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The Inka Empire: What Innovations Can Provide Food and Water for Millions?

The Inka Empire thrived in South America in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This lesson highlights Inka-period engineering accomplishments that allowed the Inka to manage their vast and dispersed empire, and how their legacy has relevancy in the present day. Explore a variety of sources to investigate how the need to feed and provide water for millions of people across a vast territory led to Inka innovations in water management and agriculture. Many of these innovations are still in use today by indigenous communities in the Andes. Este recurso también está disponible en español.

Resource Information

grades   5 6 7 8
Inka, Quechua, Aymara
Social Studies, Geography, History, Environmental Science, STEM
South America
Inka, Inka Empire, Inka Road, innovation, engineering, water management, agriculture, food distribution, terracing, colcas, Tipon, Ayni, reciprocity, Inca
Essential Understandings More Close

3: Peoples, Places, and Environments
Key Concept: For thousands of years, indigenous people have studied, managed, honored, and thrived in their homelands. These foundations continue to influence American Indian relationships and interactions with the land today.

7: Production, Distribution, and Consumption
Key Concept: American Indians developed a variety of economic systems that reflected their cultures and managed their relationships to others. Prior to European arrival in the Americas, American Indians produced and traded goods and technologies using well-developed system of trails and widespread transcontinental, intertribal trade routes. Today, American Indian tribes and individuals are active in economic enterprises that involve production and distribution.

8: Science, Technology, and Society
Key Concept: American Indian knowledge resides in languages, cultural practices, and teaching that spans many generations. This knowledge is based on long-term observation, experimentation, and experience with the living earth. Indigenous knowledge has sustained American Indian cultures for thousands of years. When applied to contemporary global challenges, Native knowledge contributes to dynamic and innovative solutions.


Academic Standards More Close

Common Core State Standards

Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

College, Career & Civic Life—C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards

Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other representations to explain relationships between the locations of places and regions, and changes in their environmental characteristics.

Use paper based and electronic mapping and graphing techniques to represent and analyze spatial patterns of different environmental and cultural characteristics.

Explain how cultural patterns and economic decisions influence environments and the daily lives of people in both nearby and distant places.

Analyze the combinations of cultural and environmental characteristics that make places both similar to and different from other places.

Explain how the physical and human characteristics of places and regions are connected to human identities and cultures.

Evaluate the influences of long-term human-induced environmental change on spatial patterns of conflict and cooperation.

Use questions generated about individuals and groups to analyze why they, and the developments they shaped, are seen as historically significant.

Organize applicable evidence into a coherent argument about the past.

Explain how economic decisions affect the well-being of individuals, businesses, and society.

Identify examples of the variety of resources (human capital, physical capital, and natural resources) that are used to produce goods and services.

Analyze the role of innovation and entrepreneurship in a market economy.

National Science Education Standards

Abilities of Technological Design, including evaluate completed technological designs and products; communicate the process of technological design.

Science and Technology in Local Challenges, including science and engineering work in many different settings.

Next-Generation Science Standards

Practice 2
Developing and using models.

Practice 6
Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering).