Native American Scientist Activities

Native American Scientist Activities

Although November is Native American Heritage Month, I don’t believe that really matters when it comes to teaching students about diverse scientists. Kids should routinely be seeing scientists from all different backgrounds in science class – no matter what the month is! In this post, I’ll discuss some fun and easy Native American scientist activities to introduce your students to Native American scientists… no matter what time of year it is!

I’ve broken down the activities into three categories: things to read, videos to watch, and a way to research Indigenous scientists.

📖 Read 📖 

“Dr. Susan”

First things first, make sure you grab my FREE Article on Omaha Physician Susan LaFlesche Picotte! I’ve made it FREE FOR MY READERS!

“Dr. Susan,” as her patients called her, was the first Native American woman to earn a medical degree in the United States. She dedicated her life to providing healthcare to the Omaha Tribe in Nebraska and advocating for better living conditions on reservations. She became a prominent figure in the early 20th-century Native American healthcare and rights movements.

Click HERE for the FREE article!
Ask Your Students This

Here’s a fun question to ask your students:

🍼 🕶️💉 What do baby bottles, sunglasses, and syringes have in common?  

Your students will learn that these items (and lots more) are scientific innovations developed by Indigenous peoples of the Americas when they read this Scientific Innovations Reading with Questions.

Native American science activity
Click HERE to see more!

This highly engaging reading discusses facts such as:

  • Native Americans used aspirin and hypodermic needles far before modern pharmaceutical companies.
  • The Inuit and Yupik of the Arctic invented sunglasses.
  • Iroquois and Seneca people used baby bottles made of bear guts and a bird’s quill!
  • Plus lots more!

📺 Watch Biography Videos 📺

A little note here… it’s remarkably hard to find good biography videos on Native American scientists! I’ve compiled some of the ones I’ve used in my class, plus a few more. Please, please, PLEASE preview these videos before you show them! They are quite varied, and I’m sure you’ll like the formats of some more than others. Like I said, they’re the best I can find.

Native American Biography Video Options:

  • 👩🏽‍⚕️ Dr. Susan LaFlesche, physician (Video)*
  • 🩺 Dr. Stanley Vollant, surgeon (Video)
  • 🌿 Robin Wall Kimmerer, botanist (Video)

If you find any good biography videos on Native American scientists, please do share them with me at [email protected]! I’ll add them to this list for our fellow science teachers to use.

🖥️ Research 🖥️ 

Send students on a WebQuest to learn more about different Indigenous scientists. (Personally, I use this as a sub plan, but it’s good for any time!)

Get the WebQuest HERE

In this web-based activity, students will learn about the following scientists:

  • Powtawche Valerino, mechanical engineer who worked on the NASA Cassini mission to Saturn
  • Bertha Pallan Thurston Cody, archaeologist known for many important fossil finds
  • Thomas David Petite, inventor of wireless phone and WiFi technology
  • Annette S. Lee, astrophysicist and Director of Native Skywatchers
  • Fred Begay, nuclear physicist who worked on alternative energy
  • Plus many, many more!


If you like these Native American scientist activities, please follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers! And if you’re interested in introducing your students to more diverse scientists, you might also want to check out the scientists section of my website shop.

* From above… PBS only makes this video available in certain markets. If this link doesn’t work for you, try finding a different path to it by Googling “Susan LaFlesche Picotte Unladylike2020” or “Susan LaFlesche Picotte American Masters.”

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