PART 2 of
Coming Home to North America
A Participatory Program for Children (K - 6)
and their stuffed animals

by Connie Barlow
October 2002 (revised March 2004)

NOTE: This is the second half of the children's program. Click to return to the first half of the program.

32 mya Oh, who is that climbing about in the trees? I think I see some SQUIRRELS, evolving right here in North America. Welcome squirrels! And squirrels are not just evolving here. The squirrel family is co-evolving with nut trees: with the acorns of oak trees, and with the nuts of walnuts and hickories and beech trees, too. You see, squirrels gather and bury acorns and other nuts during the fall, storing them safely in the ground so that they can eat them later during the winter. But not all the buried nuts are dug up and eaten. Some remain in the soil, and then grow into trees. Squirrels are so successful that very soon they migrate into Asia and then Europe and Africa too. But they originated right here. [If noone has brought in a squirrel stuffed animal, ask for volunteers to pretend to be squirrels planting nuts in the ground.] "Welcome, squirrels, welcome!" [chime]

Any time. Now here is something amazing about our continent. More than anywhere else in the world, one type of storm occurs mostly on our continent. What is it? Note: There will always be some kids who guess correctly, TORNADO. Explain that because the Rockies/Cascades/Sierras run N-S, and the Appalachians run N-S, there is nothing to block the flow of cold air from the Arctic moving way south, and warm air from the Gulf of Mexico blowing way north, across the broad flat mid-section of the continent. When cold air and warm air meet, tornadoes may form. Who has ever seen a tornado? Let's all stand and act out tornadoes, and making the sound of wind too. (Kids love this part; let it go on awhile to let them all get some energy released.)

20 mya Oh my! I think I see something Big and Ferocious coming into North America now, after it evolved in Asia. The BEAR FAMILY Do I hear any bears growling out there? "Welcome, Bears, welcome!"

20 mya Trees may be beautiful, and are very important for feeding squirrels their nuts. But if you are a horse, you can't reach up into the treetops to eat the tree leaves. Better to have plants growing near to the ground. So it is time for Earth to bring forth the GRASSES. It would be a great help to HORSES and other grazing animals if grasses evolved. Well, sure enough, by 20 million years ago, grasses did evolve, and their seeds rapidly spread throughout the entire world. Like acorns co-evolving with squirrels, grasses co-evolved with big mammals. This is because grasses actually want to be eaten! Other plants have their growing cells, their buds, at the tips of their branches and stems, so when animals munch them, they find it hard to grow. But grasses figured out a way to protect their growing cells by putting them at the base of the stem, right next to the ground, rather than at the tip. So grasses grow the same way our own hair grows: from the base! Feel your hair right now. Does it hurt you when you get your hair cut? No! In the same way, it doesn't hurt grasses to have a horse eat the tips, or a LAWNMOWER to clip the tips in today's world!

17 mya A most wonderful family of mammals has evolved in Africa, has spread into Asia, and is now beginning to migrate into North America. This animals has a very long nose and beautiful white tusks. Who is it? ELEPHANTS The first kinds of elephants to come into North America are MASTODONS, and later Asia will send us MAMMOTHS. Ask all the kids to stand up and move one arm like it is the trunk of an elephant and to make elephant sounds. Welcome to North America, you big beautiful beasts! "Welcome, Elephants, welcome! [chime]

15 mya Now a whole new family of plant-eater will evolve on the American grasslands, to join the horses and camels that have been here for many millions of years. Who is this new family? The PRONGHORN antelope. It is not at all related to the antelope of Africa, though it looks somewhat like them. What distinguishes North America's pronghorn is that no plant-eater in the world runs faster. Why does our pronghorn run as fast as cars are allowed to go on the freeway? Well, because right here in North America, about the same time, evolved a new genus of cat from older cat ancestors that had long ago come in from Asia. And this cat will be the fastest running animal in the world. Who is this cat?

15 mya A special kind of cat will evolve right here, and later it will go over to Africa before it becomes extinct here. CHEETAH.

