Book Title: To Walk the Sky Path

Author: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Publisher and Date: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 1973

Curriculum Developer: Jessica M. Law

Summary: Billie Tommie is a Seminole boy growing up in the Florida Everglades. His family lives in a chickee on an island in the swamp and they continue a lot of the traditional Seminole ways. Billie is the first in his family to go to a public school and learn how to read. Throughout the book Billie trys to find his place in society, taking the best of both the Seminole traditions and what the modern world offers. He learns from his grandfather many legends and rituals that are important to the Seminole people, but he also wants to know more about the white man's ways.

Social Studies Relevance: This is a historical fiction book that is true in its description of the Seminole who play a significant role in the history of the United States. There is a link to history in studying the Seminole wars and the Trail of Tears, as the characters in this book are descendants of those American Indians. Geography is another link, in particular, studying the climate and topography of Southern Florida and the surrounding regions. Economics can be looked at with regard to a comparison of Billie's family and Jeffrey's family lifestyles. Aspects of sociology and anthropology of the Seminole can be discussed as well.

Grade Level Focus: 5th grade

Relationship to Social Studies State Core:

6050-0103 Create individually, or in a group, one or more of the following: newspapers, posters, poetry, bumper stickers, interviews, surveys, bulletin boards, stories, letter writing, diaries, dialogues, or songs.

6050-0105 Evaluate with other class members right and wrong actions, according to universal standards, as being morally acceptable or unacceptable.

6050-0201 Outline the major historical events, people, wars, and documents that played a significant role in United States history from 1492 to the present.

6050-0304 Use maps to explain the geographic setting of historical and current events.

6050-0404 Explain how changes in incomes and people's tastes can influence the demand and market price of a product.

6050-0501 Explain the scope and limits of freedom in a democratic society

6050-0504 Discuss the function of our court system.

Title of Lesson: To Walk the Sky Path - Geography


*Students will locate and highlight a list of 11 places on a map of Florida.

*Given the story, To Walk the Sky Path, students will determine and then mark the spot they believe the story to have taken place.

*Students will draw a story map including a legend, compass rose, distance scale, title, and identify and label 10 places described in the book, To Walk the Sky Path.

Materials Needed:

Enough copies of To Walk the Sky Path for the class

Copy of the Map of the state of Florida for each student (use an atlas)

Stack of 11 x 17 construction paper (white)

Pencils, markers, rulers, colored pencils, highlighters


1. Map Location. Pass out maps of Florida to everyone. Ask students to locate the following places and highlight them on their maps. Review basic map skills if needed.

a. Lake Okeechobee
b. Big Cypress Indian Reservation
c. Tamiami Canal and Trail
d. The Everglades
e. Miami
f. Tallahassee (state capitol)
g. St. Augustine (first established city in Florida)
h. Caloosahatchee River
i. Orlando (Disney World, Epcot Center)
j. Cape Canaveral (NASA - space shuttles)
k. The Legend

Discuss possible places for the story setting from the information the author has given. With a different color of pencil or pen, have the students mark an X on their maps to show where they think the events of the story would most likely have taken place.

2. Story Map. Make a list on the board of places and particular events that happen in To Walk the Sky Path. The list could include the following: [refer to specific pages for detailed descriptions]

a. The far island with 4 Chickees [pages 7-8]
b. The Everglades (swampland)
c. Mush Jim's shack (dock) [page 26]
d. Tamiami Trail (highway) [pages 19-20]
e. Tamiami Canal [page 20]
f. Big Cypress Reservation
g. School
h. Plane crash (submerged motor) [page 35]
i. Jeff's house [page 75]
j. New island (bridge) [pages 86 & 91-92]
k. Encounter with the "Big One" [pages 114-115]
l. Indian Village and Souvenir Shop (alligator pit) [pages 100-101]
m. Island deep in swamp (Abraham's funeral spot) [pages 141-142]

Explain that they are now going to create their own map showing a closer view of the area they marked with an X on their maps of Florida. Pass out the construction paper and ask students to design a map of the places in To Walk the Sky Path that are listed on the board. Have them draw a legend with a compass rose and include a distance scale (possible measure - 4" is equal to 1 mile). Students should also label, color and give their map a title.

