Fifth graders immerse themselves into Native American culture

Fifth grade students at Bradie Shrum Elementary have been comparing and contrasting the native people of North America in U.S. History, specifically how the environment in which they lived influenced their diverse cultures. During this study, a few classrooms have really brought the culture to life.

They offered activities that might have been done by tribes in different regions of the United States. Students read about different tribes from each region and learned about their ways of life, including how they built their shelters, what foods they had available to eat, the customs and beliefs of different groups, what artifacts they made, and what games they played. Juli Rowe even set up a teepee in her classroom.

Rowe said, “Bev Sweeney and my dad (former fifth grader teacher Gary Smith) started the Native American Days years ago and it was brought up in one of our planning meetings.” Most of the teachers at BSE are fairly new to teaching fifth grade and were excited to jump in and plan the program. They decided to hold the event the two days before Thanksgiving break.

Principal Jen Lawyer thought it was a great idea, but asked that the teachers be cognizant of stereotypes within society regarding indigenous people. “We wanted to be respectful of the cultures, so everything we did was as authentic as possible,” Rowe said. “We did a great amount of research into the tribes, down to the foods that would have been available to those groups.”

The teachers felt that the students really enjoyed the activities that brought to life what they had been studying in the their social studies books.

Some of the activities included making beaded necklaces from the Seminole tribe, soap carvings associated with the Arctic and Subarctic tribes, creating totem poles representing the tribes of the Northwest region, sewing medicine bags used by many tribes, painting rocks to make an Iroquois Sacred Bowl Game, drawing Mayan Glyphs, as well as several other activities.

In addition, classes also cooked foods eaten by the native people. Rowe said, “Buffalo Stew, Three Sisters Soup, Apache Corn Cakes, and Fry Bread of the Southwest were some favorites.”

Lana Hamilton


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