Working in partnership with the Institute of American Indian Studies in Washington, CT, fourth grade teachers developed a new social studies curriculum last year, which relies heavily on primary sources.
“Last year we shifted our focus to exploring the culture and history of Native Americans who once lived in Connecticut through a social justice lens,” explained fourth grade teacher Maria Sette, who also serves as the Lower School’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Liaison. “We want to instill in the fourth graders an appreciation of cultures, and specifically those who have been misrepresented in media or books.”
In order to gain the most accurate representation of the history and culture of the Native Americans who once lived in the very place where they now live, the students first visited the Institute of American Indian Studies on a field trip in October, where they met Darlene Kascak, Educational Outreach Facilitator, who became their guide throughout their study this fall and winter. Students had the opportunity to compare the lives of Native Americans years ago to life in the Northeast today. They learned about family life, homes, tool innovations, as well as indigenous peoples’ interactions with the woodland environment and their progression through time.
“While we were there, we learned about the Three Sisters - corn, beans and squash - that sustained the local population. We learned how a longhouse was built, how women and men ruled tribes together, how games were used to teach boys to hunt and how American Indian cultures respected nature deeply,” explained Henry Irwin, at the Lower School assembly earlier this week.
Throughout fall, they read aloud The Children of the Longhouse, an American Indian novel written by Joseph Bruchac, who has been creating literature and music that reflect his indigenous heritage and traditions.
“This authentic text was eye-opening for the students because it encouraged more authentic cultural representation and understanding of the Children of the Longhouse and American Indians, in general,” said Ms. Sette.
In January, Ms. Kascak visited NCCS and taught students how to create replicas of “talking sticks” made from harvested natural wood. She helped students write a land acknowledgment, which they shared at this week’s assembly, and shared myths from Indigenous people and explained the importance of oral history.
“These stories are passed on by repeated tellings,” explained Ella Agulay. “To be allowed to tell these stories to others is a great honor.”
Fourth graders were honored to share some of these stories with younger students in Lower School during the assembly last week.
“Through their confident performances, creative costumes and sets, and vibrant dance, our fourth grade beautifully represented what they have learned about Eastern Woodland Indians,” wrote Head of Lower School Meaghan Mallin in a letter to fourth grade parents. “ This was a culminating moment of months of deep learning and immersive study. Through partnering with The American Indian Studies Museum and Research Center, our Grade 4 teachers enabled your children to create a production that truly honored the customs, cultures, and traditions of Native Americans. During their course of study, your children have engaged with text, written poetry, worked with primary sources, felt and touched authentic artifacts, and shared discourse on profound questions. Though the final production was inspiring and meaningful, it is really the work leading up to it that is most impressive and will create a long term impact on your children as learners, critical thinkers, and young people.”