How to Build a Teepee for a School Project

Traditional Native American teepees served as functional living quarters, not artistic displays or tourist attractions, according to Linda A. Holley, author of "The History and Design of the Cloth Tipi." Building a teepee for a school project can help you explore the lifestyle and culture of the Native Americans from 1840 to 1920. You can build a miniature teepee with simple crafting materials, or build several and make a replica of a traditional nomadic Native American camp.

A miniature teepee helps kids explore the lifestyle and culture of Native Americans from 1840-1920.
A miniature teepee helps kids explore the lifestyle and culture of Native Americans from 1840-1920. (Kimberly Nedrow/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • 6 to 8 sticks, straws or brown pipe cleaners, 6 to10 inches long
  • Scissors
  • Construction paper
  • Craft foam sheets
  • Brown paper bag
  • Paper plate
  • Cloth
  • Yarn, string , or leather or plastic lacing
  • Markers
  • Glue
  • Hole punch
  • Ruler
  • Compass
  • Plate
Step 1:

Lay the sticks, straws or pipe cleaners parallel to one another, lining up the ends. Wrap the string tightly around each pole in turn, a few inches from the top, keeping them parallel and close together so that they still touch when laid flat. Gather the poles in a bundle. Wrap the free end of the string around the whole thing and tie it securely. Splay the poles out and adjust them until they balance in a cone-like teepee formation.

Tie teepee poles together and spread into a cone shape.
Tie teepee poles together and spread into a cone shape. (Kimberly Nedrow/Demand Media)
Step 2:

Select your covering material. You may use construction paper, craft foam, brown paper bag, a paper plate or cloth. Measure the distance on the teepee from base to the point where the poles are tied together. Double that measurement and use a compass or plate to trace a circle with this diameter. If using a paper plate, trim the plate to the desired diameter, if necessary.

Cut out a circle to act as the fabric covering of the teepee.
Cut out a circle to act as the fabric covering of the teepee. (Kimberly Nedrow/Demand Media)
Step 3:

Decorate the cover with Native American designs, if desired. Cut a slit to the center point with scissors. Roll cover into a cone shape. Punch three or four holes with a hole punch along each side where the edges meet. Lace the sides together with yarn, string or leather or plastic lacing and tie. Cut a flap at the lower edge for a door. You can make the door open at the top or side.

Lace the sides of the teepee together.
Lace the sides of the teepee together. (Kimberly Nedrow/Demand Media)
Step 4:

Trim the top of the cone with scissors, if necessary, to fit the poles through the opening. The cover should rest just at the join point without slipping. Adjust poles, as needed, to balance the teepee with the cover.

Adjust the poles to balance the teepee.
Adjust the poles to balance the teepee. (Kimberly Nedrow/Demand Media)
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