We spent several weeks studying Native Americans through reading and crafting.
As Americans, Native American history lives in all of us. Most Americans have roots from a wide variety of ancestors and many of us are a portion Native American. When my husband was a teenager, he found out he was part Native American. It turns out that his great grandmother was at least half Native American and more likely full blooded Native American. Because her children were likely to be sent to boarding school hundreds of miles away, she kept her ethnicity hidden for three generations. Knowing a bit about personal ancestry made our Native American unit study more interesting.
Geographic region was the single factor which most affected how different Native American tribes lived. Houses, tools, clothing, food and communication were largely based on available natural resources. The Book of Indians
by Holling C Holling describes Native Americans in four regions of the United States
including the people of the forests (eastern and Great Lakes), plains,
deserts and mesas and the rivers and sea (west coast Indians). Each tribal region is first described and then followed by two historical fiction stories of Native American children who lived there. Because I wanted my daughter to understand that the term Native American does not describe one group of people, but many, Holling C Holling's book was the core for this unit study.
My eight year old loves crafting, so our key to this unit study was the book More Than Moccasins: A Kid's Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life (Hands-On History)
by Laurie Carlson. The book contains over 100 simple crafts to be completed using common materials such as brown paper bags, and markers. It is divided into seven sections including Everyday Life, Things to Wear, Song and Dance, Toys, Games, What's for Dinner and Pass it On. Each section contains several one or two page descriptions of a Native American item and instructions on how to make a simple version of that item.Although the book was partitioned based on function, we reordered it and read it based on geographic region.
Since my daughter enjoys crafting, but not being told what to do or how to do it, we read the descriptions of approximately five different craft ideas each day, and she picked the one she was most interested in completing. Because of the descriptions of where and how each item in the book was used she learned about different types of Native Americans reading each craft idea. Whether or not she chose to complete a project didn't matter, because she still learned how the different tribes lived by reading about what they wore, how they communicated and the games they played. Overall, she really enjoyed this unit study because it was so craft oriented.
Over the next several weeks I will detail more of the projects that were completed as part of our Native American unit study.