Aboriginal Perspectives


Standard Units

Jessica Wesaquate

Subject Area:



Shape and Space (Measurement)

Grade Level:



Main Objective:

Students will describe and compare everyday phenomena, using direct or indirect measurement.

General Outcome:

Estimate, measure and compare, using standard units for length and primarily nonstandard units for other measures.

Specific Outcomes:

  1. Construct items of specific lengths (cm, dm, m).

  2. Select the most appropriate standard unit (cm, dm, m) to measure a length.

  3. Estimate, measure, record, compare and order objects by length, height, and distance around, using standard units.


Activity One:
Tim Haywahe Video 8: "Wrapping the Poles", 30 cm ruler

Activity Two:
Tim Haywahe Video 3: "Lining Up the Poles"

Activity Three:
Masking tape, dried corn, 30 cm ruler

Activity/lesson Ideas:

  1. Watch Tim Haywahe Video 8: "Wrapping the Poles". Point out to students that in order to keep the poles tight at the top, a rope is used. The following activity is sequel to watching the video.

    Have students take some bulk string to represent rope and make a train of 25 cm long. Use a 30-cm ruler to check. Predict the length of string needed to make a train of 1 m long. Explain your thinking.

    Traditionally First Nations people had to use non-standard measurement tools in things like raising a tipi. Have students find a straight edge to make a line about 10 cm long. Ask students to guess what body part they can use to check the length of their line.

  2. Watch Tim Haywahe Video 3: "Lining Up the Poles". Ask students if they would use metres or centimeters to measure:

    • The distance from the top of the pole to the bottom of an individual pole. Why?
    • The length of one step towards the tipi. Why?
  3. Using masking tape, create a line on the ground. Have a student stand just behind the line and throw a piece of dried corn. Students can make an estimation of the throw. Measure and record the distance in centimeters. Now have three other students throw a piece of dried corn. Use what was learned from the original student’s throw, to estimate each distance of the next three students’ throw. Again, check the estimates my measuring. The estimates and measurements should be recorded in centimeters.

    Individually have the students order the four measurements from least to greatest.

    Social Studies connection: Corn was an integral part of Indigenous cultures. Find some books for students to read and research about the role of corn in the lifestyles of Indigenous people. If this lesson is being taught in the wintertime, there are many Indigenous legends and folktales surrounding the corn crop that can told. The protocol around teaching and talking about these legends is that there has to be snow on the ground in order to be talked about!