Sunday, November 20, 2011

Native American Dioramas

Our Native American Unit is coming to a close, but not without one of my favorite activities of the year. We are creating our Native American Region Dioramas!
This week, we finished learning about our last two regions, the Great Plains Indians (which is the most commonly known region) and the Polynesian Indians).
While we learn about each region, the kids summarized the unique attributes about each tribal region in a diagram. Here is an example of the diagrams we have been filling out throughout the unit.

The kids keep these, along with any other handout or activity we do, in their Native American Notebooks
 I am a firm believer that the best way for kids to LEARN about and LOVE history is to make it COME ALIVE for them! This is why you can find me in Goodwill's and garage sales picking up artifacts and costumes of every unit I teach for American History. Lucky for me, I have been a history nerd since childhood and many of my current classroom costumes come from years of accumulation of my sister and I's dress up clothes :)
I have a hands-on history table in my room that changes with each unit, along with a bulletin board. The students are always allowed to check out the stuff on it or read the information. I try and keep books of that topic always available here as well since student interest is often peaked during lessons and this allows for great additional learning.
For each region, I have the students read a short blurb about it in their SS textbooks, then we fill in our diagrams while I show them pictures on a powerpoint (LOTS of pictures really helps kids see the whole picture!). Then I show them artifacts from each region and if I have a costume, I have a couple students demonstrate them for us.

Plains Region:
Polynesian Region:
Handing out Lei's to the rest of the class to wear
Polynesian Dress - native and modern

Although Polynesians are not native to North America, when we study Explorers in the following unit the textbook discusses James Cook and the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands so I like to give them some background. I have unauthentic but still fun artifacts and this lesson is always a huge HIT! My family has roots in Hawaii and I have been blessed to have gone their with my entire extended family many times. Throughout the years, we have collected leis, clothing, instruments, and more. I teach the students a couple of hula dances, show them how to do Poi balls, I also play the ukulele for the students and teach them a couple Hawaiian Songs. 

     My big focus during the Native American unit is adaptation, how each group used their natural resources to adapt their environment, and breaking stereotypes and misconceptions about Indians.
By having a culminating activity of creating a diorama for each of the regions, I feel that the kids are really able to see the differences between each of the regional groups and see how they used the natural resources to survive.  It also helps them break the stereotypes that all Indians lived in Tepees, made totem poles, hunted buffalo, wore animal skin, and kept their hair in long black braids.

After we looked at each region I split them up into groups, assigned them a region and gave them some time to brainstorm ideas that they would like to make in their diorama. I was very impressed by how excited the were about creating these and working together! *teacher's heart is happy*

We will be working on these this coming Monday and Tuesday - I will put pictures up of them as soon as I can :) Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend.

Note: Please be aware that that as a social studies educator, my purpose is to get students excited about learning other cultures as well as their own. I am not perfect in my education of this, though I do try and do a lot of research before teachings cultures and history. Concerning the artifacts used in my room, I try to make them look as authentic as possible from my findings and research but do not claim to be a museum. My artifacts for Native American groups, Polynesian, Mexicans, Explorers, and American History are NOT always authentic, they are not always created by that particular culture, however, by using tangible items it help spur students passion for the cultures and history we study and creates in them a desire to learn and discover more. If there is something that bothers you or have questions on my instruction concerning your culture or any other topic I may teach in my room, please feel free to email me personally to help me gain more understanding. I love learning about others and am always striving to educate my students better. 
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