior/Intermediate Lesson Plan (Abbreviated Template)

Consecutive and Concurrent Programs

Unit/Topic: Storytelling/Habitats and Communities

Grade: Grade 4

Lesson: Thanks to the Animals reading and oral presentation

Curriculum Areas: Language

Curriculum Expectations:

Language (Writing) Overall:

1. generate, gather, and organize ideas and information to write for an intended purpose and audience;

Language (Writing) Specific:

1.2 generate ideas about a potential topic using a variety of strategies and resources

Language (Oral Communication) Overall:

1. listen in order to understand and respond appropriately in a variety of situations for a variety of purposes;

2. use speaking skills and strategies appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes;

Language (Oral Communication) Specific:

1.6 extend understanding of oral texts by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights; to other texts, including print and visual texts; and to the world around them

2.3 communicate in a clear, coherent manner, presenting ideas, opinions, and information in a readily understandable form

Science Overall:

3. demonstrate an understanding of habitats and communities and the relationships among the plants and animals that live in them.

Science Specific:

describe ways in which humans are dependent on natural habitats and communities

Learning Goal(s): We are learning to….

  • Listen to stories from different cultures and understand their values and perspectives
  • Extend our understanding of stories by connecting them to our own knowledge and experiences
  • Speak in a clear and coherent manner to allow peers to understand our connections
  • Describe ways in which humans are dependant on animals and their natural environment
  • Explain why we are thankful for animals in a clear way

Success Criteria: I can….

  • Listen to a story about an indigenous family from the past, and learn about and understand their values and perspectives
  • Discuss these values and perspectives with the class
  • Understand this story better by connecting it to my own knowledge and experiences of animals and the environment
  • Create a 2-5 minute presentation about why I am thankful for animals
  • Speak in a clear and coherent manner to allow peers to understand my connections
  • Describe ways in which humans are dependent on animals and their natural environment


If students are afraid to present in front of others, they could have the option of filming themselves. They could also choose to just present to the teacher at a later time. There could also be presentations in small groups, if the teacher did not wish to have this lesson as a formal evaluation.


Minutes: 20 minutes


*This task is taken from “Cultural Perspectives on Sustainability: Lessons to Support Science 10” by John Wright:

Invite students to participate in a talking circle to discuss the question: What are our roles and responsibilities in looking after the earth?

  • Hand out envelopes containing the following words on individual pieces of paper: sun, planet, plants, insects, animals, and people.
  • Ask students to rank the words in order of importance.
  • When students have completed this task, ask them to remove the word plants. Ask them how the planet would be affected as a result of this change.
  • Remove the word sun and ask the same question.
  • Replace all the words and ask students to remove the word people. Ask them the same question.

Once this exercise is done, ask students to connect this to what they’ve been learning in science about Habitats and Communities.

Would they say that humans are part of a habitat with animals? Are we a community? Do we depend on each other? If so, how?

Assessment: Observation of student conversation and understanding.


Minutes: 30 minutes

Task: Read the book Thanks do the Animals by Allen Sockabasin aloud to the class.

(Thanks to the Animals is a book by a Passamaquoddy storyteller that shares a tale that models an ideal, peaceful coexistence for humans and animals. It is about a young boy who falls off a sled while his family moves their summer home to their winter home in-land, and animals come to keep him warm and safe until is family returns).

After finishing the book, ask students to Turn and Talk with their elbow partner:

  • What is the indigenous perspective on our connection with animals and the environment, as displayed in this book?
  • How might this differ from some other perspectives you’ve heard (maybe that humans are more important than animals)
  • If we share the First Nations and Métis perspective, how would we view and treat the world’s resources?

Ask the pairs to report back to the class.

Assessment: Observation of group discussion and understanding.


Minutes: 50 minutes

Task: Read some or all of the back portion of the book that explains the author’s tribe’s history and their connection to the land and animals.

This also explains the traditions of his people and the importance of storytelling.

How are his people’s traditions different from ours? How are they the same?

What is the importance of storytelling for his culture?

Tell students they will be creating their own oral presentation on why they are thankful for animals, and how they have been personally touched by animals’ presence.

Go over what makes a good oral presentation (eye contact, slow and clear speech, visual aids, a beginning, middle and end)

Go over how humans are dependent on animals (we eat them, they keep the natural environment around us in balance by eating and dying, they teach us things, the entire food chain is reliant on animals, any personal connections they might have to animals)

Explain that even though we eat animals, just like the author does, we still need to have respect for where our nutrition is coming from, and be mindful of maintaining balance in the natural environment.

Hand out the Success Criteria Checkbric for this assignment:

  • Consistent use of direct eye contact with audience (L1 L2 L3 L4)
  • Speaks with variation of volume and tone (L1 L2 L3 L4)
  • Speaks slowly and clearly (L1 L2 L3 L4)
  • Has a clear beginning, middle and end (L1 L2 L3 L4)
  • Answers all questions with extra details (L1 L2 L3 L4)
  • Provides facts and personal experiences that support opinion (L1 L2 L3 L4)
  • Shows enthusiastic feelings about topic (L1 L2 L3 L4)
  • Presentation is 2-5 minutes long (L1 L2 L3 L4)
  • Connects speech to at least two facts learned during the science unit “Habitats and Communities” (L1 L2 L3 L4)

Students could also use visual aids if they so choose.

Students get about 20-30 minutes to work on this, depending on how the work period is going.

Students could either start presenting before the end of the period, or if more time is needed, presentations could occur on a separate day.

Assessment: Assessment of Learning – could be used to evaluate for and Oral Communication, Writing and Science grade.

MATERIALS: What resources and materials do I need? Where can I find them? In a perfect world what other resources might I need?

  • Envelopes with different names for Minds On Activity
  • The book Thanks to the Animals
  • Access to tech if visual aids are wanted

REFLECTION: Questions to determine the success of your lesson:

  • Were my students successful in meeting the learning goals and success criteria? How do I know?
  • Did my instructional decisions meet the needs of all students? If not, what are my next steps?
  • What worked well and why?
  • What will I do differently in the future when teaching this lesson? For the subsequent lesson?
  • What are the next steps for my professional learning?


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Social Justice Picture Books Copyright © 2019 by Ruth McQuirter, editor and Gurbinder Kaur, contributing editor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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