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Students Get Hands-On Lesson About Indians

October 08, 1998|JENNIFER KNIGHT

Students at Santa Rosa Elementary School went native Wednesday.

For two months, fifth-graders have been making colorful drawings, replicas of pueblos and displays of food such as green corn, corn bread and buffalo jerky to place in a Native American museum set up for the day in the school's auditorium, as part of a history lesson.

"Here we are making history come to life," said Micah Mello, a teacher who helped coordinate the event.

The 60 youngsters who participated in the hands-on history study were asked to divide up the task of researching Native American tribes that lived in the Eastern Woodlands, the Far North, the Plains, the Southwest, the Northwest Coast and the California Intermountain area.

Each of the six groups chose two tribes to study. They then set about researching such topics as food, clothing, religious beliefs and style of government.

One child made a hat out of bark to depict an article of clothing that a Kwakiutl woman living east of the Mississippi River might have worn hundreds of years ago.

And Jesse Tupac built a small-scale pueblo, complete with miniature bowls and a stretching rack for cowhides.

These types of activities enable children to own a piece of history, Mello said. It is a method that works much better than having them sit and listen.

"I like this," said 10-year-old Casey Lee, as he looked at other students' work. "I can't get over this. It's neat."

During the show-and-tell, children from other grades were invited to visit the makeshift museum. And several fifth-graders were eager to share how much they had learned.

"I found out facts that I didn't know, like Nez Perce means pierced nose" in French, said Molly Vogel, 10. "And they only pierced their noses just a little bit."

"I learned [that Hopi Indians] ate snakes and buffalo," said Danny Sharff, 10. "That was disgusting, but some things were neat, like the pierced nose."

The project demonstrated for students how different life was from modern day. In some ways, said 10-year-old Vanessa Vogel, times were harder because the Indians had to make their food and toys from scratch. But she also noted that for kids in tribes like the Shoshone, there were advantages.

"They never got any spankings, no groundings," she said. "I like that."

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