Rock Writing

Nature Guides & Activities

PURPOSE: Learn about the cultural significance behind rock writing, how to create your own, and where to go find some real petroglyphs!  |  GRADE LEVELS: Any grade level


  • Understand how symbols have different meanings.
  • Know the difference between petroglyphs and pictographs.
  • Interpret rock writing.
  • Create your own rock writing story.


  • Writing tool (pencil, pen, etc.)
  • Brown construction paper
  • White chalk
  • Symbols sheet #1
  • Symbols sheet #2
  • What’s Your Story sheet

Downloadable PDFs

Past and Present

The history of the Americas goes back more than thirty thousand years, when there were many populations of peoples – each with a culture and a variety of spoken languages. At that time, over 750 tribes lived along the coasts, in the woods, in the prairies, and even in the deserts!

Today, in Nevada, there are four groups of Native Nations: Washoe, Northern Paiute, Western Shoshone, and Southern Paiute – and we can find evidence of their ancestral history and cultural practices through the findings of pictographs (painted images/symbols on rocks) and petroglyphs (carved images/symbols on rocks) – which are found all over Nevada!

Visit these websites to learn more!

Think About It!

The United States today has diverse groups of people – with different cultures and who speak different languages. Imagine you meet someone who doesn’t speak the same language as you. What are some ways you can communicate with them without speaking to them?

Solve It!

In order to make communication easier, our society has developed symbols that can be easily understood by anyone regardless of spoken language. Do you think you can figure out what some of those symbols represent?

Take a look at Symbols Sheet #1. Where do you usually see these symbols? What do they mean?

The first peoples that were in these lands also used symbols to represent meanings, and they documented it on rocks and stones!

Take a look at Symbols Sheet #2. What do you think each of the pieces of writing represent?

The Power of Symbols

A Tool for Storytelling

Talk About It!

The Image on the Right Shows a Petroglyph Found in Valley of Fire. What Do You Think Is the Meaning or Story Behind This Writing?

Write About It!

It’s Time for You to Share Your Story! Open the “What’s Your Story” Sheet and Follow the Instructions.

Draw It!

Take your story and recreate it using only symbols! Take the brown paper, chalk, and begin!

Petroglyphs, rock writing

Going Outdoors

Sites in Southern Nevada with Petroglyphs and/or Pictographs

  1. Lake Mead National Recreation Area
  2. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
  3. Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area
  4. Valley of Fire State Park
  5. Arrow Canyon Wilderness
  6. Basin and Range National Monument
  7. Gold Butte Region
  8. Lincoln County Archaeological Sites

Experience It!

Now that you’ve learned a little more about the history and significance of petroglyphs, we encourage you to go out to one of these sites in Nevada, check them out, and show your respect by practicing Leave No Trace principles…