Social Studies: Native American Projects in the Classroom

If you're like me, teaching social studies is near and dear to your heart.  In this post you will find a few ideas about creating meaningful projects in the classroom to help your students understand some Native American history.  When creating the projects I've kept in mind time, money and skill level.  

Native Americans created pictures on rocks to record their tribal history.  These pictures could be done by drawing, painting or carving into the rock.  The southwestern United States contains the largest concentration of rocks used by Native Americans to record their tribal history.  You might see pictures like buffalo, horses, deer or hunting on these rocks.  

When teaching students about this tradition you could do a couple of projects that are quick and meaningful.  Consider giving your students rocks with a flat surface and asking them to record part of their history on the rock.  That may contain a car for transportation, food or something important to their everyday life.  You could also have them research cave drawing and recreate a picture on the rock and explain it in writing.  The rocks above were drawn on with sharpie marker and it took about 2 minutes.

Animal hides have been used by Native Americans for several purposeful reasons.  They were used for practical reasons like clothing, travel and shelter.   Hides were also used for spiritual reasons like healing the sick and promoting healthy moms.  Some tribes recorded their history on the hides with paintings.

When teaching students about this tradition you could give them brown paper bags, construction paper or dye paper a brown hue.  Have students research the history behind hides and recreate something using the paper as a hide.  The paper above was stained with water and a bit of brown paint in the water. It took 2 minutes to paint it.  You could allow it to dry over night. It took 5 minutes to create the drawings.

The popular dreamcatcher was originally created by the Ojibwe.  It was created to catch everything bad or evil and protect infants.  The dreamcatcher was hung on the infant's cradle or carrier.  Spiritual or sacred items could be used when weaving the web in the dreamcatcher.  Such items might be feathers, beads, bones and hide.

Consider having students research dream catchers and creating one of their own with paper plates, string and other items that you have in the classroom.  The design intricacy could be chosen based on the age of your students.  I numbered the holes for students which allowed them to string it in about 10 minutes.  Click here to find a pattern for the holes and numbers.

Native American jewelry has long been admired for it's beauty and meaning.  This jewelry can be include necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings, pins, belts, etc.  While jewelry is different and specific to each region and tribe, many times designs are borrowed and used across areas.

Some materials used to create necklaces were bone and stone.  Have your students research the significance behind this jewelry and create a necklace of their own.  Consider having your students paint pasta like bones/stones and creating a necklace of their own.  We dropped a little bit of paint in a paper Dixie cup and had students swish the pasta around.  After the paint we laid the pasta out to dry.

If you are in need of reading passages, lessons and materials to teach your students about the different Native American Regions check out the unit below by clicking on the picture.

Find another detailed post about teaching Native American History here:
Click here to learn about teaching elementary students about Native American History.  You'll learn how to combine your Native American social studies unit together with reading and writing in order to fit everything into your year. Common core standards are included in the post to help you align your curriculum.  Perfect for 2nd grade and 3rd grade writing curriculum!

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