Learning About Native Americans

For the last week, we’ve been learning all about Native Americans. I think that this has been one the most fun (and informative!) special units we’ve done so far!

We kept up with our regular L.A. program, and we also kept using our Horizons math worksheets, but everything else, from history and geography to read-alouds was all part of a unit that I put together to help us learn more about the people who lived in America first, before we learn about the pilgrims next week.

I found a really cool book called More Than Moccasins, which is full of crafts, games, projects and recipes, to help children learn more about Native American life in a really fun way. We used something from this book every day this week, and we were able to learn about their homes, games, food, and clothing in doing so.

On Monday, we began our week by reading North American Indians. This was a good overview, to help us get familiar with the different Indian tribes that used to inhabit our country, what their homes were like, and whether they depended more on hunting or farming. We also played a game of chance called Hubbub, which has some similarities to Pass the Pigs, and some to Yahtzee, and was used in different variations by many Indian tribes.

On Tuesday, we continued learning about the different types of houses Native Americans built and lived in with Native Homes. This book did a great job of explaining why the different types of houses were built (either because of geography or lifestyle), and what similarities and differences there were in housing. We made a small tee-pee village, complete with door flaps and “people” inside!


On Wednesday, we grew more specific in our quest to learn about Native American life when we read If You Lived With the Iroquois. I love the Scholastic If You… series, and this was a fun book to read to get an idea of what it would be like to be part of a particular Indian group. We also learned a lot about the Iroquois Nation, which was new even for me. I would have liked to have picked a book about Indians more local to the St. Louis area, but since the If You… series doesn’t make one, I settled for the Great Lakes region, which isn’t too far away, and was where Ryan and I grew up.

We also tried to make Wampum out of dyed macaroni, but this was our one project that completely failed–the macaroni were too bendy to get the string through, so we just played with them for a little while, but never got to make any beaded chains out of them.

On Thursday, we learned about two specific Indians–Squanto and Pocahontas. I found Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving to be an especially interesting and touching book–I particularly enjoyed the way the pilgrims viewed him as their “Joseph.”) Turkey and Bunny practiced their reading skills by taking turns reading The True Story of Pocahontas, and they both did really well–Powhatan was really the only word that tripped them up! To cap off Thursday, Turkey and Bunny helped me make Indian fry bread (don’t worry, I did all the actual frying!), which was enjoyed by everyone in the family, and made a nice addition to the soup we had for dinner. We agreed that it would be much more difficult to cook it over a fire, though!

On Friday, we read a fictional story about what it would have been like to have been a Wampanoag Indian boy. Tapenum’s Day is the third in a series of books about what it was like to be a child at the time Europeans began living in America. We read the first two books last year, and really enjoyed them, so we added this one as well, and we’ll be reading the first two again next week.

We also made Indian “vests” out of paper bags. Turkey and Bunny loved this craft, because they got to color, and because they can “wear” them. Definitely a fun way to end the school week!

ry=400-1Today, to finish off our Native American experience, we took a field trip to Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. It was quite impressive. When you look at the mounds there (especially the 100 foot tall Monk’s Mound), and realize that thousands of people spent 300 years carrying 50 pound baskets of dirt around to construct them, it’s rather mind-boggling. We made the climb to the top of Monk’s Mound (even Ladybug, with her short little toddler legs, and me, with my fear of heights!), and the view from the top was quite impressive.



It was a great week of school!