Monday, June 3, 2013

Native American Life

Oregon Trail lessons naturally lend themselves to lessons on Native Americans. The trail cut across their land as they moved on. For the Oregon Trail, the students had partners; they made a wagon together. We set up stages across the room with mileage markers. As they completed work, their wagons "moved" across the "country." At the end of the project, we had a 'pioneer days' experience. We spent the afternoon hunting for game, gardening, cooking over the "open fire" with traditional wagon train food. The study of Native Americans led us to experience live on the prairie; we built a tepee. It was approximately 5 feet tall and had a base circumference of approximately 4 feet. The process was both involved and easy. All of the kids, from grades 3 through 8, had a part in the building. 

First, a trip to Lowe's was in order. I picked up ten 8 foot 2 x 4s and sisal rope. We also bought 10 stakes. Then, we began putting it all together.
The kids tied the tops of 3 of the 2x4s together. The structure was put upright. 
We enlisted the help of my wonderful husband. I wanted to avoid having the kids standing on a stool and stretching.
Finally, the basic framework was completed. Then the kids hammered stakes into the ground and tied them to the wood for stability. Sometimes, the wind can blow pretty harshly around here. 

This is the final framework, standing strong and ready for the covering.
We used two large canvas tarps that I bought from Harbor Freight. Inexpensive and perfect for what we needed.

The canvas was stapled in place, starting in the back, halfway around the frame. One piece went to the left and another to the right. We rolled in back at the door and created a door. We could have cut it off, but I didn't want to deal with the mess of frazzled ends. 

The kids created their own designs to decorate the tepee.

Here students refer to their own design. Below is the finished product. 
Finally, the finished product! Please note the ties on the door that were fashioned out of rope. While that was not authentic, the experience of using what was available is right on the money. 
On our pioneer day experience, this was one of the centers. Kids sat on a woven blanket with Native American designs and made yarn dolls. What a fun day that was! What have you done to give a living experience with your students?