How to Build Wigwams for a School Project

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Think of a traditional Native American home from the past and you probably conjure the image of a teepee, but Native Americans built at least 20 types of homes, including long houses, pueblos and wigwams, which were used mainly in the eastern United States. Of all the types of houses, wigwams are fairly simple to recreate for a school project.

How to Build Wigwams for a School Project
(Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media)

Wigwams were used by woodland Indians. These dome-like structures consisted of a pliable wood frame covered with bark, animal hides, or both bark and hides. The inside of the wigwam was generally an open room with a fire. In some cases, the wigwam had several partitioned areas that opened to a larger room. Women hung colorful blankets on the floors and walls. Unlike teepees, which were completely portable, wigwams were meant to be permanent or semi-permanent dwellings. The Ojibwa Indians, for example, rolled and carried the hides from their houses when they moved to a new area, leaving the wooden structure behind. If they came back to the original area, they used the structure again.

Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media

The basic design for a wigwam is quite simple. Find pliable building materials, such as green twigs, pipe cleaners or straws for the structure. Draw a circle on cork board or styrofoam. This material serves as the foundation and keeps the wigwam stable. Insert the twigs, pipe cleaners or straws into the cork board on one side of the circle. Bend the twigs down to the opposite side of the circle to make a dome. Some of the twigs will cross over each other. Tie these twigs together with twine where they intersect. Cover the dome with your choice of materials -- real bark, leather, fabric, or brown paper bags cut to resemble hides or tree bark. Glue the coverings to the structure.

Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media

To jazz up your wigwam, make colorful blankets and a faux fire from paper to put inside the wigwam. Lay green fabric or paper over the cork board to resemble grass. Add horses or dress small dolls in traditional Indian clothing and add them to the presentation.

Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media

For a special group project, ask the children to make a life-size wigwam. Use pliable sticks or PVC pipe. Make a frame around the bottom of the wigwam to support it or insert the sticks or PVC pipes firmly into the ground. Cover the wigwam with blankets, with one of the blankets forming a type of doorway.

Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media

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