We make our very own tee-pee. Two children can sit inside and look at the pictorial display of the Native American doll and her accessories on the inner walls, or read a book, or view real photos of Native Americans.
First, we lay out a large roll of paper so the children can draw symbols. Prior to the activity I ask them if they can read. They all say NO, and then I show them bags from McDonalds, Taco Bell etc. and they "read" the words. I explain that they are symbol reading. Together we read a symbol story with pictures/words for water, mountain, tree, fish, deer etc. We learn that it required 12 buffalo skins or more to make one tee pee and the dads went hunting and the moms chewed the buffalo hide to soften it so they could sew the hides together. The kids are amazed to learn that Native American children had only one room in their home. Their first question is, "Where did they go to the bathroom?" They "Eww" when I say, "Out in the woods."
We converted an old vacuum cleaner box into a canoe and made paddles. The children dress in costumes and row down river to trade or see what they can see. I love to listen to their conversation and see how much information they have absorbed.
The week ends with a surprise. Ms. Amy borrows a box of animal pelts from The Department of Conservation. The children sit spellbound when they see the buffalo, bear and deer hides. We tell them how the Native Americans used all parts of the animals...every single part. They are amazed when I tell them that there were no stores to buy what you needed. If the Plains Indians needed food, clothing, shoes, a coat, blanket, or household items they had to go hunting for a large animal.
We have followed dot-to-dot paths, laced paper canoes, decorated paper tee pees, played listening games, learned songs, told individual stories and done so much more. Kids learn best by DOING. The back of the brain (sensory motor area) develops first, so giving children experiential learning activities enables them to hold on to the information better than doing table/pencil-paper work. If it's in the hand first it gets to the brain faster!
Now, to leave you with the best funny I have heard during the month of November. I told a class one year that my dad and grandma were Native American. A little girl raised her hand and said, "My daddy is a NAKED American, too." I kept a straight face and nodded, but I could not look at that father ever again with out laughing.