Preschoolers can learn about Eskimos by studying their dress, culture and way of living. You might start by reading picture books, such as "Arctic Son" by Jean Craighead George and Wendell Minor, "Building an Igloo" by Ulli Steltzer or "Whale Snow" by Annie Patterson, to help your students relate to Eskimo culture. Explain that the words "Eskimo" and "Inuit" are often used interchangeably. Classroom activities should offer students a hands-on approach to learning about natives in Alaska and other Arctic regions.
Dog Sled Mushers
Give your preschoolers a chance to play the role of a dog sled musher, also known as a dog driver. Discuss the importance of dog sleds to Eskimos, such as travel, transportation and convenience, and read or tell the story of Balto -- the pack leader of one of the dog sled teams that saved the people of Nome, Alaska, during a diphtheria epidemic in 1925. Align classroom chairs in two rows, representing sled dogs, and tie a jump rope to each end chair -- students can hold the ropes and pretend like they're guiding the dogs. Teach your class simple commands, such as "hike," "gee," "haw," "easy," "whoa," "on by" and "line out," and have them take turns leading the dog sled team.
Have your students make snow goggles -- similar to decorative masks -- that help Eskimos reduce the glare off of the snow. Cut eye holes in rectangular, tan-colored, felt strips, using the template at The Crafty Classroom, or make your own. Punch a hole in either side of the mask, or cut small, oblong slits so students can tie a string or piece of yarn around the mask. Provide black puff paint or washable black markers for students to decorate their masks. Explain to students that daylight during summer season in Alaska can last nearly all day -- 19 hours in Anchorage.
Salt Dough Igloos
Allow students to make Eskimo igloos out of salt dough -- including chimneys, people and animals. Encourage preschoolers to make small individual ice blocks but round the shape with larger pieces of dough -- it takes a long time and requires engineering skills to get an entire igloo of salt dough blocks to stand. Discuss how most Eskimos no longer live in permanent igloos but may use them short term for insulation and shelter from storms. Talk about the importance of fire and chimneys in igloos for cooking and warmth.
Dress-Up Winter Attire
Organize dress-up clothes for children to try on to show them the types of outer wear Eskimos use. Find coats and boots make out of faux fur or faux animal pelts and discuss the warm, water-resistant characteristics. Show your preschoolers pictures of native Eskimos and the types of animals that live in the area -- polar bears, arctic foxes, musk oxen, wolves and caribou. You might also explain the importance of fishing, including whales and seals, to Eskimos' survival. The cold climate makes it difficult to grow crops or raise livestock, so Eskimos are dependent on other food sources.
- The Crafty Classroom: Snow Goggles
- University of Alaska, Fairbanks: Dog Mushing in Alaska
- Animal Source: The True Balto
- Arctic Son; Jean Craighead George and Wendell Minor
- Building an Igloo; Ulli Steltzer
- Whale Snow; Annie Patterson
- Alaska.org: Best Time to Visit Alaska
- Photo Credit IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Getty Images
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