Stefanie Van Rafelghem, 8, learned that the Woodland Indians of the Cherokee tribe made houses out of wood and covered them with mud. So she built a replica out of Lincoln Logs covered with "brownish-purplish, yellow-orangish Play-doh."
She and her fellow second-graders at Greenbriar West Elementary were studying Native Americans, and they did a variety of projects illustrating their new-found knowledge of the Woodland, Plains and Southwest groups. Participating were students in the classes of teachers Gayle Peterson, Cathy Munsterman, Tamala Thompson, Nancy Toler and Karen Barnes.
"The children made models of their types of houses, masks, murals of teepees and horses, brown-paper vests decorated with Native American symbols, feathered headdresses and clay beads for necklaces," said Munsterman. "They also made shields, wrote messages or stories using Indian symbols and drawings, and gave themselves Indian names such as Russian Bear, Running Fast, Fishing Eagle and School Spirit."
They culminated their nine-week study with a choral and instrumental performance for their parents and the rest of the school. They performed Native American songs and dances and listed common words used today that were originally Indian names, such as moccasin and Cincinnati.
In the classroom, Stefanie learned that Woodland Indians men cleared the land for crops, hunted and made weapons. Women sewed and cooked the meals. "The Indians used every part of the animal they killed," said Stefanie. "And they thanked the Great Spirit for everything they caught."
Nicholas Li, 7 1/4, studied the Plains Indians and discovered "they used buffalo stomachs to carry water in." He made a teepee out of decorated paper wrapped around sticks, and he learned that the Woodland Indians grew corn, beans and squash. Said Nicholas: "They usually hunted deer and rabbit for meat, and they hunted fish, too."
According to Georgeanne Stuebner, 8, "The Indians by the river would catch a fish and eat it and throw the skeleton back into the river because they thought it would make the spirits give them more food." She made a teepee out of brown felt, plus a pipe-cleaner horse, a pipe-cleaner Indian with long braids and a blue-paper river.
Henry Overos, 8 1/2, said the Woodland Indians lived in Virginia and also hunted bear and beaver. "They lived in wigwams and long houses," he said. "They were up to 200 feet long, and many families would live in one together." He made a long house out of a cracker box, brown paper, twigs and dried grass. He used mulch for the campfire site and populated his home with his little brother's toy Indians.
As for Erika Roncal, 8, she learned that Native Americans were "the first people who lived in America." She said the Woodland Indians "made stuff out of deer — clothing, tools and toys." Madison Mateski, almost 8, made a mask and decorated it with markers, feathers and beads. "I liked the Plains Indians best because they had those teepees," she said.
Jodie Custodio, 7, said Woodlands Indians liked to run and invented the game of lacrosse. She decorated her vest with Native American symbols such as the sun, moon and stars. Anna Tserelova, 7, painted "the sun, a diamond and two flowers" on her vest.
Avi Mehta, 8, said he wouldn't have wanted to live back in those times because "I'd miss playing around all day." He liked singing in the program, he said, "but I hated standing up." James Reed, 7, was also glad he wasn't born then because "I would miss the three computers in my house."
Seven-year-old Alex Chen had fun playing the xylophone during the performance. He learned that the Iroquois and Hopi Indians were farmers and the Sioux were hunters and warriors. "The Hopi made adobe houses out of mud," he said. "They used ladders to go up to the roof, and the door was in the roof."
Diana Saffarini, 7 1/2, found out the Hopi "always worked and didn't go to school, but learned from their parents." During the program, she said, "Native Americans gave us the names 'raccoon,' 'skunk' and 'squirrel.'" And Laura Durand, 7, played drums to the song, "The Land of the Silver Birch."
Jocelyn Padilla, 7 1/2, sang songs called "Buffalo" and "The First Americans." Said Jocelyn: "I was a little bit nervous because there were so many people, but I really liked it."