Each year prior to Thanksgiving we study the Native Americans who lived in the United States. In our study we learn about various tribes, where they were located, and their culture. The main groups of Native Americans we learn about are: Northwestern, Southwestern, Plains, and Eastern Woodland. We learn how the land, climate, and resources influenced the culture in which the Native Americans lived. During our study we discover that maize is an important food for some of the Native American people. In order for my students to gain a better understanding of what maize is and the work that was done to grind it for meal, I provide them with ears of dried maize and an authentic stone grinder and grinding stone in one of my centers. The children push the kernels of maize off the cob into a basket, put a handful of the kernels on the stone grinder, and then try to grind the kernels with the grinding stone. This kinesthetic activity enables the children to experience what maize is and how maize was prepared by some of the Native American people.
Also, at the Science Table, there are decorative gourds, squash, Indian corn and hybrid corn for the children to explore and compare. After the children have had ample opportunity to explore these specimens, we discuss the observations they had made about the various types of maize, squash, and gourds. Comparative charts are made, and their observations are recorded by the teacher on chart paper.
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