School projects give parents, students and teachers an opportunity to learn together as they ask questions and research to find answers. Craft and cooking projects provide an ideal means for second-graders to learn about the rich history of the Cherokee Indians and gain a deeper understanding of the topic through hands-on activities.
Constructing coiled baskets encourages students to learn about some of the Cherokee tribe's practical art and helps build fine motor skills. Using about 2 1/2 yards of thick, heavy cord, 2 yards of raffia and a plastic needle, begin by threading the raffia onto the needle and wrapping it several times around one end of the cord. Glue the raffia to the end of the cord. Continue wrapping the raffia around the length of the cord, arranging it so that it creates a coil. When one circle is completed, push the needle through the center of the coil and wrap it around three times. Pull until the coil is tight and continue wrapping the raffia around the cord. After every three wraps, push the needle through the previous wrap and pull tight. When your coil is about 3 inches in diameter, begin to pull upward to create sides. Tie the end of the cord to the last wrap and secure it with glue.
Food is a significant part of Cherokee culture. The Cherokee are a matrilineal society in part because its women are responsible for nourishing both the tribe and guests. Cherokee food is known for the "Three Sisters" -- corn, beans and squash -- which are used to create many different dishes. Children can create a traditional Cherokee meal using recipes with these ingredients and sharing dishes with their class or using pictures of traditional foods to create a diorama of a Cherokee feast.
Students can create a decorative armband while learning about Cherokee festivals. Tribe members wear these armbands and other jewelry as they dance during festivals. Use a 9-inch strip of real or imitation leather, jingle bells, suede cord, turquoise pony beads and a hole punch. Punch 11 holes at half-inch intervals in the leather strip. Weave the cord in and out, alternating between stringing a pony bead or jingle bell on each portion of the strip that faces out. Finish by pulling the two ends together and stringing on a jingle bell before tying it off. Cut the cords so that each side has a few extra inches. String a few pony beads on each side and tie a knot in each to secure them.
Though Native American homes may conjure images of tepees, the Cherokee never lived in such small, portable homes. During the summer, they lived in houses made of dried mud and clay with roofs made from cane and brush. During winter, they moved to smaller homes with mud and clay roofs, which were easier to warm. Children can create models of these homes using air-dry clay, mud, twigs, raffia and similar materials. For extra credit, create an entire village of miniature homes, featuring both summer and winter dwellings.