9 mya Oh, who is that swimming the rivers of Asia, entering Beringia, and then swimming the rivers of Alaska and down through Canada and throughout North America, wherever there are rivers? BEAVER

5 mya DEER evolve in Asia and then migrate into North America. So do MOUNTAIN SHEEP.

5 mya It is still 5 million years ago, and I have a very sad event to report: Somebody is going to go extinct in North America, but fortunately they will live on in Africa and India. Who is that? RHINOCEROS. [If there is one in the pile, have it removed.] "Goodbye, Rhinoceros, goodbye!" [chime]

5 mya Some monkey-like creatures are coming down out of the trees and beginning to walk around in Africa. Who are these? ANCESTORS OF HUMANS. But it will be a long time before these human ancestors migrate into North America. By the time that they do, they will have spears and will have figured out how to rub sticks together in order to create a spark to make campfires. If somebody brought in a MONKEY or GORILLA, have them place it in Africa. Better, ask for volunteers who want to huddle with you where Africa would be. Then ask those volunteers when there, "Who wants to be the person who discovers how to make fire? Who want to be the person who discovers how to sew warm clothes so that you can later cross Alaska and come into North America? To make spears for hunting mammoths?"

3 mya Oh, something very special is about to happen. Three million years ago, South America finally connects with North America, when the Isthmus of Panama rises up out of the ocean. It is now possible for animals to migrate between these two continents on their own four feet, instead of clinging to a storm-launched, floating tree like the tree frogs and lizards did. The good news is that South America sends North America PORCUPINE, POSSUM, and ARMADILLO. Welcome, all you cute little creatures! South America also sends North America GIANT GROUND SLOTHS and GLYPTODONTS, which are big mammals who will do well here for a couple million years before going extinct. Ask the kids to pretend they are a ground sloth and see how hard it would be to go fast. Have them stand on the sides of their feet, like the ground sloths do. Ground sloths stand on the sides of their feet because inward turned feet like that are great for climbing trees to safety when you are a baby, but by the time you become too heavy to climb trees, your great claws and strong arms will protect you on the ground from predators.

3 mya The bad news is that, 3 million years ago, North America also sends so many of its own mammals across the Isthmus of Panama that many of the mammals native to South America will not be able to survive. They will go EXTINCT. After millions and millions of years of evolving in isolation in South America, all the new arrivals prove to be too much for the residents, and the native South American mammals will go extinct. Who are the North American animals who are getting ready to expand their home range into South America and make that continent their home too? SQUIRREL, RABBIT, RACCOON, MICE OR RAT, PECCARY (PIG), DEER, CAT, DOG, BEAR Any of you come up here. And we'll need CAMEL, too, to represent LLAMA, because Llama is a kind of camel that evolved first right here in North America, before moving into South America just 3 milion years ago. [Have the kids walk south into South America, and then return their animals to the stack in North America.]

3 mya There is an important migration moving in another direction too: out of North America and into Asia and from there down into Africa. Who has a HORSE OR CAMEL here in North America? Get it and carry it across Alaska into Asia and down into Africa. Anybody know what that horse will evolve into in Africa? ZEBRA! A Zebra is really a North American horse that has moved to Africa and grown stripes! There will still be horses and camels in North America too, but not for long! Eventually, they will go extinct here, in their land or origin.

2 mya This is the beginning of the ICE AGES [explain glaciers and use the WHITE CLOTH, or have a volunteer take over, while you talk.] A kind of brown bear will turn white to match the snow during this time. Who will that be? POLAR BEAR

400,000 years ago Oh, I hear the thunder of hooves, whole herds of hooves, as big snorting beasts come from Asia through Alaska and into North America for the first time. These are the BISON, also known as buffalo. Does anybody have a BUFFALO, or its close relative: A COW? [yes or no, invite ALL THE CHILDREN TO STAND, and stamp their feet and snort like buffalo.] Buffalo: We have been waiting so long for you to come our way! Welcome to our continent! Now go on out into the plains and prairies and enjoy eating all our wonderful grasses.

