Free Lesson Plan: Indigenous Peoples in the Americas Culture, Wampum Bead Project

Exploring other Cultures: Indigenous Peoples in the Americas 

Wampum Bead Projects (Projects can follow on consecutive weeks)

A group project that inspires sharing and team building

Elementary school and Middle school age appropriate

Vocabulary: Pattern, repetition, jewelry making

Materials: Plastic containers, fishing line, plastic tubing, scissors


  1. Read
  2. Shell beads in the Northeast have been found that are 4500 years old. These shell beads were difficult to make using a stone drill to form and were used for trade within ceremonial contexts, in part for the connections of shell with water and its life giving properties.
  3. Students each get a section of different color tubing to cut into certain size wampum beads which they each place in a cup or plate
  4. Students trade beads
  5. Demonstrate pattern
  6. Students create a pattern on plate
  7. Students knot one end of fishing line with a bead (can be prepped in advance) and string beads on fishing line.
  8. Students knot other end of fishing line with a bead then tie both ends together

Opportunity for Discussion and play:

  • How does this project inspire sharing and team building?
  • What is trade?
  • Do you ever exchange products or services?
  • Why do countries foster trade?
  • What are trade embargoes?
  • What are the pros and cons of using money versus wampum?
  • What makes your necklace special?
  • Will you keep or give away your necklace?

See also: Tent and Canoe Projects and Paper Bear Projects