Learning about the various Native American tribes is a key aspect to learning the history and culture of the United States. Third grade is the perfect age group for students to start learning in depth about Native Americans. There are several crafts they can do along with many projects that will help them learn about a significant piece of American history.
A nice way to introduce your students to Native American culture is to read stories and fables from various tribes. For example, you can read a creation story from a Navajo tribe and compare it with the same story from a Cherokee tribe. Read some common Aesop’s fables and discuss with your class how those differ from Native American moral stories and fables. Divide the class into groups and assign a different story for each group. Have the students draw a picture of a scene from the story that inspired them. Hang these picture stories on the classroom walls.
Take your kids on a field trip to a park or location that runs an interactive Native American segment. The park will most likely concentrate on the tribe that used to live in the area. Explore the living arrangements, food and clothing of the tribe and compare it with other tribes in the region. Sometimes the guide or park ranger will be a member of the tribe and he or she can tell the students his or her personal history.
Crafts are a great way for third graders to feel like they are part of Native American culture. Make beaded necklaces and other jewelry by stringing different colors of dry macaroni noodles onto string or yarn. Explain to the class that beaded jewelry was given as a gift between female members of the Seminole tribes.
Masks were commonly used during ceremonies and religious services in Southwest tribes. Provide various mask patterns for your students to trace over colorful sheets of thin foam. Cut these out. The students can color them with patterns in marker. Provide fake feathers and sparkles for them to glue on. Cut out eye slits, nose slits and small holes on each side. Cut 20 inches of string in half and tie one to each side hole. Your students can wear these by tying both ends in the back. (Reference 1, Southwest Indians)
Another option is to assign your third graders a speech and presentation about one Native American tribe. This can be done as a final project to end a unit. The students can do this individually or in groups of two. A few questions to ask include where the tribe lived and what they lived in, what food they ate, what tools they used, what jobs the men and women performed and what some aspects of their religion were. Provide the students with a list of tribes to chose from and help with the initial research. You may also assign each group or presenter to make a simple version of an artifact the tribe used, such as a tool or religious object.
- Photo Credit native american image by Joy Fera from Fotolia.com
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