ANY STUFFED ANIMALS NOT YET CALLED? Find out if anybody has any stuffed animals remaining, and find a way to bring them into the continent or put them on some other continent now.

15,000 years ago - The clock now turns to 15,000 years ago. The Ice Ages have come and gone. Something very important is about to happen: PEOPLE arrive! People began evolving in Africa about 5 million years ago, but no people were in North America until 15,000 years ago. First, people had to figure out how to make stone tools and spear points, and how to build fires to cook and to keep warm, and how to sew furry animal skins into clothes and boots that could keep them warm way up in Alaska, and during the winter. People needed all these things in order to walk from Asia into Alaska, and then down into the rest of North America. So 15,000 years ago, the first peoples finally arrive. Since we are all people, let's all stand, and welcome ourselves: "Welcome, People, welcome!"

13,000 years ago - Something very sad is about to happen. Many big animals in North America will go EXTINCT. Some scientists think that climate change is the reason: the end of the Ice Ages. Others think that people were the cause: that the ancestors of the first peoples were mammoth hunters, who killed too many of the big beasts, driving them to extinction. Whatever the cause, a great variety of big beasts go extinct just 13,000 years ago. Gone are the GROUND SLOTHS and the GLYPTODONTS. Gone too are all the ELEPHANTS: our mammoths and mastodons. We will have to say goodbye to the HORSES and CAMELS, too. We are grateful that their descendants still live on in Asia and Africa. So whoever put their stuff animal HORSES OR CAMELS into the pile, please retrieve them now and put them in the extinct pile up here. Goodbye, animals, goodbye! [chime]

We must say goodbye, too, to all the predators who once depended on the big grass-eating animals for food. Among those who went extinct was the biggest member of the DOG clan: the Dire Wolf. And also a ferocious member of the CAT family: the Sabertooth Cat. And, of course, the American Cheetah went extinct. Also going extinct is the biggest BEAR of all time: America's very own giant bear! We don't need to remove them from the pile of animals, because there are still some species of cats and dogs and bears that remain in North America. Nevertheless, we can say goodbye to the ones that went extinct: "Goodbye big and scary animals, goodbye!" [chime] Know that we will keep your memory alive forever! We will remember your story, and we will display your bones in our finest museums, and write books about you.

Fortunately, about the same time these animals went extinct in America, two more came here from Asia: MOOSE and ELK.

Today Now, we come to the present. Today there are many, many PEOPLE on this continent. Our own ancestors came not just from Asia, but also from Africa and Europe and the Middle East and India and Polynesia and South America. First among these peoples were the First Nations: the peoples whose cultures arose right here on this continent: such as the Iroqouis, the Cherokee, the Lakota, the Navajo. And then all the people who followed, much later. And some of those people also brought back an animal who was once native to this land and then went extinct. The early Spanish people brought back the HORSE. Let us welcome horses back into their original home, their continent of birth. "Welcome HORSES, welcome! [chime] Soon, the Lakota and other Native peoples will tame wild horses and ride them to hunt BISON.


NOTE: There are several ways to end this story. You can ask the students to enter the continent in groups, by ancestry, as you go one by one through the regions of the world. Make clear that some students will enter the continent 2 or 3 or even 4 different times, based on how diverse their ancestry is. Also explain that, geographically, Mexico is part of North America, so Mexican-American students will need to consider how their ancestors got to Mexico. Begin, of course, with the First Peoples, and pay them special honor. For any kids that enter the continent to honor their Native American ancestry, ask the children if they know what tribe or nation is in their heritage. When a group has assembled inside the continent, lead the rest of the children is saying, "Welcome, people, welcome!"

Note: For early elementary, many kids do not know their ancestors. So I simply ask for any children who may know where their ancestors came from before North America to raise their hand and say what they know, and then I invite all to enter the continent together when that has finished. Then for those who don't yet know where their ancestors came from to join us. And I suggest that they may want to ask someone in their family to find out.


