One of my favorite things to do is to watch documentaries. I like them even more when they are documentaries about chefs and food. I have fallen in love with a series on Netflix called “Chef’s Table” and think that the artistry and storytelling of the series is wonderful. I watch them for the beauty, stay attentive due to the stories, and the stories resonate with me because they are about people who found their passion and are able to express it to the world. There is one story that I watch time and time again. It’s the story of a chef in Slovenia. Her name is Ana Ros and when she was growing up, she was a very talented student and skier and her parents thought that she would become an international diplomat. Everything changed when she feel in love with a man whose father owned a restaurant. She did not have the training of a chef nor did she go to school to become a chef but, as time and fate would have it, she is now a world renowned chef in a remote destination because she embraces her environment and creates exquisite cuisine using ingredients and inspiration from where she lives.
Why do I begin this blog post with this anecdote? I do so because every year, November roles around, and I am inspired to teach my students about the Wampanoags. Having grown up in New England, I grew up hearing the stories of the Native Americans from our area. In fact, my elementary school was named after a Native American tribe. I learned about them in school, visited places like Plymouth, and Plimoth Plantation. I read books about these Native Americans and growing up in this environment shaped me as a person. To me, each November, I am presented with the chance to share a piece of me with my students and where I grew up. In the process, my students become acquainted with things they may not be familiar with and broaden their horizons.
Sometimes, lessons just click with certain groups of students and this year, the way these lessons transpired was a bit magical. My students loved learning about the Wampanoags, the land in New England, the animals that lived in the environment, and asked so many great questions. This made teaching about something that is so close to my heart even better.
To begin our lessons, I showed my students pictures from a trip I took this summer to Plimoth Plantation. I showed them pictures of Wampanoags, their houses, their campfires, and Cape Cod.
We also watched this video:
Each day we focused on one aspect of the culture or habitat and I set up a variety of provocations and centers that my students could interact with.
Some of the activities that my students completed during these lessons and centers were:
1. Taking kernels off of indian corn. Next week, we will be turning these kernels into necklaces!
To create necklaces out of the kernels we will soak the kernels overnight and then lace through them using dental floss and a child’s needle.
2. Practicing writing like the Wampanoags.
I researched different symbols that the Wampanoags would have used and set up this (very well visited) provocation.
3. Building wigwams.
To do this, we started the lesson by watching this video:
Then I set out the materials (pipe cleaners, air dry clay, paper plates, and felt) and my students got to work making their wetus or wigwams. We discussed how to set up the structure of the wigwams so that they would not fall over and how to create the hemispherical shape.
My students were so focused while working on these. They persevered and helped each other out when setting the “bark” (felt) in place and attaching the support beams.
In my opinion, they turned out really great!
I love that they added rocks and campfires to their wigwams using clay.
4. Building campfires and pretending to cook over them.
Dramatic play is a huge hit in my classroom and this was a great opportunity so that my students could act out what they were learning about.
(While the teepee is not the traditional house of the Wampanoags, my students loved playing in it. We discussed that this was not their house and researched what Native American tribes would live in it. This was a great opportunity to practice comparing and contrasting homes during guided reading.)
5. Exploring live clams, mussels, and oysters.
For this lesson, we learned that the Wampanoags were very good at living off of their land. We read a few books about the Wampanoags and looked at pictures to infer what they might have hunted and gathered. To bring this to life, I brought in little neck clams, oysters, and mussels. I showed them how to find clams on the beach and we watched this video to help build schema.
My students loved exploring the clams and learning about these animals.
6. Another fun activity that my students enjoyed was making necklaces. To do this, they used their fine motor skills to practicing beading. They then pretended to buy and sell their items paying with shells!
7. Another fun activity was exploring animal tracks. My students created animal print books out of an animal track rubbing set and looked for animal signs when we went outside!
My students really enjoyed these activities and I hope that yours will as well! Make sure to follow me on Instagram (@adayinfirstgrade) to see some of the Pilgrim activities we enjoy this upcoming week!