Bering Strait Land Bridge

Bering Strait Land Bridge

I can explain how people first traveled to North America.

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Bering Strait Land Bridge

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Students learn about the Bering Strait land bridge as a theory to explain how humans arrived in North America before European exploration. They will learn about early humans' nomadic lives as hunter-gatherers and explain why and how they were able to come to North America.

Learning objective

Students will be able to examine the theory of the migration routes by which the first humans may have arrived, including the Bering land bridge, using maps and archaeological evidence.


Ask all the students to stand up and move to a new spot in the classroom that they'd like to sit in. Then have students turn and talk with their (new) neighbors. What caused them to move to that new spot? Discuss some of their answers as a class. Tell students that what they just did was migration, moving from one spot to another. Explain that about 15,000 years ago, humans migrated into North America. Provide some reasons for which early humans may have migrated.


Ask students how they think the first people migrated to North America and tell them that learning about early migration is important because it helps us understand how and why people move. Discuss the Stone Age hunter-gatherers with the class and explain how they survived by hunting and following herd beasts. Explain to students that land bridges appeared during the last ice age due to the frozen water exposing certain areas of land that usually lie below the surface. Then show students the land bridge that historians believe humans and dogs crossed during the last Ice Age, namely the Bering Strait land bridge. Ask students to use the compass directions on the map to help explain where the Bering Strait land bridge was located. The landmass of the Bering Strait is named Beringia, and tell students that historians believe that it was cold and dry but still was habitable. Challenge students to think about how Early People would have survived crossing the Bering Strait. Discuss how they survived by following the grazing animals from (modern-day) Siberia into (modern-day) Alaska and from there, on to the rest of North and South America. As the Ice Age ended, water rose up again and covered the Bering Strait Land Bridge. Show students a modern map that shows water rather than a land bridge between Russia and North America.


Students respond to 10 true/false and multiple-choice questions.


To close the lesson there are three activities. First, students are asked to spin the wheel and then write a short paragraph about their prompt. Next, they are asked to draw a picture of what they imagine crossing the Bering Strait land bridge would be like. Finally ask students to write a journal entry from the perspective of a nomad who has migrated into North America.

Teaching tips

You may choose to discuss the difference between migration and immigration- namely the movement from one region of land to another and relocating to a new country. You may also choose to ask the class who/which students in the class had parents/grandparents who either migrated or immigrated. You can also challenge the class to think of modern nomads, people like diplomats, military families, or ethnic communities that are traditionally nomadic like the Berbers, Kazakhs, or Bedouin.

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