Cherry Avenue Fourth Graders
Experience Native American Society
As part of their studies on American Indians, all the Fourth grade classes at Cherry Avenue elementary school participated in a unit project that created lasting memories, and a little bit more.
Although the official Native American Day usually occurs in September, the Cherry Avenue students made a special day in January to coincide with their social studies unit on the Native American peoples. On their appointed Native American Day, the students enjoyed an “in-house” field trip from Journey into American Indian Territory, a traveling museum that has been providing “cultural tours and educational school programs for 23 years.” For the exhibit, the guest teachers set up a student-sized longhouse along with artifacts of clothing, beadwork, porcupine quillwork, containers, wampum, dolls, drums, and animal skins.
After an introductory movie, in which the facts about the Iroquois were given, myths dispelled, and a comparison was made between the Iroquois cultures from long ago and today, the students walked through the miniature longhouse. Besides discovering that deerskin was made softer by pulling on it like tug of war, they also learned an Iroquois song, played traditional Woodlands games, made clay pottery, and heard stories.
“The kids listened to a hysterical story about a turtle,” Fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Nicole Teufel shared, “which had them rolling on the floor and laughing so hard. What a storyteller that guy was!”
“One of the guest ‘teachers’,” Mrs. Tuefel continued, “was of Taino descendent (the tribe Columbus encountered upon his arrival to the New World), and the other teacher was someone who works with different tribes across the nation. An interesting fact: The students also learned that the Native Americans actually prefer to be called ‘Indians.’”
Sharing their enthusiasm for this total learning experience, the students expressed it best:
• “I think that Native American Day was a great experience,” Caitlin Reilly said, “for learning more about the Native American Tribes and their way of life.”
• Krista Birong enjoyed that “we learned all about the Iroquois. We got to go through a longhouse, and we learned what the Iroquois children did for fun.”
• “I LOVED the Native American Day!” said Isabella Harris. “The games were fun and the museum was cool. The video was fun to watch and I learned a lot of new things.”
• Brock Murtha agreed, “Native American Day was a fun and creative day. There were a lot of great times like the museum, game room, crafts, and storytelling. I hope they come again!”
• “I thought the day was very fun,” explained Aidan Arnesen, “because we got to learn the games they played. I touched deer skin, beaver skin, and bear fur. It all felt soft, and I was surprised that it wasn’t very rough. I understand why they liked clothing with fur.”
• While Barry O’Brien’s stated succinctly, “My favorite part was the dead animals,” for Natalia Liberato her “favorite part of the Native American Day was when we went to the museum because we got to see old artifacts from native times.”
While Journey into American Indian Territory acquainted the kids with daily life through hands-on activities, another part of the unit of study was hands-on at home. After researching the culture of the first Americans, the students built their own versions of villages or native homes and brought their intricate and diverse structures into school for display in Cherry Avenue’s front lobby. The Fourth-graders did an amazing job.