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To Begin “Integrated Studies” Class, Upper Elementary Students Focus on Native American History

How did people of the Inuit tribe survive the harsh arctic climate they inhabited? Where did the wind come from? How were members of the Seminole tribe impacted as settlers moved into their territory in the 1800s?

These are just some of the questions that Upper Elementary students explored as they studied the Native American tribes of North America during their first Integrated Studies unit of the year.

Campfire and Pourquoi Stories

For one project, students gathered around a campfire to tell “pourquoi” stories. More details below.

The Integrated Studies curriculum blends the study of history, geography and science content with skill-building and practice in note-taking, critical thinking, creative problem-solving, public speaking, collaboration, and independent research. Often, the themes of a particular unit are overarching and can be applied through many lenses. During their Native American unit, students studied how and why nations are formed, how access to resources impacts the development of nations, and how community values and histories are preserved. Students learned to take notes from lectures, evaluate the credibility of sources and conduct research to answer their questions.

To demonstrate the knowledge that they gained, students participated in two culminating events. For the first, they hosted a museum about Native American history. Each student created an exhibit that showcased their research on a specific tribe. These projects included posters with information and photos, models of homes, artifacts and clothing, interactive quizzes, cooking demonstrations, and accompanying oral presentations. Lower Elementary students and NMS faculty and staff visited these projects to learn about the tribes that were studied. Everyone was impressed by the breadth of students’ knowledge, as well as their ability to think deeply about the challenges and advantages each tribe encountered and how this shaped the formation of their nation.

Students created this model of a shelter using clay, popsicle sticks, and other materials.

As a second culminating event, UE students gathered around a campfire to share “pourquoi” stories from various Native American tribes. A pourquoi story is a fictional narrative that explains how or why something came to exist. These stories are a rich part of Native American oral tradition, and reflect a tribe’s spiritual belief and values. After learning about the role that oral history plays in preserving Native American history and culture, students enjoyed working in small groups to learn and tell a pourquoi story to their peers. They also considered common qualities that these stories shared as well as what they could learn about a tribe from a particular story. This community campfire provided a perfect opportunity for students to celebrate and reflect upon what they had learned.

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