Friday, August 8, 2014

Native American Unit Study

Our much longer than we anticipated Native American unit study is nearing its end. I've put together a list of resources we used for this unit study. We used a literature based approach to our unit study, but also added our Moving Beyond the Page Native American curriculum. We completed at least two arts and crafts activities per week, read between 10-30 books per week, and incorporated maps, timelines and traditional art into our activities. We mostly learned through play and engaging activities. My children had a lot of fun and we look forward to our next unit study! We are working through an introduction to American History this year and next up is Early Settlers! Our book list will be posted separately.

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Paper Houses - Teacher resources and printables for many different Native American houses. These were a great visual tool to help my children understand the types of houses Native Americans lived in. They were fun to color and build too, so that was an added fine motor craft activity!

We researched dozens of different tribes across the country. These were all tribes that Bean chose to read and learn about. I simply showed her maps and cultural pictures and she based her choices on what she saw and liked. Given the wide range of differences between each tribe, that meant that basically no two tribes were alike. There were a lot materials we used, mainly books, but we also watched historical documentaries and searched the web for accurate information. Pinterest also came in handy for unit study ideas.

Map with each of the tribes we researched!

Crafts: We made our own felt moccosins using this pattern. The pattern took the longest to get right, because I wanted them to fit my children's size 9 feet. Once the pattern was drawn up, I cut it out and traced it onto brown felt. I then sewed up the edges (inside out) quickly with a whip stitch. I turned it right side out and sewed the last piece (the flap in the middle picture) using a whip stitch as well. They came out really cute and my kids loved wearing them!

We also made adorable felt Teepee's! We made three different ones and used colors that were symbolic to Native Americans. They were perfect for small world play and paired well with our Powhatan Indians TOOB. They are also easy to take down and travel with, so we were able to bring them out to the park to play in the grass. 

Since Native Americans literally made everything they needed, we made some of our own craft supplies, like these salt dough beads. Yes, we did not make the flour or collect the salt. I considered gathering clay in the water at a lake, but decided not to remove it from the lake and to opt for the salt dough instead. The kids still gathered the ingredients (albeit from the kitchen), measured and stirred on their own and then painted them. We also experimented several times with natural dyes (made from berries and flowers) on paper, wood and fabric.

Munchkin especially enjoyed using these jumbo salt dough beads to make necklaces and to practice threading.

Since this is a unit study, we had to add math somewhere. We decided to work on counting and used our laminated number sheets. The kids can use these for numbers 1-10. For numbers above ten we simply lined them up in rows of ten and counted them. We used acrylic leaves, acorns, corn, pumpkins and apples for this. We also used beads, feathers and shells for counting during this unit study.

One of their favorite stories was the tale of The Three Sisters, who were Corn, Squash and Beans. Here are a few interesting materials we used: Celebrate the Three Sisters, Three Sisters Growing Method, and the Three Sisters Story. We originally found this story in our Native American curriculum (Moving Beyond the Page). To add to their learning, we also made several traditional recipes using these ingredients, mostly from among the Cookin' with Three Sisters recipes

My children love exploring geology, so we added a few books to our list that brought together the two subjects, including: Talking Rocks: Geology and 10,000 Years of Native American Tradition in the Lake Superior Region and Geology Crafts for Kids (while not necessarily about Native Americans, this book was very inspirational for creating crafts inspired by their culture). This is our small geology collection and we used it to talk about how these stones were used by the people, what they represented and what they made or used them for. Bean's favorite is the quartz, which was used by some Medicine Men during rituals and ceremonies. 

The animal they favored most during this unit study was the black bear of North America. We spent a lot of time reading about the animals, birds, fish and other creatures that the Native Americans lived in harmony with. For some of our sensory bins, we created "Spirit Worlds" using white silk and played with the Safari Ltd. North American Animals TOOB, River TOOB, or Backyard Birds TOOB. Other times we created their habitats (corn meal for the dessert, straw mats for the plains, cut grass and fake trees for forested areas, blue crushed silk and sandstone felt for the northwest coast, etc.) in sensory bins while I read to them about the different animals, what they ate, where they lived and talked about why they were important to the Native American people. The spirituality of the Native American people was one of the first things that made Bean want to explore their traditions and culture in the first place, so we made that our main focus for most of the unit study. We read North American wildlife books, books on specific animals, books on Native American spirituality and books on the constellations and learned which ones were based on animals. Coyote Places the Stars was one of her favorites!

Don't worry, these are replica claws.

Mini sensory bin with North American animals using a blend of dried teas as a base (lovely earthy scent!).

One of our newest Safari Ltd. TOOBS (review coming soon!) was the Backyard Birds, which included seven birds from North America. We read informational books on these birds, went bird watching (we spotted the robin, cardinal, blue jay and woodpecker, but have had no luck with the indigo bunting, oriole, and warbler), mapped where they live and their migration route and used them as art prompts. Our favorite books were: National Geographic Kids Bird Guide of North AmericaBirds, Nests & Eggs and The Great Race of the Birds and Animals by Paul Goble.

We also discussed the kinds of weapons the Native American people used for fighting and hunting. Mainly we looked at pictures, drew pictures and watched videos of how they were made or used for hunting. Below is a picture of a couple of arrowheads that we used to learn about how they are made and used. Bean practiced making arrows by stripping the bark off, smoothing the wood and tying the arrowhead on using natural sinew (we kept it simple).

We created many different sensory bins over the course of the unit study period. We used different filler materials to change the landscape, but their favorite was this combination of tea leaves that I made for sensory play. Whenever we needed a patch of grass I just put a sheet of green construction paper in the bottom of the tray before pouring in the dried tea leaves (the tea leaves were difficult to remove from our moss mat). It created a great texture to represent the ground and fallen leaves. 

Pictured here is the Safari Ltd. Powhatan Indians TOOB. If you read our blog often, you know we love Safari Ltd. TOOBS because they are simply perfect for small world play and homeschool lessons. We used them to learn about the Powhatan tribe, including their history, culture and events that took place when the settlers arrived. We learned about some of the figures, such as Chief Powhatan and his daughter Pocahontas, along with the roles and responsibilities of hunters, warriors, gatherers and women who cook and tan the hides. We learned about family roles of the father, mother, children, and also included roles from grandparents and aunts and uncles.

Bean loved learning about the Medicine Man, spiritual leaders or priests, chiefs (some tribes had two, one for war and one for peace).

We also watched a few kids movies, like Brother Bear, Pocahontas, The Sign of the Beaver and Crooked Arrows, which is a modern day story of a Haudenosaunee lacrosse team. 

Other materials and unit studies we used for ideas or printables:
Native American Homeschool Lesson Plans (HUGE list of resources!)
Native Americans Unit Study (book lists, movies, people, events, with a 6-week walk-through)
Connections - Native Americans (book lists and separate units)
Learning with my Boys - Native American Unit Study (lovely unit study and it was so thorough!) 
North American Indians Unit Study (TONS of useful materials)
-Originally found the above resource here. Lots of FREE homeschooling history unit studies. 

But our favorite activities were inspired by the ones found here is a wonderful and educational blog that continually inspires me! I love reading up on all their latest lessons and they are always SO thorough! Literally tons of ideas! Her lessons on Native Americans are simply wonderful. :)

You can find the other materials we used for our unit study on our Pinterest board. 

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