Look over the maps of Florida to see that they have correctly located the eleven places specified. Check to see if they have drawn an X somewhere in the Everglades, close to the Tamiami trail, and not too far from the Big Cypress Reservation. Examine their story maps looking for at least 10 places drawn and labeled, a legend, compass rose, distance scale and a title.

Title of Lesson: To Walk the Sky Path - Seminole History Timeline


*Students will research facts about Florida history.

*As a group, students will be able to construct a timeline of important events in Seminole history from the Revolutionary War to the present including dates, a picture, and a short caption.

*Students will contribute ideas to a discussion on perspectives of different groups in history.

Materials Needed:

4 x 6 Index cards

Colored Cardstock
White Paper
Computer Time (to type up captions)

Library References (need 10 - 12 encyclopedias and/or books on Seminoles and history of Florida in the 1800's for students to get information from)

Clothesline or rope (9-12 feet in length)
Clothespins (24)
Glue or Rubber Cement


1. Reread pages 54-56. Tell students to look for the things Billie covered in his report. They will be learning more about some of those events today.

For random group division: fold a yellow piece of paper into 12 squares and number them 1 through 12. Do the same thing with a green piece of paper. Cut out the squares and put them in a hat. Let each student pick a square and then match up by number. (Yellow 1 and Green 1 paired together) The timeline topics correspond with the numbers listed in number 3 below. Hand out index cards, one to each student. Have them write their topic on the top of the card.

3. Write the following 12 topics on the chalkboard or an overhead:

  1. Revolutionary War
  2. 1818 First Seminole War
  3. 1822 Florida U.S. Territory
  4. 1823 Treaty - Seminole give up 32 million acres of land in northern Florida and move to 4 million acres of reservation in central Florida
  5. Andrew Jackson elected president
  6. 1830 Indian Removal Act - Indians forced west of the Mississippi River
  7. Trail of Tears to Oklahoma (Cherokee and Seminole)
  8. 1835-1842 Second Seminole War
  9. 1837 Osceola captured
  10. 1855-1858 Third Seminole War
  11. 1957 Seminole tribe of Florida formally organized and recognized by the federal government
  12. 1973 To Walk the Sky Path published

4. Have each pair of students select a reference book from the stack and make notes on index cards of information to use in their captions (dates, people, places, other interesting facts).

5. Responsibilities for each pair: "Work Together"
Green - write down roughdraft of caption and color picture.
Yellow - draw picture and type up caption.

6. Type up captions, color pictures and glue white paper on cardstock. Put timeline in order by hanging papers on clothesline. Then have students share with the class what they have learned about their event in history.

7. Discussion. Reread pages 59-60 and talk about the different perspectives on history, looking at the Native American view and the view of the White Man regarding land, war, ways of life, culture and traditions.


Check to see that the picture and caption include the date, place and people involved in the event and reflect a concise, objective and factual account of history. See that as many students as possible share their ideas in discussion of different perspectives.

Title of Lesson: To Walk the Sky Path - Seminole Culture (Sociology and Anthropology)


*Students will compare and contrast the Seminole traditions of the 1800's with the Seminole traditions of today, by making a mini-poster illustrating those changes.

*Given the book, To Walk the Sky Path, students will compare and contrast their own
lifestyles with that of Billie Tommie using a Venn diagram.

Materials Needed:

Paper (2 Overlapping squares - a venn diagram)
11 x 17 Construction Paper
Pencils, Colored Pencils, Markers,
8 Reference books on Seminoles


1. Set up 8 stations around the room with at least one book on Seminoles and a paper with the name of the following topics on it at each spot: Population, Dress, Transportation, Shelter, Food, Occupations, Education, and Government.

2. Divide for groups of three. Fold 3 different colors of paper into 8 squares and letter them A through H on each paper. Pass out the squares, one to each student. Have all the A's group up, the B's, etc. As a trio, each group should explore information on their topic looking for ways that the Seminole traditions have changed over time. Have them make notes and then using that information, design a mini-poster comparing life in the early 1800's to the ways of the modern Seminole. They should illustrate, color, write captions, use graphs or make things to represent how it was, and how it is now, in a way that can be hung on a bulletin board.

