For years, a family raised bison just down the road from the cabin where we spend our summers near Sigel, PA. We'd drop by their roadside stand every summer and buy some bison burgers. A few summers ago, one of their daughters began to make and sell earrings that she made from bison bone. I bought this pair which I wore today for our afternoon tipi project in Third Grade.
As often happens, I could be posting photos of my students' work. But I left school focused on many things, none of which was pictures to post on my blog. This afternoon, each of my students traced, cut and decorated a mini-tipi cloth. Many of them are quite extraordinary, like this image that I found at the website of the National Museum of the American Indian.
The children studied sheets of pictographs carefully, chosing symbols to draw on their tipis. Some told stories with a series of pictographs. Some created a pattern of images.
This afternoon, we finished cutting the poles, measuring the base so that we can space the poles evenly, and decorating the tipi covers. Next Friday, we will assemble the tipis and add features so that our models can stand together and resemble a Plains Indian village.
I've found that many children don't engage in the sort of self-constructed imaginative play that filled many hours in my childhood and in the lives of my own children. As we build these homes, make people to live in them, and add fire circles, sleeping robes, baskets and drying skins and whatever else the children choose, many of my students discover the joy of creating a play world without store-bought plastic parts. Many teachers do not have the flexibility to offer their students opportunities like these, since their time is focused on preparing for a standards of learning test. I firmly believe that my students gain more from creating than they would from two more hours of worksheets.