Fourth grade students wrapped up their study of Native Americans by researching a particular tribe, presenting their findings to the class, and then sharing a handmade artifact inspired by what they had learned.
Fourth grade social studies teacher Ward Russell divided the class into small groups, and, like the Native American tribes that they were researching, each member had a defined role. Ward shared resources with each group about their tribe, and students gleaned information about five specific themes: location, natural resources, culture, lifestyle, and the tribe’s interaction with European settlers. Each student took responsibility for researching one of the themes for their tribe. Students in the Cheyenne tribe learned that the Cheyenne hunted deer, rabbit, and buffalo; and because they made good use of their resources, individuals wore deerskin in warmer months and buffalo hides in the winter to stay warm. Students in the Navajo tribe learned that they lived in dome-shaped buildings made of mud or dirt and that the front door traditionally faced East, opening to the morning sun.
This year, throughout social studies, fourth graders have been working on their note-taking skills, how to discern the most important data from non-fiction text, and how to present their information clearly and concisely. Digital literacy teacher Lisa Sanderson showed students how to use Adobe Spark to create their presentations with graphics, text, and even music in some cases! Each student created a storyboard and script for their part of the presentation, put all their information together, and recorded a voice-over for their section. Once they were complete, Ward played each video presentation for the class. “There was a lot of collaboration in this project,” says Ward, noting that he didn’t check on the projects along the way because he wanted students to take on the responsibility of working together to ensure that everyone contributed equally to the work. “I’m so proud of them and the incredible work they have done. Research isn’t easy for a lot of these kids, and some are embarrassed to hear their voices recorded, but the final product speaks volumes about how hard they worked.”
After each tribe’s presentation, students shared the individual artifacts that they had made with the class and explained their significance to the tribe. Some students drew pictures of the Native Americans in carefully detailed authentic clothing; a few created a replica of their tribe’s shelter like a longhouse made out of bark and moss for the Cheyenne’s winter dwelling or a paper teepee where they would have stayed in the summer. A few students created some very complex artifacts. One took a stone and shaved it down to create an arrowhead and then carved a stick with a slice down the middle to create an authentic-looking spear!