  • Native American
  • northern Asia, such as CHINA
  • southern Asia, such as VIETNAM OR INDONESIA
  • POLYNESIA (incl. native Hawaiian)
  • elsewhere in the MIDDLE EAST

    NOTE: It is fun to have the clustered students call out one by one, as they raise their hands, any specifics about where they came from. For example: those who enter from Africa may know their ancestors as having come from Sudan, Egypt, Nigeria. And then have all the rest outside the continent be their animal selves and welcome the new peoples, by barking or meowing, or roaring, or whatever they feel like sounding. Do this for each region:

    Mention that it is now time to honor the ancestors that have been forgotten, that we do not know. This may also include honoring the ancestors of those of us who are ADOPTED. (ring chime).

    End by having ALL THE CHILDREN, if possible, squeeze into the boundary of the continent. And SING A SONG together. It can be as easy as "North America is our home", sung over and over to a tune you create. You might have them sit down to sing this song, reiterating the story by asking, "And what do squirrels sing?" etc.

    Enjoy! And may we all learn to become lovingly native to place, to this great continent, living in harmony with the animals and plants who also have made this their home.

    List of ANIMALS mentioned in the STORY, in order
  • dinosaurs
  • little mammals
  • turtles
  • salamander
  • alligators and crocodiles
  • horses
  • camels
  • rhinoceroses
  • dog family (foxes, wolves, puppies)
  • cat family (lions, tigers, leopars, jaguars, cougars)
  • tree frogs, toads, lizards, iguana
  • raven (or crow), other birds
  • bats
  • snakes (garter snakes, rattlesnakes)
  • squirrels
  • tornados
  • bear family
  • elephant family (mastodons, mammoths)
  • pronghorn family
  • cheetah
  • beaver
  • deer family
  • mountain sheep
  • monkey, gorilla (in Africa)
  • porcupine
  • possum
  • armadillo
  • giant ground sloths
  • glyptodonts
  • rabbit, raccoon, mice/rat
  • peccary (pig)
  • llama
  • zebra
  • polar bear
  • bison (buffalo)
  • people
  • moose and elk

    Outline to Use for Writing in Stuffed Animals (and Deleting)

    65 mya. DINOSAURS (then extinction)


    60 mya. Rocky mountains; Bearpaw Seaway drains; North America is born

    55 mya. HORSES and CAMELS (evolve in NA)

    55 mya. RHINOCEROS (immigrates from Asia)

    40 mya. DOG FAMILY (evolves in NA)

    40 mya. CAT FAMILY (immigrates from Asia)

    35 mya. TREE FROGS, TOADS, LIZARDS (floats from South America)

    35 mya. RAVEN (immigrates from Australia) [BATS; other birds]

    35 mya. SNAKES (immigrate from Asia)

    30 mya. SQUIRRELS (co-evolve with Nut Trees in NA)

    20 mya. GRASSES (co-evolve with big mammals; later lawnmowers)

    17 mya. ELEPHANTS (immigrate from Africa via Asia)

    15 mya. BEAR FAMILY (immigrates from Asia)

    15 mya. CHEETAH (evolves in North America, immigrates to Asia)

    5 mya. DEER and MOUNTAIN SHEEP (immigrate from Asia)

    5 mya. RHINOCEROS goes extinct in NA

    5 mya. HUMAN ANCESTORS evolve in Africa


    3 mya. SQUIRREL, RABBIT, RACCOON, MICE/RATE, PECCARY (PIG), DEER, CAT, DOG, BEAR, LLAMA (colonize South America across Isthmus of Panama)

    3mya. CAMELS and HORSES (colonize Asia and Africa fr. NA, [Zebra])

    2 mya. ICE AGES: POLAR BEAR (evolves in Arctic)

    400,000 ya BISON (buffalo immigrate from Asia)


    15,000 ya PEOPLE (immigrate from Asia)



    500 ya HORSES return (brought back by Spanish; Indians evolve horseback culture)


    To return to the first half of this children's version of the North American story, click HERE.

    To return to the adult version of the North American Story, click HERE.

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