Saturday, November 15, 2008

History Pockets: Native Americans

The fine young gents chose the theme for our fall history and culture study. They chose Native Americans, in part because second-grade gent spent part of his week of summer nature camp studying the Kalapuya Indians of the Willamette Valley.

I bought History Pockets: Native Americans, Grades 1-3because I'd spoken to and read of other families who loved History Pockets unit studies. So we tried it. The unit study is divided into ten sections: An introductory section, eight different tribe studies from different regions of North America, and a wrap-up and review section.

The good: It was fun and well-thought-out. The fine young gents thoroughly enjoyed studying each of the tribes. The materials were simple, the lessons and activities were easy to follow, and the units were easily adaptable to individual skill levels. The crafts were cute. Lots of cutting and coloring and pasting to hone those fine motor skills. The information about each tribe was accurate, at least as near as I, a non-expert on Native Americans, could tell without doing some major research. And the end product, the two folders pictured above, is fun to look through and students finish the study with a portfolio of their work. (The tipis and books are not a part of the History Pockets study.) We made a fishing game, ate hominy, looked at different seeds, made necklaces, and more. Both boys colored a map of North America showing the regions in which different tribes lived, and second-grade gent also ended up with a comparison chart of how the tribes lived and a Native American picture dictionary with pictures and definitions of words like totem pole, parfleche, hominy and The Three Sisters .

The...not bad or ugly...maybe "eh": Cut, color, paste. The bulk of the activities in the unit relied on construction paper, photocopies, scissors and glue, probably for a variety of reasons: It's intended for classroom use so activities need to be simple enough for large groups of early elementary students, the materials and activities are quite inexpensive, and the children end up with a product which can be easily stored. But the fine young gents and I were a little overwhelmed by the amount of coloring. We ended up choosing not to color all of the pages. I don't think this would be a problem for children who enjoy coloring and who color quickly, and the gents color more often and more willingly than they did before we started the project. And the time spent coloring gave us the opportunity to listen to tapes of traditional Native American stories, which were absolutely delightful.

The final review from the gents: Was it fun? Yes. Did it work? Yes. Would we do it again? Yes, but not until next year. "Or maybe the year after that," added kindergarten gent. I would add that it was a very nice overview of Native North American history and culture for the intended grades, 1-3, and that the fine young gents have been playing Indian brothers. We've got one Inuit, one Nez Perce and one Kalapuya boy. The bunk beds are their longhouse, but they live in a tipi in the summer and sometimes they build an igluvigak for fun. They hunt deer in the basement and dig for camas bulbs under the carpet. I'd say that's pretty high praise.
More to come:
Because I can never leave well enough alone, I supplemented this study pretty heavily. Certainly not because of any shortcomings of the History Pockets. As I wrote above, the unit study offers a very nice overview. But I'll admit that I enjoy delving into a subject a little more deeply than a nice overview, and I like subjects that overlap, so our fall art study has been Native American art. I'll also post a list of picture books we read, as we found many wonderful resources.

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