For each topic below, there is a brief list of some of the information available showing these changes in culture:


3. If one group finishes early, have them learn about the Green Corn Dance, and plan out what would take place at that event.
4. Share information gathered as a class and then arrange the mini-posters as a display on a bulletin board.

5. Venn Diagram. Pass out paper with two overlapping squares on it with enough space for the students to write in. Label the first square with their name, the second square with Billie's name, and in the middle part write, "what we have in common." Give them an example of a Venn Diagram, by writing one up one the board comparing the similarities and differences between boys and girls. Ask them to compare Billie's house and lifestyle to their own using this Venn Diagram. Things for them to consider might be:

a. Area they live in
b. School
c. Family traditions
d. Afterschool activities
e. Conveniences of life - microwave, bicycle, rollerblades, etc.
f. Weekend fun
g. Climate - weather
h. Animals in area


Look for evidence of research and creativity in representing the changes in cultural traditions over time. Read over the Venn Diagrams looking for at least 5 ideas written down for similarities and 10 ideas about the differences between themselves and the character in the story.


1. Brooks, Barbara, Native American People: The Seminole

2. Garbarino, Merwyn, Indians of North America: The Seminole

3. Lepthien, Emilie, A New True Book: The Seminole

4. Lee, Martin, The Seminoles

Title of Lesson: To Walk the Sky Path - Newscast Role Play


*Given the story, To Walk the Sky Path, students will demonstrate their understanding of major events in this book by creating and role playing a believable newscast.

Materials Needed:

Video Clip of a news broadcast about a hurricane or other major event
Something to use as a pretend microphone
Index Cards
24 Nametags
Reference Books on Hurricanes and Alligators
Video Camera (if possible - would make newscast a little more real)


1. Show video clip of a news broadcast. Make a list on the board of some of the questions asked, how it was reported and what kinds of information were considered important.

2. Divide the class into 4 groups of 6 students. Designate one corner of the room for each group. Hand out name tags to each group, so that everyone has a character for the role play.

3. Have each group reread the pages listed, so the events and reactions are fresh in their minds. Then have them get together and discuss as a group how they want to talk about the event. The reporter should make a list of questions to ask with help from his/her group.

Group #1 - Reporting on the Hurricane in Southern Florida
Characters: Reporter, Billie, Abraham, Hurricane expert, Mush Jim, Mr. Miller
[Reread pages 62-64, 66-68, 70-74]


Group #2 - Reporting on the Plane Crash in the Everglades
Characters: Reporter, Billie, Charlie, Mush Jim, Tiger, Man in Plane
[Reread pages 33, 36-38, 41-43, 45-47]


Group #3 - Reporting on the Encounter with the "Big One"
Characters: Reporter, Billie, Charlie, Mush Jim, Jeffrey, Alligator expert
[Reread pages 11-12, 25, 42-43, 114-116]


Group #4 - Reporting on the topic, "What it means to be an American Indian?"
Characters: Reporter, Abraham, Mush Jim, Tiger, Billie, Charlie
[Reread pages 28-29, 51, 125-126, 142, 144]

4. Give the groups time to reread certain passages in the book and then time to come up with questions and responses.

5. When each group is ready, begin by making a brief introduction to a newscast, and start videotaping if possible.

"And reporting live from Southern Florida, _____ tell us about this hurricane and the damage it has done to the area." [go to group #1]

"Next we have _____ reporting on the recent plane crash in the Everglades and you are speaking with the pilot and his rescuers." [go to group #2]

"Our next story comes to us from the Everglades swampland after an encounter with a mighty big alligator. _______ tell us what happened." [go to group #3]

"Finally, as a special feature of our news broadcast, we have _____ talking with some of the Seminoles on their perspectives of 'what it means to be an Indian.' ______, " [go to group #4]


Each student should have an opportunity to respond with the perspective of the character they have chosen. Observe their responses to check for comprehension of the story and clearly communicated thoughts and ideas. The role play from each group should resemble a typical newscast.