Thursday, November 8, 2012

Mini Theme Week: Native Americans

With a four day weekend on my hands I felt like it was the perfect time for a mini-theme week!  Since we just moved to Maryland and as November is Native American Heritage Month, I decided we should study the different Native American tribes that originally lived in this area.  We read some amazing Native American folktales, did some Native American crafts and visited the fabulous Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

There are many wonderful retellings of Native American folktales. Here are few of the books that we read.

The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: The Iroquois Story of Creation, Retold by John Bierhorst, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker. Author and illustrator Paul Goble has written numerous stories about the Plains Indians including: The Return of the Buffaloes, Crow Chief, The Gift of the Sacred Dog and The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses.
One of my favorite Cinderella tales is taken from Algonquin folklore: "The Rough-Face Girl" by Rafe Martin, illustrated by David Shannon.

Tomie DePaula is well-known for his retelling of folktales, two of my favorites that focus on Native American stories are "The Legend of the Bluebonnet" and "The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush."

We also used many non-fiction books covering the life of the Native Americans in the Maryland area, specifically the Powhatan, as well as books on Native American crafts.

The woodland Native Americans lived in longhouses, so that was our first project. There are many wonderful examples of longhouse projects online. We went with a very simple idea of using a shoebox and ripped paper. The kids had a great time completing the project and it was not too overwhelming.

The Bullroarer was my favorite project.  The Bullroarer was used in Native American celebrations as a type of musical instrument.  The wood used for the instrument was usually taken from a tree that had been struck by lightning.  We used paint stirrers, which we painted brown and then decorated with animals and designs.  The best part of this project was the surprising low, loud moaning sound the Bullroarer makes when swung around!  My son said he could just picture twenty Native Americans spinning them all at the exact same time during a festival.

Our sunset paintings were inspired by the book "The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush" about a young boy who is trying to find all the colors in the sunset to make the perfect painting.  When he finds all the colors he completes his painting and the paintbrushes he leaves behind become beautiful flowers.

On the last day of our four day weekend we visited the Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. The kids loved the children's area which was very hands on and interactive. The kids got a passport which they stamped after completing an activity or exploring an aspect of Native American culture.  We also saw an exhibit on the importance of the horse in Native American culture and learned about how Native Americans continue to celebrate their culture today.
Completing a magnetic puzzle

Weaving a basket

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